Tallgrass Prairie Center

About the Tallgrass Prairie Center


Restoring native vegetation for the benefit of society and the environment, with research, education and technology transfer.

Our goals:

  • Increase the capacity of the partners and stakeholders to establish and protect native perennial vegetation and restore ecosystem services in the tallgrass prairie region
  • Increase awareness and appreciation of the Tallgrass Prairie Ecosystem, and understanding of its significance to society
  • Build a stronger and more resilient organization


The Center was established at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in 1999 as the Native Roadside Vegetation Center, founded by Dr. Daryl Smith, a member of the UNI biology department. It is located on the UNI west campus and includes staff and student offices, a 40-seat classroom and meeting space, a research lab, fully equipped seed cleaning labs, a long-term seed storage room, a large shop and equipment storage space, tractor, native seed drills, research plot combine, prescribed fire equipment, an 1800-square foot greenhouse, 65 acres of campus for native seed production nurseries, and a separate storage garage for additional large implements. 

The name was changed January 1, 2006, to more accurately reflect its mission, programs, and activities. Many of the programs are accomplished through partnerships with organizations, associations, and federal, state and local agencies. The land, equipment, facilities and staff of the TPC support a variety of UNI faculty research projects, creating enriching opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Northern Iowa.

The primary programs of the Center are Research and Restoration, Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management (IRVM),  Plant Materials, and Prairie on Farms. The Research and Restoration Program reflects UNI’s 30-year commitment to prairie reconstruction, restoration, management, and advocacy. The Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program (IRVM) was established in 1988 to assist Iowa counties in implementing IRVM programs using native vegetation. Plant Materials (formerly the Natural Selections Program, initiated in 1990) develops regionally adapted Iowa Source Identified foundation seed for commercial production. The Prairie on Farms program began in 2015 as a way to spread best practices and seed mixes to conservation plantings on farms, such as contour filter strips.

In 2013, Dr. Laura Jackson became the new director and Daryl Smith took on a new role as the TPC's Advocate.  Dr. Smith retired in August 2015 and remains an active, Volunteer Advocate for the Center.