The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors showed their support today to preserve an area of native tall grass prairie land for use by MSSU’s Biology and Environmental Health research students.

The Board voted unanimously to preserve the 14-acre tract of land, which is part of the university’s more than 300 acres. The land will be permanently set aside for student use as a natural laboratory.

The land is unplowed native prairie, part of only about 75,000 acres of such land still in existence in Missouri. Such prairies are dominated by a unique assemblage of specially adapted grasses, Mima mounds, and herbaceous flowering plants (forbs). The Missouri Southern prairie also includes a wetland.

“Native prairie of this type is rapidly disappearing,” said Dr. Teresa Boman of the Missouri Southern Biology and Environmental Health Department.  “The fact that we have it within walking distance is amazing. Most universities do not have something like this in their own backyard.”

Dr. Boman said native tall grass prairie provides a wide array of animal, insect and bird species for students to observe and research. The Department intends to work with other academic areas of campus – as well as regional K-12 educators – to develop educational programs using the prairie.

A second, adjacent piece of land – located south of the 14-acre tract designated for research – also will be available to students but could be used for other purposes, should the need ever arise.

Additionally, another 10-acre section of land east of the Missouri Southern softball fields has been identified for research and student use.

“We have pieces of land – a habitat – that is very rare for universities,” said Dr. Jason Willand, assistant professor of the Department of Biology and Environmental Health.

In other business, university administrators reported that the institution has received provisional approval from the Missouri Department of Higher Education to offer a new Master of Science Degree in Education – School Administration. The MDHE has also provisionally approved the university’s request to begin offering its Master of Science in Education – Curriculum and Instruction Degree at areas off-campus, including in the Nevada, McDonald County, Jane and Webb City areas.

Additionally, the Board authorized the university to set a new in-state and Lion Pride tuition rate of $177.03 per credit hour beginning with the Fall 2015 semester. The figure reflects an increase of $1.79 per credit hour. The Board also authorized university administration to set out-of-state tuition at $354.06, an increase of $1.06 per credit hour.