The first week of April brought snow and strong winds to southern WI but that did not keep the Laudato Si’ Project from working on the Milwaukee Audubon Society’s Kolterman Prairie near Horizon Marsh, WI. Members from the Audubon Society and Marquette University High School met on Saturday to learn about the ecology of this unique property, help restore some of its Oak Savannah, and explore the geology of the Niagra Escarpment.
Less than 1% of WI’s original prairie remains and much of southern WI was a mix of prairie and Oak Savannah (scattered trees with prairie underneath). As you head North and East through WI, you move through the Maple-Basswood Forests of the Mid and Northern Kettle Moraine and finally up to the mixed forests of the “Northwoods”. The southern prairies and savannah’s were kept from succession and subsequent invasion of forest species through fire, mostly started by Native Americans to bolster hunting grounds. The Kolterman property supports prairie, savannah, woodland, and even a creek. This diversity of habitats makes it a valuable site for a multitude of bird species and is the major reason why it is preserved today. Volunteers removed, not just invasive species, but tree species not typically found in a savannah with and emphasis on saving Mature Oak and Hickory trees. Jim Urinak of the Milwaukee Audubon Society, taught students about the ecological workings of these ecotypes and showed them how to help with a savannah restoration on the property.
To finish the afternoon, students were able to explore a unique geologic feature called the Niagara Escarpment. The Niagara Escarpment is a 1000 mile long rock formation that is made of the same rock as Niagara Falls. Read more about it HERE