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GREAT PLAINS NEWS

Curated news from the prairie

Great Plains Focus is a resource for stories on the region and updates on our Fellows' activities. Got a story? Email us at greatplains.reachingout@unl.edu

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ENVIRONMENT

MISC.

Jason Nolan
Great Plains graduate fellow receives two awards for geology research

Jason Nolan, a graduate student in Earth and atmospheric sciences, has won two awards, which include funding for his research, from the Geological Society of America.

UNL >
Posted 9/2/2014


Great Plains graduate fellow in photography wins national fellowship

Amanda Breitbach, a second-year Master of Fine Arts student in the Department of Art and Art History’s photography program, has been selected as the recipient of an Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life/Joy of Giving Something, Inc. $2,000 fellowship award.

UNL >
Posted 8/27/2014


Great Plains Fellow investigates fossil burrows

Matt Joeckel and his colleague Shane Tucker, a paleontologist for the University of Nebraska Museum, have sifted through pounds of sediment, searching for fossils within burrows found at the Happy Jack Chalk Mine in Scotia, Nebraska. The specimens found within give clues to a world during the last great period of climate change.

NET >
Photo from NET, posted 7/10/2014


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


Fellow's work in Africa

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Monarch Butterfly
The Loss of Monarch Butterflies Is a Loss of Far More

t’s good that in 2014 we’ve had a national conversation about monarch butterflies, whose overwintering numbers in Mexico plummeted for a second year in a row (two colonies covering only 1.5 acres). The causes are many, with lack of milkweed habitat in the United States a leading player.

Prairie Fire story >
Photo from Prairie Fire, posted 9/2/2014


Rarest Native Animals Find Haven on Tribal Lands

Yellowstone bison were released at the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana in 2013. Native American tribes have created a host of programs to aid unique Western species.

New York Times story >
Photo from New York Times, posted 8/27/2014


Drought In Nebraska’s Sandhills

Great Plains Fellow and UNL ecologist Dave Wedin’s "Grassland Destabilization Experiment has been going on for about a decade on university property in north-central Nebraska. Several test plots hold only patchy vegetation and lots of bare sand. In addition to herbicides, he’s used an agricultural disk to scrape off the grass in some places."

NET story >
Photo from NET, posted 8/12/2014


Study Finds Pesticides Leading Cause of Grassland Bird Declines

A new study led by a preeminent Canadian toxicologist identifies toxic pesticides as the most likely cause of the widespread decline in grassland bird numbers in the U.S., challenging the assumption that habitat loss is the cause of population declines.

American Bird Conservancy >
Photo from American Bird C., posted 6/30/2014


Winter wheat suffers in drought

"...The current winter wheat crop looks like it will be one of the worst in recent memory, stressing farmers in the heart of the Wheat Belt – from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. More than 40% of the wheat acres in Colorado are poor or worse; nearly 60% in Kansas and Texas; and an incredible 80% in Oklahoma."

Northern Colorado NPR story >
Posted 6/13/2014


Grouse going strong on grassland in Fort Pierre

"Prairie grouse have become a management "indicator species" for the grassland. That means they are a native species and they need what every other native animal needs in order to be successful. Essentially, when grouse do well, so does everything else."

Rapid City Journal >
Posted 5/13/2014


Climate change and the plains

From the Associated Press: "Climate change will bring more drought, fierce storms and searing heat to the Great Plains, causing hardships that will test the region's legendry capacity to cope with severe weather, says a report by the National Climate Assessment."

ABC News >
Posted 5/9/2014


Cornfields could yield less by 2050

From National Geographic: "Corn yields in the U.S. have become more sensitive to drought, not less, over the past 18 years, according to a study published May 1 in Science. The report warns that if the trend persists, yields could fall substantially by midcentury as higher temperatures subject corn plants to more water stress."

National Geographic >
Posted 5/2/2014


CO2 levels extend growing season

A study from Nature published April 23 shows that warming in a temperate grassland leads to a longer growing season and earlier emergence of grass. The elevated CO2 extended the season by conserving water, which enabled most species to remain active longer.

Nature >
Posted 4/30/2014


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


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


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


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 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


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


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

homestead
Nebraska Homestead Act Records Can be Searched Online

"Nebraska is home to the country's first homesteader under the 1862 Homestead Act--Daniel Freeman who settled near Beatrice. Nebraska also is the first state to have its homestead records entirely digitized, indexed and made searchable on an online database."

Farm Progress >
Photo by National Homestead Monument of America, posted 8/4/2014


Shale tested for possible energy uses

"Tests this summer on Pierre Shale that stretches across much of the Great Plains could help build the case for an underground lab and, if feasible, lead to energy production or underground storage in the rock formation."

Argus Leader story >
Photo by AP, posted 7/21/2014


A Call for Papers on Publication About Conservation on the Great Plains

The Center for Western Studies at Augustana College will publish a collection of essays, studies, and articles about conservation on the contemporary Great Plains. The book will establish an original and forward-looking understanding of conservation in the Plains. The editor, open to works in the humanities and social sciences, especially seeks scientific studies of up to 5,000 words. Authors' final contributions will be due in mid-April 2015. The book will be published in conjunction with the CWS's Dakota Conference, and, upon publication, a small honorarium will be paid to each contributor. For consideration of a submission, please send a 200-word proposal and a two-page c.v. by August 15, 2014 to Dr. Anthony Amato, Social Sciences 17, Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, Minnesota 56258, Anthony.Amato@smsu.edu
Posted 7/11/2014


Native American center envisioned for Kansas City

"American Indian Center of the Great Plains in Kansas City, planned to open later this year in the Loretto building, would house offices for Native American organizations."

Kansas City Star story >
Posted 6/24/2014


Great Plains superfoods

While researchers have long suspected that the traditional plant foods consumed by Native American tribes in the Northern Plains were nutritious, no one had ever studied it. That inspired a recent paper in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis that analyzed nutrients in 10 traditional wild foods from three Native American reservations in North Dakota.

NPR story > Journal paper >
Posted 6/3/2014


Supercell photos go viral

"Despite marginal surface moisture (something generally required for big rotating supercells), an area of developing low pressure east of the Rockies and its fast-flowing, rotating air made for two days of memorable storms."

Washington Post >
Posted 5/27/2014


The impact of a Plains energy boom

"Several energy and economic development experts met in Rapid City last week for the ninth annual New Horizons Oil & Gas Conference at the Black Hills Learning Center to discuss the impact of the new technology at the regional and national levels."

Rapid City Journal >
Photo from Rapid City Journal, posted 4/30/2014


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


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


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


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


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


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.