SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The first step to preserving and conserving nature is to connect with nature. It’s an ideal that Briar Cliff University biology professor Brian Hazlett espouses with students in many of his courses, most notably his ecology and environmental science classes.
Students enrolled in those courses will often find themselves studying the plants at places like Stone State Park and nearby Loess Hills, a 50-acre prairie within walking distance of the campus.
“People will tend to preserve things that they know and love,” said Hazlett, who also serves as director of the Center for Prairie Studies, director of the environmental science program and chair of the biology department at Briar Cliff. “I think it’s always been my approach to go out and see things.”
And although Hazlett can’t speak for his students, he has heard that “they like getting outside during labs.” And, hey, that certainly seems promising.
Center for Prairie Studies
Learn more about the Sioux City prairie, a 50-acre classroom for Briar Cliff biology and environmental science students.
As chair of the biology department, Hazlett is rather busy and unable to visit the neighboring prairie as frequently as he would like. The larger workload means he arrives earlier and stays much later. That also means the environmentally conscious Hazlett no longer rides his bicycle to work -- something he has done off and on for the past 24 years.
“Even though I regret it every morning, I don’t do it,” said Hazlett. “Maybe next year I’ll be able to do that regularly. But I don’t have that to point to and be proud of this year.”
But Hazlett does partake in other energy-efficient or environmentally friendly exercises. The janitorial staff will be happy to know that Hazlett’s office trash can will be mostly empty; his recycling bin, however, will likely see more use.
“It’s the same approach to when someone would say to me, ‘How do you know all those Latin names of all the plants?’ I learned them one at a time,” he said. “Just find something that can be done and then do it. Then find something else. Bit by bit, you’re a little bit better than when you started.”