USF Awarded ComEd Green Region Grant to Support Prairie Restoration

ComEd Green Region Grant award banner

Joliet, Ill. – Once covering over 21 million acres, less than 0.1% of Illinois’ native tallgrass prairie remains. A $10,000 matching grant awarded to the University of St. Francis (USF) and its ‘Reestablishing Illinois Prairie Land: Ongoing Tallgrass Prairie Restoration at Charlotte Codo Prairie in Frankfort, IL’ project through the ComEd Green Region Grant program looks to reverse that trend.

The Charlotte Codo Prairie, gifted by the Codo family to USF, is a local prairie restoration site approximately 15 miles east of Joliet. The restoration was initiated by the Codo family in 2014 and is maintained by USF today. Currently, this 47-acre property houses 24 acres of restored tallgrass prairie. Tallgrass prairie fields are used by USF faculty and students for research and educational purposes, including studying biological diversity, learning species identification, and contributing to future restoration practices. Codo Prairie is a site of active restoration.

“We plan to expand the acreage of the restored prairie in a multi-year, multi-stage project,” said Chloe Lash, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at USF and project director for the university’s ComEd Green Region grant.

“Seventeen acres of alfalfa field on the property will be the next stage of prairie restoration at Codo. While restoring native tallgrass prairie, we also wish to expand public engagement at Codo,” Lash said.

The project, supported by $10,000 in matching funds by USF, will be pursued through four stages, including (Stage 1) the establishment of native plant seed gardens, (Stage 2) the expansion of community outreach at Charlotte Codo Prairie, (Stage 3) the harvesting seed from the seed gardens, purchasing seed to supplement harvested seed, and planting of the native seed in the alfalfa field (using current best practices for prairie restoration), and (Stage 4) the planning of controlled burns at the restored site. The ComEd Green Region grant will support efforts for Stages 1 and 2 of this multi-phase project.

Lash sees the benefits of this project reaching beyond USF.

“This project will not only benefit the University of St. Francis (USF) community but will engage the broader local community in prairie restoration. USF faculty and students will continue to use Codo Prairie for engagement in scientific research and education. Beyond USF, the Codo Prairie Committee is working on establishing approval processes for research by universities and other scientific groups beyond USF affiliates. We are also working on making Codo Prairie more accessible to the public through community partnerships and long-term plans for the property,” Lash said.

Ultimately, Lash sees the restoration of native Illinois habitat in Will County as the ultimate goal and is grateful to the ComEd Green Region Grant program for helping USF to embark on that journey.

“We are so thankful for the support from the ComEd Green Regions Grant. This award will allow us to build on our educational efforts at the Charlotte Codo Prairie and will support the next stage of prairie restoration at this USF property. Increasing prairieland will support local pollinators, enrich local biodiversity, improve soil health, and assist in climate resiliency research. We are so excited to contribute to restoring native Illinois habitat in Will County,” Lash said.

For more information on the ComEd Green Region Grant program, visit www.openlands.org/greenregion.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Large Gift from Charlotte ’74 & Norman Codo Supports Sciences at USF

Dec. 22, 2018 | Joliet, Ill.

With the end of 2018 approaching quickly, the University of St. Francis (USF) was thrilled to learn it has received a transformative gift of well over $1 million from Charlotte ’74 and Norman Codo. The gift partially consists of property located at 11700 West Stuenkel Road in Frankfort, Illinois, which includes a farmhouse, barn, garage, shed, large organic garden and orchard that are seated on approximately 47 acres of land, 24 of which have been restored to native Illinois prairie. The gift also establishes an endowment fund that will be used to maintain the entire property.

“We are grateful for this generous gift that will extend the footprint of the USF campus and the reach of our science program,” said USF President Arvid Johnson, Ph.D. “Students’ learning will be enhanced by being able to conduct research on the prairie, native plants, and soil in the area; and, the campus community will benefit from having extended space for events and lectures.”

When the Codos originally acquired the property in 1976, it was comprised primarily of farmland. When the original farmhouse located there was destroyed by a fire in the early 2000s, the couple decided to build a new home in 2003 and took up residence on the property. It was at that time that the couple also began efforts to convert 20 acres of the property back to its original prairie state. Since then, Charlotte has planted over 200 trees and a variety of plant life, which along with other efforts, has led to the successful restoration of the prairie. The Codos have also shared their resources with and supported efforts of others working on conservation, gardening and sustainable local food products.

The property’s prairie, which will be named “The Charlotte Codo Prairie”, has since thrived and has attracted interest from the USF science program. At the start of the 2018-2019 school year, USF students began travelling to the property two days each week to conduct research in the property’s prairie area. According to William Bromer, professor of natural sciences at USF, the property offers countless benefits to the university’s students and faculty.

“The Codo property, especially the prairie restoration, will give students and faculty the opportunity to conduct manipulative field experiments that we could not conduct on public land. In the past, our only field sites were on properties that carried with them a variety of restrictions and limitations that were, in turn, placed on the students and faculty,” Bromer said.

“The property will also allow us to support long-term experiments that will allow students to develop their own semester or year-long projects in the context of larger research questions.” Bromer added. “We will be able to monitor the effects of the removals of invasive plant species, the survival of planted seedlings, the abundance and distribution of soil arthropods, and the effect of edges on plants, insects, and rodents. We will also be able to compare the Codo Prairie to other restored prairies in the area to better understand management of restorations and the effects on ecosystem services such as water filtration, carbon sequestration, pollination, native and non-native bee survival, and nutrient cycling.”

The university plans to incorporate other programs that will engage science students with aspects of the property, and will also explore other ways to involve students studying in other disciplines to benefit from the location.

The Codos’ generosity continues to positively impact USF students. The couple established the Charlotte Codo Scholarship in 1987, which is awarded annually to a deserving student who is taking at least one course in French and/or Art. This year, the scholarship will also be opened to nursing students.

Charlotte Codo majored in French and Art at the College of St. Francis. Her French teacher at CSF, Charles Maleczewski, inspired Charlotte’s life-long love of learning and the arts. She also studied nursing at Wesley College, part of Northwestern University’s Chicago campus. An avid artist, Charlotte continues to spend much of her time painting. Norman Codo was a Joliet attorney and is now retired.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 49,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.