By Danielle Huebner
Ever wondered where the nighttime noises of crickets and cicadas were coming from, what mysteries lie in the stars and stories in the sky or what animals we share Grinnell with? The Nightfall on the Prairie event this weekend is offering the Grinnell community a chance to find out.
At 8 p.m. today, Friday, September 6, the Center for Prairie Studies (CPS), Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) and Saving Our Avian Resources (SOAR) are coming together to open the doors for the Grinnell community to witness first-hand the wonders of night on the Iowa prairie. As the sun sets, the prairie at CERA will light up with a number of exciting activities during the onset of the new moon.
“We are trying to get people engaged with the landscape around us,” said Elizabeth Hill, CPS Outreach Coordinator and CERA Manager. “One part of the [reason] Prairie Studies and CERA are working together is to have opportunities for both the public and Grinnell community to explore CERA and learn more about the animals and the environment around them.”
There’s something for everyone on the prairie, from literature and stars to insects and owls. Attendees can expect to experience a number of rare opportunities, including the release of several rehabilitated Eastern Screech owls by raptor rehabilitator Kay Neumann, an ultraviolet light show hosted by Hill for nighttime insect investigation and an astronomy session with Professor Bob Cadmus, Physics.
“This is an opportunity to see organisms that are hanging out at night that we don’t typically see,” Hill said. “[It] is just another step on the path on getting to know about where you live.”
Jonathan Andelson, Anthropology, CPS director and an organizer of the event, will even be performing several poetry readings, including poems by Walt Whitman and Mary Swander. As for other relaxing festivities, there will be a short, lit hike through the prairie. For those who have never found the time to truly experience nighttime outdoors, Nightfall on the Prairie hopes to be both exciting and enlightening.
“This event is about place,” Andelson said. “There are some who have never set foot off campus and into the environment in the entire four years they’ve been students at Grinnell.”
For interested students and staff, buses will be available both to and from the event. These buses will be departing from the JRC at 7:30 p.m. and return by 10:30 p.m. For those driving, take I-80 west to Exit 173, turn right onto HWY 224, and turn on the first gravel road which is S. 12th Avenue E. Follow East for about 1.5 miles.
There is simply no better time to go sightseeing on the prairie, and enthusiasts are encouraged to bring any form of portable lights, lamps and flashlights, as well as perhaps a few pairs of binoculars.
“I think the most important reason students should attend the Nightfall on the Prairie is because finding beauty in different places is sort of the key to unlocking Iowa’s mysteries. You have to look a little bit harder, listen a little bit harder,” Hill said.