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Gifts at work

Interpretive signage along the Rockefeller Prairie Trail.

The list below provides examples of how gifts from donors support the research, education and outreach efforts of the Kansas Biological Survey and the KU Field Station. Many more opportunities are available.

Kansas Biological Survey Director's Fund
This fund at KU Endowment provides unrestricted support for the Survey's most urgent needs. While the vast majority of the Survey's research work is supported through grants, those grants are earmarked and do not provide for any of the following: 1) seed funding for new research initiatives; 2) funding for vital research and operations support for the Field Station; 3) support for costs associated with field education; or 4) educational outreach support.

The Director's Fund may be supported through outright gifts or named, endowed funds. One program that receives support from this fund, the KU Field Station Student Research Awards, encourages undergraduate and graduate student research at the Field Station by providing funds for travel, supplies and equipment.

Unrestricted gifts
Lawrence residents Kenneth Armitage, a former director of the KU Field Station, and his wife, historian Katie Armitage, made an unrestricted gift of $50,000 for the Field Station and have provided ongoing support for it. The Armitage Education Center at the KU Field Station is named for them in honor of their support.

Acquisition of the Rockefeller Native Prairie
KU professor E. Raymond Hall directed both the Kansas Biological Survey and the KU Natural History Museum in the 1950s and 1960s. Through a mutual acquaintance, he met John D. Rockefeller Jr., the philanthropist son of the founder of Standard Oil. In 1956, Hall, along with Prof. Henry Fitch, convinced Rockefeller to provide $17,000 to purchase the 160-acre farm that became known as the Field Station's Rockefeller Experimental Tract for the purpose of conserving a small native prairie and testing methods of prairie management. The experiment in prairie management methods became the longest-running study of its kind and continues today.

Acquisition of the Wiggins tract to buffer the Rockefeller Native Prairie
The Kansas Biological Survey has long recognized the need to protect sensitive habitat by buffering it from the effects of encroaching development. The 10-acre Rockefeller Prairie is the area of the Field Station in greatest need of protection. In 2004, the Survey began an initiative to acquire a valuable tract, offered by the Wiggins family of Kansas, for this purpose. The family offered the tract for sale below market value and withheld the tract from the market while funds were raised. Based on lead gifts from Robert and Suzanne Ecke McColl, and from Tensie Oldfather, all of Lawrence, many donors made contributions to raise the amount needed to purchase the 160-acre tract. Acquisition of this tract has enabled the development of an extensive new public trail system, which is used for research and teaching as well as public enjoyment.

Support for educational partnerships with other KU departments
Dick and Sue Himes of Lawrence made a $30,000 gift that enabled a partnership between the KU Field Station and the KU School of Architecture, Design and Planning. The gift supported two key structural amenities for the Field Station's public trail system: the Rockefeller Trailhead shelter (where this ADA-compliant trail begins) and the Kaw River Valley Overlook (which offers a panoramic view at the trail turnaround point). These projects, which are described on signage at the trailhead shelter, were the first and second projects developed as semester-long design-build projects undertaken by undergraduate architecture classes. To date, five projects at the Field Station have been completed by architecture classes.

The Field Station also has served as an educational site for students in psychology, engineering, exercise science, fine arts, English, journalism and other departments in the arts, humanities and professional schools.

Virginia Fitch Outdoor Classroom
Multiple donors contributed to a $3,500 fundraising effort to build this versatile structure at the Fitch Trailhead. Virginia Fitch was the wife of Prof. Henry Fitch and lived with him and their children at the Field Station, where he conducted research, for many years. The classroom named in her honor has been used by students from KU and other universities as well as area schoolchildren. Another shelter with interpretive signage, as well as a restroom and a drinking fountain, is situated nearby.

Stan and Janet Roth Trail and Nature Education Fund
More than 200 donors contributed to this fund, which provided for the completion of the Roth Trailhead, a innovative rammed-earth shelter designed and built by KU architecture students under the direction of Prof. Chad Kraus. This American Institute of Architects award-winning structure is the third structure at the KU Field Station created by KU architecture classes. The Roth Fund also covered the cost of informational signage at the site, as well as benches, a drinking fountain and an ADA-compliant restroom with a composting toilet.

Educational signage
Scientists, staff and students at the Kansas Biological Survey designed the School of Pharmacy Medicinal Plant Garden and led a planting event in 2011 that drew more than 100 participants, including KU pharmacy students. Survey students continue to maintain the garden, which contains some 60 species of medicinal plants, most native to the Great Plains. The garden, situated along the south patio at the School of Pharmacy on KU's west campus, was the brainchild of Barbara Timmermann, Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, and developed specifically for educating pharmacy students and the public. A complete signage package—vital to the garden's use as an educational tool—was provided through the Gail Heim Memorial Fund at KU Endowment. Gail Heim was a 1969 graduate of the School of Pharmacy.

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