Prairie Learning Lab History

In 1976, Professor Yoder and his students at Ohio State Marion began the effort to preserve plants of the remaining native prairies in Marion County. They collected seeds from the Claridon Prairie east of Marion and used those seeds to plant a 5-acre prairie on the Marion campus that featured the local prairie's gene pool.

That prairie, now over thirty years old and expanded well beyond its original boundaries, is the subject of ongoing study by prairie ecologist. In 1987, it was designated an Ohio natural landmark. In 1981, Dr. Yoder left Ohio State Marion to become Associate Professor and Executive Director of the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, an 1,100-acre environmental education facility operated by Goshen College, Fort Wayne, Indiana. During his years at Merry Lea, Yoder has maintained contact with prairie colleagues in Marion, and has visited periodically to advise and share presentations. His most recent visit was during the 2005 Ohio Prairie Conference held at Ohio State Marion.

Yoder has a life-long interest in the interface between human activity and the natural world. He has experience as an agriculturalist as well as a naturalist. Dr. Yoder and his extended family continue to operate their family farm near Ft. Wayne, on which biodiversity is emphasized and where diverse crops such as maple syrup and asparagus are produced.