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Interview with Chris Goforth, NC Museum of Natural Sciences Citizen Science Unit
Submitted by: Toni Stadelman
Prairie Ridge Ecostation is a biodiverse 45-acre outdoor classroom consisting of, Nature Neighborhood Gardens with many species of native plants, the Jesse P. Perry Arboretum containing native tree species, and aquatic habitats including a perennial stream, pond, and wetlands.
Prairie Ridge hosts between 30,000-35,000 visitors a year. Visitors can meander through Prairie Ridge via walking trails that allow them to view wildlife and the native vegetation. Children can take a break from the walking trails by visiting the Nature Play Space. A wide range of programs are offered at Praire Ridge such as field trips, summer camps, Nature Play Days, formal and informal educational programs for adults, and citizen science programs. Chris Goforth is one of the staff members who lead these programs.
T: How did the Prairie Ridge Ecostation start?
C: Prairie Ridge used to be part of NCSU’s cattle pasture, but when Edwards Mill Road was built, it split their pasture and they gave up the section that’s now Prairie Ridge. Because the Museum’s research lab was already on the site, the property was given over to the Museum in 2004 to become an outdoor education facility. It was originally meant to be closed to the public as the plan was to have a residential facility built on the grounds. However, that residential facility is still a future project, so the grounds were opened to the public in 2006 and now everyone is invited to come share in this space with us!
T: How does the Ecostation support the NC Museum of Natural Sciences?
The Museum’s mission is to illuminate the natural world and inspire its conservation. Prairie Ridge does this by allowing people to experience the natural world firsthand, whether on their own or during scheduled programming. They can learn about nature and see animals in cages downtown – here they can truly experience nature! We also inspire conservation by featuring eco-friendly buildings, renewable resources that are applicable for home-scale use (solar panels, wind turbine, water harvesting, etc), and native plant gardening.
T: Since Prairie Ridge is also a research facility, what types of research is conducted there?
C: There are several ongoing projects at Prairie Ridge and several more come in for a short amount of time and then leave once they are completed. Ongoing projects include bird banding/bird data collection on a variety of topics, quarterly small mammal trapping/tagging, and camera trapping data collection for large mammals. We also have a group from UNC Charlotte that uses the grounds for Caterpillars Count – we were one of the pilot sites for the project. Other projects have included mosquito research, native and honey bee research, various bird projects, projects in the prairie, and many others. Most recently we had a student from ECU sample our pond for ramshorn snails for her work on a parasite that the snails transmit.
Prairie Ridge Ecostation Hours
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and state holidays
Prairie Ridge Ecostation https://naturalsciences.org/prairie-ridge
1671 Gold Star Drive
Raliegh, NC 27607