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One of Knox College's most valued traditions is the annual spring Prairie Burn, which brings together students from all disciplines in a prairie restoration project that inspired the name for Knox College's "Prairie Fire" athletic teams.
The Prairie Burns, first conducted in the 1950s by Knox professor Paul Shepard, protect prairie grasses from intrusions of woodland scrub and competition with "exotic" species that have been introduced to Illinois from other regions or countries—to the detriment of organisms that have evolved over millions of years in delicate balance with the environment and each other.
The Prairie Burns at Green Oaks are one of the factors making Green Oaks one of the oldest restored tallgrass prairie in North America.
Professor Stuart Allison plans the burn with students and faculty.
Professor Allison watches while Alicia Young sets a field on fire. Other students at rear maintain the fire line.
A student controls the edge of the burn.
Blackened fields will heat up more quickly, and native prairie plants are better adapted to fire than non-native species.