The Hastings High School field biology class was put to work Oct. 3 as they continued efforts with Friends of the Mississippi River to restore prairie lands along the Vermillion River.
To many of the students' delight they spent the first few hours of their school day out of class and in the field, getting rid of invasive burdock and replacing it with plant species natural to the area.
This is the fourth year of the first phase of restoring prairie lands along the Vermillion River. Every year, the students of Joe Beattie's field biology class come to remove unwanted plants. Beattie said that the project will wrap-up in its fifth year.
The impact of what can be done in just a few hours may seem small, but a little bit goes a long way.
A single burdock plant can carry 500 seeds, according Alex Roth, an ecologist with Friends of the Mississippi River. Cutting down just a handful of the plants stops the spreading significantly.
Most importantly, the class had to return native species to the area to replace the burdock that was taken out.
"It is important to return native species to the area," Roth said. "Denser natural species actually helps to fight the nonnative plants."
Roth cited flooding as the main cause of invasive burdock being introduced to the area. Flooding brings the plant's seeds from the river to flood plain areas along the banks of the Vermillion.