Great Plains Focus

Great Plains Focus is a resource for stories from the region as well as a place to connect with the Center, Great Plains Fellows, the Museum, and those interested in the field. Got a story or want to change your fellows listing? Email us at


Op Ed: How to Heal the Heartland

From a New York Times piece: "The impulse is either to write off the dying counties as flyover country and a buffalo commons, or to further turn them into a vast oil- and gas-producing zone. But there are other ways to a livable (and that overused word "sustainable”) tomorrow. This future is just below ground level, and at the border's edge: water and immigration."

Read the story >
Posted 4/16/2014


Great Plains opinion piece

Alan Neville, who recently participated in the Center's 2014 symposium on drought in the Great Plains, wrote this piece for the Aberdeen News. "Today, most of us enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the Great Plains despite the challenges of weather. Spring and summer are perfect times to get out of the house and go and explore the magnificent Great Plains."

Read the story >
Posted 4/11/2014

Visit the Prairie

Visit the Prairie

The Center has teamed up with the Grand Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and Switzer Ranch and Nature Reserve to start a coalition of parties committed to conserving the Great Plains through ecotourism.

Check out the website >
Posted 4/1/2014

Tsegaye Tadesse

Cranes inspire Great Plains Fellow

Great Plains Fellow and UNL climatologist Tsegaye Tadesse is leading a drought project in Africa: "Tsegaye Tadesse, climatologist and remote sensing expert at UNL’s National Drought Mitigation Center, is leading a three-year, $1.6 million, multi-institution NASA-funded project to help predict drought and flood in the Greater Horn of Africa. UNL’s portion of the award is $987,767."

Read the piece >
Photo via UNLToday, posted 3/19/2014

Paul Johnsgard

Cranes inspire Great Plains Fellow

Author, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Professor Emeritus, and Great Plains Fellow Paul Johnsgard gave the keynote speaker Saturday afternoon for Rowe Sanctuary’s 40th-anniversary celebration. "'If it wasn’t for the cranes, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in Nebraska. I can’t live without the cranes,' Johnsgard said, as sandhill cranes flew over the Rowe Sanctuary's Iain Nicholson Audubon Center southwest of Gibbon."

Read the story >
Photo via the Kearney Hub, posted 3/18/2014


Drought drives up beef prices

Implications on livestock is one of the topics of note in the upcoming Great Plains Symposium on drought. A recent article from the Pioneer Press in the Twin Cities covers the topic from a consumer angle.

Read the story >
Posted 3/11/2014

Sandhill crane

Cranes arriving in Nebraska

Lots of news stories are coming out featuring the migration of the Sandhill cranes. This one from the Smithsonian organization is well written with excellent photography. It quotes a couple of our Great Plains Fellows, Allison Hedge Coke and Paul Johnsgard and our conservation-minded friend Brad Mellema at the Grand Island CVB.

Read the story >
Photo from Smithsonian, posted 2/26/2014

Visit the Prairie screenshot

Visit the Prairie

The Center for Great Plains Studies is launching a new marketing campaign for ecotourism in Nebraska. It's partnering with Switzer Ranch and Nature Reserve and the Grand Island Convention and Visitor's Bureau to create awareness about ecotourism in the state. Visit this website for ecotourism news, itineraries, photos, and more. 

Visit the webpage >
Posted 2/19/2014

Grassland study

Study: Fertilizer on grasslands

"A worldwide study shows that, on average, additional nitrogen will increase the amount of grass that can be grown. But a smaller number of species thrive, crowding out others that are better adapted to survive in harsher times. It results in wilder swings in the amount of available forage."

More from UNL Today >
Posted 2/17/2014

Department of Defense

DOD land management project

"The project ... seeks to identify and facilitate the collection and distribution of information on military lands managed by the Army Integrated Training Area Management program. Results will be used ... to develop optimal land management approaches, project needs, and to coordinate information sharing."

More from Great Plains CESU >
Posted 2/12/2014


Drought mitigation Center project

"The National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL is part of an international project to improve understanding of how drought affects communities, the environment and the economy, and what people can do to prepare. The project is one of the first supported by a recently formed international consortium of agencies that fund environmental change research."

More from UNLToday >
Posted 2/4/2014


Monarch population hits low point

The World Wildlife Fund released a story charting the decline of monarch butterfly numbers.

"The research shows a 43.7% decrease (nearly three acres) in the total amount of forestland occupied by monarchs in and near Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve."

More from WWF >
Photo from WWF, posted 1/29/2014

Dawn Braithwaite

Great Plains Fellow named distinguished scholar

Dawn Braithwaite, Great Plains fellow, professor and chair of communication studies at UNL, has earned the Western States Communication Association Distinguished Scholar Award, which recognizes members who have made sustained contributions to the study of human communication.

