STORYTELLING PORTFOLIO > Quadrat: a Year in the Tallgrass

A quadrat is a small standardized plot for creating a sample in the field, from which animal and plant populations are surveyed. As an undergraduate studying environmental field methods, I surveyed prairie voles using a quadrat at Allwine Prairie Preserve in Nebraska, one of the few remaining tallgrass prairie remnants (never cultivated) in the U.S.

Outside the preserve, shortly before I moved back to California, where a dilapidated barn was being demolished, plywood siding was salvaged, and later cut up and reassembled into four triptychs, one panel for each month of a year, in the approximate size and shape of the quadrat I'd used.

Colored with watercolor and encaustic to match each season's dominant prairie plant life, they document both the loss of historic grassland surrounding the preserve, and my old memories of working in the tall grass. It seemed at the time I could imagine the view of the long-gone grazing bison: big bluestem came up to my my mouth and my eyebrows, giving the illusion of obscuring the horizon and making everything seem immediate.