About Us


The Tallgrass Prairie Center empowers people to value and restore resilient, diverse tallgrass prairie.

We aim to:

  • Increase the capacity of 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. 



Visiting the Center 

The Tallgrass Prairie Center assists county roadside managers, native seed companies, and farmers wishing to plant prairie for conservation purposes. Our work frequently takes our small staff away from the Center for data collection, meetings, and field days, and there is no receptionist. However, drop-in visitors are welcome, and if we are in the office, we enjoy learning about your prairie projects. We can direct you to trusted native seed companies and knowledgeable service providers. Please do pick up a free copy of the technical guide series and other printed resources in the main office. If you are coming from a long distance and plan to visit, we recommend that you contact us in advance so we can better serve you. 




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. Dr. Laura Jackson became director in 2013. 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 cold-storage room, shop and equipment storage space, tractor, native seed drills, research plot combine, prescribed fire equipment, an 1,800-square-foot greenhouse, 69 acres of campus for native seed production nurseries and field experiments, and a separate storage garage for additional large implements. 

The name was changed to the Tallgrass Prairie Center on 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 and teaching labs, creating enriching opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Northern Iowa.

The primary programs of the center are Research and Restoration, Iowa Roadside Management (IRM), 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 Iowa Roadside Management program (IRM), formerly known as the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program (IRVM), was established in 1988 to assist Iowa counties in implementing IRM programs using native vegetation. Plant Materials, formerly known as the Natural Selections Program, was initiated in 1990 to develop 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. Irvine Prairie was dedicated in 2018.  



Annual Highlights