More from UNL news >
Posted 1/21/2014

Greater Sage Grouse

Saving the greater sage grouse

Experts from across North America have gathered this week at the Calgary Zoo to determine how best to incorporate captive and wild conservation management techniques into an integrated plan to support the recovery of the greater sage grouse on Canada's Plains.

More from Calgary Zoo >
Photo from Idaho Game and Parks
Posted 1/16/2014

Wind farm

Wind energy subsidy research

Research from Washington University in St. Louis' business school investigates the effectiveness of renewable energy subsidies in the "American Economic Journal: Economic Policy"

More from Washington University >
Photo from Washington University
Posted 1/14/2014


Strips of native prairie research

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from several Iowa State University departments and collaborating institutions are investigating using strips of native prairie to improve the function and integrity of row crops. "The team is showing that small areas of prairie, strategically placed on the contours and foot slope of a row-cropped watershed, provide multifunctional benefits for farmland health."

More from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Ag >
Photo via Leopold Center, posted 1/8/2014

Ash borer

Cold weather could help ash trees

The extreme temperatures in the upper Great Plains may kill off a significant percentage of emerald ash borer larvae, according to one of the premier forestry experts in Minnesota. 
Emerald ash borers are non-native beetles whose larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, depriving the tree of nutrients.

More from Minnesota Public Radio >
Posted 1/6/2014


Newspaper editorial on grasslands

A Dec. 29 editorial in the Lincoln Journal Star titled 'Grasslands under siege in the Plains' outlines the conversion of grassland into cropland in Nebraska. "According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, from 2011 to 2012 Nebraska led the nation in the number of acres converted from noncropland to cropland: a total of 54,876.6 acres."

More from the Lincoln Journal Star >
Photo from Pheasants Forever, posted 1/2/2014


'Earth's Future' examines aquifer

In the current issue of Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Michigan State University scientists are proposing alternatives that will halt and hopefully reverse the unsustainable use of water drawdown in the aquifer. The body of water, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, spans from Texas to South Dakota and drives much of the region’s economy.

More from Michigan State University >
Posted 12/20/2013

National Geographic

Nat Geo: American Prairie Reserve

A National Geographic staff member working on the American Prairie Reserve during this cold, snowy December, gives a firsthand account of working at the remote outpost -- accompanied by plenty of amazing wildlife photos.

More from National Geographic >
Photo from National Geographic, Posted 12/13/2013

Forsberg time lapse

Time lapse project presented

Great Plains Fellows and UNL assistant professors of practice Mike Forsberg and Mike Farrell presented their Platte Basin Timelapse project on December 3. Forty-three cameras in three states have taken a photo every daylight hour of every day since 2011 resulting in half a million photos.

Project's website >
DN coverage >

Photo by Michael Forsberg, Posted 12/5/2013

Nebraska movie

Great Plains in the movies

A New York Times interview focuses on the Great Plains discoveries actor Will Forte found while shooting the movie "Nebraska." In the piece, Forte talks about road tripping with Bruce Dern, eating in Omaha, and encountering a beauty he "wasn't prepared to see."
Here's the movie trailer.

Interview from New York Times >
Photo from Paramount, Posted 11/20/2013

Sheri Fritz

Fellow's Amazon research

UNL paleoclimatologist and Great Plains Fellow Sherilyn Fritz is project coordinator for a large multidisciplinary team of North and South American scientists that recently won a five-year, $4.4 million Frontiers in Earth-System Dynamics grant from the National Science Foundation.

Whole story from UNL news >
Posted 11/19/2013

Twyla Hansen

Associate Fellow named state poet

Twyla Hansen, a Great Plains Associate Fellow, has been named Nebraska's state poet for a term of five years -- the first woman to hold the position. Awards for her poetry include the High Plains Book Award, the WILLA Literary Award, and the Nebraska Book Award. Hansen has an undergraduate degree in horticulture and a master's degree in agroecology, both from UNL.

Whole story from the Omaha World Herald >
Posted 11/15/2013

Prairie chicken

Prairie chicken movement studied

A School of Natural Resources research team banded 70 prairie chickens living near a wind farm near Ainsworth, Neb. to study the birds' movements and whether the movements are influenced by the presence of the wind farm. Prairie chickens are native to Nebraska and the Great Plains.

