Urban Conservation Club "seed bombs" Rice prairie

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Sophia Erhard

The plot of land located to the southwest of Wiess College - which students pass through on their way to and from the BRC - may look like an overgrown field or just a stormwater detention basin to some. However, the space is actually known as the Harris Gully Natural Area. Rice students and the University’s Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum Committee are working to enliven this area and to restore it as a prairie ecosystem.

Before any buildings or students graced campus and before any oak trees lined the streets, Rice's landscape was part of a vast prairie ecosystem thriving with waving grasses and wild hogs. According to the group Houston Wilderness, this prairie ecosystem once covered 6.5 million acres of the Texas coast, but less than one percent of the native prairie ecosystem acres remain today. However, "pocket prairies" are now popping up all over Houston in an effort to preserve and expand this important native ecosystem. One such example is the MD Anderson Prairie, a short walk from campus. These small pockets of land containing native prairie plants decrease flooding in the area, provide habitat, and create a natural space for people to enjoy.

With a vision to add native biodiversity to the Harris Gully Natural Area, raise awareness about prairies, and restore a piece of Rice's landscape, the student-led Urban Conservation Club hosted a "seed bombing" event in the area this past November. A seed bomb is a marble-sized ball comprised of clay, compost, and native seeds. When this mixture is rolled into small balls and thrown on open ground, the seeds sink into the soil, germinate, and then sprout into native grasses and flowers. Members of the club, along with interested passers-by, rolled and threw about 200 seed bombs around the Harris Gully Natural Area.

The Urban Conservation Club were assisted in their seed bomb event by Dr. Cassidy Johnson, a lecturer in BioSciences at Rice who is leading her second lab course focused on the prairie this fall semester, as well as Jaime González, President of the Katy Prairie Conservancy. The "Coastal Prairie Seed Mix" contained within the seed bombs was donated by Native American Seed, a company in Junction, Texas that collects and sells native Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana seeds.

Students interested in learning more about the Urban Conservation Club are encouraged to contact Sophia Erhard at sge1@rice.edu