Planning is underway in anticipation of a major research and education initiative at the MSU Moorhead Regional Science Center. A proposal to study the restoration of developed land to a natural state has been in the works for more than 30 years, and now a $527,760 grant application is working its way through the final funding process. If awarded, work will begin this summer.

The grant application says faculty and students working at the Regional Science Center will restore and monitor 160 acres of prairie and riparian forest habitat that will lead to developing new protocols for understanding long-term ecological recovery. Brian Wisenden, Biosciences, is the project manager. Others involved in the project include Anthony Borman, Regional Science Center, and Rinita Dalan and Kirk Steuve, GIS and GeoArcheology. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish Wildlife and Conservation Biology are also partners in the project.

“The Regional Science Center has been a tremendously valuable learning space since it was acquired in 1978, and soon it will achieve its true potential,” MSUM Interim Provost Michelle Malott said. “This project will provide faculty and students the opportunity to be involved in nationally significant research. This is a rare and wonderful opportunity. It is great to be on the brink of fulfilling the master plan that was written in 1983.”

On Feb. 23, partners in Valley Golf Management, which operated the course under an annual lease, were told that the lease would not be renewed when it expires March 31. Golfers had asked that the 30 acres that make up the course be maintained for golf but Malott said this would be a threat to the integrity of the research project.

“This project is of special ecological value because it expands existing protected prairie habitat, while at the same time providing important data that will be a model for future restoration efforts both across the state and nationally. Having developed land interspersed with land that is being restored would make it impossible to isolate cause and effect, and, as a result, the scientific data from the project would be questionable. It is also important to remember that this research gives our students a unique opportunity to be engaged with the science of restoration ecology with a focus on the long-term impact of restoring all of the gifted Regional Science Center land to natural prairie habitat.”

“The university very much values the loyal support of all the players who have supported the course over the past four decades and, especially, the principals of Valley Golf Management who leased the course from the Alumni Foundation and provided the professional management that kept golf viable at the Ponderosa Golf Course,” Malott said.

The grant application and a description of the educational and scientific purpose of the project can be found at