Read the whole story from UNL News >
Photo via U.S. FWS, posted 11/13/2013

GPQ issue 33.4

Great Plains Quarterly fall issue

The new issue of GPQ is now available via the University of Nebraska Press or for free online here. Starting with Volume 34, the journal will be part of Project Muse and available through university libraries. This issue features stories on Native American beads, rainmaking myths on the Plains, and The Great Sioux Reservation.

See the table of contents >
Posted 11/6/2013

Ken Dewey

GP Fellow named to AMS board

Great Plains Fellow and UNL professor Ken Dewey has been appointed to the American Meteorological Society board on outreach and pre-college education. His appointment will last for three years.

Story from UNL News >
Posted 11/6/2013


New issue of GPR out

Vol. 23, No. 2 of Great Plains Research is now available via the University of Nebraska Press. This issue is full of articles from the Center's 2013 Great Plains Symposium on school consolidation and rural education issues. It includes a photo essay by rural photographer Chuck Guildner and an opening essay by symposium co-chairs Rick Edwards and Peter Longo.

What's inside this issue >
Posted 11/4/2013

Casting Digital Nets

Digital project focused on land use

"Casting Digital Nets" is a digital project from David Nesheim, an assistant professor at Chadron State College, and a team from the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. Released this year, the project documents changes in the use of the land surrounding Lake Andes, which changed from the center of an Indigenous community, to a recreational fishing area, and finally to a National Wildlife Refuge.

See the project >
Posted 10/29/2013

David Wishart

Great Plains book on the 'Rainbelt'

Great Plains Scholar David Wishart's new book is on the myth of the Rainbelt -- the myth that prompted late 19th century settlers to flock to the western High Plains and plant trees, believing that by the act of planting, the area's rainfall would increase.
Wishart was the editor for the Center's Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.

More from UNL News >
Photo via UNL, posted 10/22/2013

Duane Eversoll

New book on Nebraska landslides

Duane Eversoll, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources, has written a book on Nebraska's landslides. The book contains research Eversoll began in 1981 covering more than 300 landslides. In Nebraska, landslides are more common in the eastern and northeastern parts of the state.

More from UNL News >
Photo via UNL, posted 10/17/2013

Terry Evans

Photographs capture Great Plains

Photographer Terry Evans has been capturing these aerial scenes from the Great Plains since 1978. Recently, Evans has focused on the North Dakota oil boom made possible by fracking. Books with her photos are by Yale University Press and Radius Books.

Read the whole story on Slate >
See the Canada to Texas plains project >

Photo from Slate, posted 10/2/2013

Prairie Festival

Prairie Festival at the Land Institute

The 35th annual Prairie Festival took place at The Land Institute in Salina, Kan. Speakers will delve into topics including sustainability, economics, agriculture and more. Great Plains Associate Fellow Lisi Krall will deliver the Strachan Donnelly Lecture at the festival on the 28th titled "Wild Earth Economics: Rethinking the Economic Evolution of Humans."
More on the festival >

Photo from The Land Institute, posted 9/23/2013

Washington Post map

Washington Post examines water

The newspaper examined a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which looked at when the water in the Ogallala Aquifer might be depleted. At current rates of use, farming in the crucial Kansas area is likely to peak at around 2040. 

Read the whole story on the Washington Post's site here > 

Posted 9/18/2013

Climate change survey results

A UNL poll reports most rural Nebraskans believe that climate change is real, but do not feel that something has to be done immediately. Sixty percent think some intervention should happen within their lifetime. The poll also covered matters including water, healthcare, taxes and community well-being. 

Read the whole story on UNL's news site > 

Posted 9/18/2013

New wheat variety developed

Great Plains Fellow and UNL agronomist P. Stephen Baenziger has helped develop a new wheat variety suited for growing in rainfed areas in Nebraska. This variety is the 34th released by a UNL/USDA joint venture during Baenziger's tenure. 

Read the whole story on IANR's site > 

Photo via UNL, posted 9/11/2013

Fellow writes Abraham Lincoln book

Great Plains Fellow and UNL History Professor Ken Winkle has a new book on Abraham Lincoln's time spent in Washington titled "Lincoln's Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, D.C." Winkle has been a Fellow since 1988.

More about the book > 

Posted 9/4/2013

Fellows teach oil industry professionals

Great Plains Fellows and UNL professors Chris Fielding and Matt Joeckel recently created a class for oil industry professionals on Nebraska geography and geology, specifically focusing on the Platte, Loup and Elkhorn rivers.

Click here to read the more about the project > 
Photo: Chris Fielding (left) and Matt Joeckel (right), via UNL. Posted 9/4/2013

Great Plains water research funded

Kansas State University researchers will head a study how human activity and climate change affect Central Great Plains water systems with a highly competitive, $1.4M grant from the NSF. The interdisciplinary group includes researchers across three colleges and six departments. Researchers hope to improve the sustainability of agricultural water systems.

