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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Prairie establishment and restoration at Waterman

May. 9, 2024
A prescribed burn at Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory.

Roger Williams, associate professor, forest ecosystem analysis and management, in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) is no stranger to conducting prescribed burns on campus. In fact, Williams has conducted 22 prescribed burns across The Ohio State University campus footprint, and with a recent prescribed burn at CFAES' Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory that total is now 23.

Waterman is focused on innovation for the future of our food systems and natural resources. Located in Columbus, Ohio, Waterman is an urban hub for agricultural and natural resources education, offering dynamic opportunities for teaching, research, and community engagement in the heart of the 14th largest city in the country.

The prescribed burn at Waterman engaged not only Williams, who is a Ohio Certified Burn Manager, but also Red Card- certified students and a career seasonal wildland firefighter with the Bureau of Land Management.

The burn was conducted as part of a project led by Katherine Jenkins, associate professor of landscape architecture at Ohio State's Knowlton School in the College of Engineering. In 2019, Jenkins began the process of converting a 1-acre plot that had formerly been used for growing corn via different tillage methods. Until this year, Jenkins had maintained the prairie with annual mowing and weeding by hand.

This spring, Williams was able to secure the necessary permits to perform a prescribed burn of the prairie.Faculty member Roger Williams overseeing the prescribed burn at Waterman.

“Burning is important in controlling the growth of woody vegetation, managing invasive species and can also stimulate new growth of native plant species,” Jenkins said. “I expect to see some vigorous growth of native vegetation as a result of this spring's burn.”

Williams engages students in prescribed burns as part of a sequenced course offered at Ohio State. In the course, students learn about the significant role of wildland fire suppression and the role of fire management for restoration. Through the course, students have an opportunity to earn Incident Qualification Cards, commonly known as Red Cards, which enables them to work on wildland fire crews and prescribed burns. 

“At Waterman Laboratory, we’re able to engage students with unique, hands-on experiences, and this is just one example, highlighting our diverse ecosystem and students,” said Andrew “Dewey” Mann, director of Waterman. “Learners from landscape architecture, and environment and natural resources, can come together with their passions and knowledge to enhance innovation in the same plot here.”

Roger Williams
Katherine Jenkins
Andrew "Dewey" Mann