Service to Kansas

Composite image of prairie chickens and prairie dog

Deep journey into grasslands

With a grant from the Information Network of Kansas (INK), researcher Mike Houts developed the Nested Hexagon Framework data index and compiled a rich store of information, maps and images on grassland species in an ArcGIS StoryMap.

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The Kansas Biological Survey, which holds dual status as a KU research unit and a nonregulatory state agency, has longstanding partnerships with other state agencies, working closely with the Kansas Water Office, the Kansas Geological Survey and other entities to address issues of concern to the State and to Kansas communities. A sample of current projects follows.

  • Tom McKenna, assistant research professor, received a $95,050 grant from the Perennial Agriculture Project — a joint venture between the Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation and The Land Institute — to continue his study of the effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on the soil health for growing the perennial grain Kernza.

  • Christopher Rogers, associate research professor, received two grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through the Kansas Dept. of Health & Environment, and totaling more than $87,000 for his role as a medical entomology subject matter expert on the topic of ticks and tickborne diseases.

  • Jude Kastens, associate research professor, is co-principal investigator on a $270,000 grant from the U.S. EPA through the Kansas Water Office for a two-year study of the interaction between playas — depressions that create temporary wetlands — and agriculture. The goal of the study is to improve understanding of how farming playas affects the rate of aquifer recharge and associated issues. Tony Layzell of the Kansas Geological Survey is PI. Jude heads the portion of the study looking at the economics of farming through playas vs. farming around them. Researchers Debbie Baker and Jennifer Delisle have been at work on ecological assessment of 15 study sites in west-central Kansas. KU News published a story on the project.

  • Dana Peterson, assistant research professor, principal investigator and coordinator of KansasView, received an annual grant, $23,500, from AmericaView. This year’s funding is being used for Dana and researcher Jennifer Moody to develop an online ESRI StoryMap of the Kansas landscape. The goal is to produce an interactive educational tool about this landscape and how remote sensing can be used to map it. The Story Map is being written for public and educational use and showcases the recently completed Ecological Vegetation Systems of Kansas land cover map, along with more than 3,000 field locations across the state that have been visited by Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research scientists as part of the map development. The StoryMap also includes descriptions and photographs of the vegetation, drivers of the Kansas landscape (such as soil, climate, and land use), associated wildlife and links to publicly available locations for in-person exploration. AmericaView is a nationwide, university-led, state-implemented network advancing Earth observation education through remote sensing research, workforce development, technology transfer and community outreach.

  • Ted Harris, assistant research professor, received a $100,000 grant from the Kansas Water Office to study Tuttle and Waconda lakes in Kansas; he and his students are looking for long-term changes in water quality, specifically those that relate to Harmful Algal Blooms. Also, with a $25,000 grant from the City of Paola, the team will monitor Lake Miola, a City of Paola water body, throughout 2022 to better understand seasonal changes in water quality.

  • Mike Houts, associate researcher, received a one-year grant from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council to improve monarch butterfly and pollinator habitat on 10 acres of land operated as part of the Mutt Run off-leash dog park adjacent to Clinton reservoir in Lawrence, Kansas. The project will implement measures to increase the abundance and diversity of native grasses and pollinator-friendly forbs. Jennifer Delisle is co-principal investigator, and Monarch Watch, a program of our research center, is assisting by providing some plants.

  • Houts also received a grant from the Information Network of Kansas (INK) is for a two-year project to develop the Nested Hexagon Framework as an annotated spatial data index for Kansas datasets. These will be summarized and indexed into the grid, making the summarized information readily available and the datasets more discoverable.