Read the whole story > 
Posted 8/29/2013

Johnsgard publishes 61st book

Great Plains Fellow and UNL Emeritus Biological Sciences Professor Paul Johnsgard has now published his 61st book with three recent works: "Yellowstone Wildlife: Ecology and Natural History of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem," "Bird and Birding in the Bighorn Mountains Region of Wyoming," and "The Birds of Nebraska."

Read more about Johnsgard via UNL News>       
Posted 8/29/2013

Great Plains Fellow named to AOU

Mary Bomberger Brown, research assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and coordinator of the Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership, has been named as a fellow in the American Ornithologists' Union. Bomberger Brown has been a Fellow of the Center since 1998.

Read more about the appointment here >
Posted 8/28/2013

Montana fieldwork for Fellow

Great Plains Fellow Carroll Van West, Director, MTSU Center for Historic Preservation Tennessee State Historian, has launched a blog of his fieldwork in Montana. In 1984-1985, Van West undertook a major project for the State Historic Preservation Office at the Montana Historical Society to travel the state to develop an inventory of places, both known and unknown, to consider in the state historic preservation plan. He's been asked to update the project, focusing on heritage development. Posted 8/23/2013

Fellow working on green roofs

Richard Sutton, Great Plains Fellow and professor of Agronomy and Horticulture, is featured in this month's Scarlet for installing several native prairie grass roofs in Lincoln, including a 6,000-square-foot area on top of the Larson building downtown.

Other locations include the Arbor Day Foundation Building, Sandhills Publishing and Pioneers Park Nature Center. Posted 8/12/2013

Fellow's research near Crawford

Great Plains Fellow Matt Douglass is wrapping up a month-long class at the Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center north of Crawford, Neb. Douglass, a Research Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UNL, led a group of students to excavate, analyze and develop GPS maps of findings. The students will continue their work in a follow-up class.
Posted 7/09/2013

Video: Saving Nebraska's Sandhills

The World Wildlife Fund has a great video on the ecotourism operations of the Switzer Ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Switzer Ranch's annual Prairie Chicken Festival puts the prairie chicken and the sharp-tailed grouse in the spotlight for visitors. NET has another video story about the same ranch that's equally enthralling.

Find out more about the ranch and it's ecotourism business, Calamus Outfitters

National Grasslands Week

The USDA declared June 23-29 as National Grasslands Week to celebrate the Forest Service's management of 20 National Grasslands in 13 states totaling almost 4 million acres. The Little Missouri National Grassland in North Dakota is the biggest, with 1,028,051 acres.

See the declaration here and learn more about the National Grasslands here.

2015 Symposium Announced

The Center for Great Plains Studies is announcing a partnership with the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs for an event centered on Native Americans in the Great Plains. The Center's 41st annual symposium will be held in the spring of 2015 with the theme of Chief Standing Bear, the Standing Bear Trail and continuing issues for Native Americans today.

Read the press release or visit the NCIA's website.

Video: Wes Jackson

The Land Institute President Wes Jackson speaks on ecologically sensitive agriculture and the future of ecosystem-based farming. In this photo, Jackson holds a picture of a perennial strain of a wheat called Kernza with a long and robust root system (bottom) versus typical annual wheat planted by farmers (top).

View the video of his lecture here and visit the Land Institute's website.

From the archives

Charles Schreyvogel

Charles Schreyvogel, White Eagle, bronze, 1899. Gift of Dr. John and Elizabeth Christlieb. 0088.1980.

Charles Schreyvogel resided in Hoboken, NJ, most of his life, but took frequent trips west for the betterment of his asthma and the opportunity to record scenes to empower his artistic endeavors. His primary medium was oil on canvas, while much of his sculpture was simply modeling clay in order to paint more accurately.

Historical accuracy became just as important as accurate proportion of the figure in all of his renderings. He spent time with troops of the U.S. Army and Indians on the Ponca Reservation, where he met Chief White Eagle, the subject of this bronze sculpture. Depicting Ponca Indian Chief of the Great Plains, "White Eagle" is one of the few finished large casts in bronze that he completed. He only made six bronze casts of this unforgettable character of American History. This sculpture in the style of a "late republican Roman bust" said to be in keeping with the chief's stoic and noble character.

Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer, Civil War Prisoners, charcoal on paper, 1865. Gift of Dr. John and Elizabeth Christlieb. 0189.1980.

Portions of this piece, such as the general composition and figure stance, likely served as a preliminary sketch for the painting Prisoners from the Front (1866) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection.