The James Woodworth Prairie is currently seeking applicants for naturalist/guides.  Qualified applicants will have knowledge of Chicago-area natural history, be able to work outdoors for extended periods of time, and be available to work weekends.  If interested, send a resume and email to Alan Molumby, Director, James Woodworth Prairie.


What is a PRAIRIE?

A prairie is a close-to-treeless grassland with native plants found in North America. Grasslands with native vegetation on other continents go by other names (steppe, pampas, veldt). The 'sea of grass' and endless horizon associated with prairies by pioneers is no longer found in Illinois. Some large prairies still exist in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Prairies are rare in the 'Prairie State'. Most Illinois prairies were destroyed by the plow, but even those that were not rarely maintain presettlement plant communities because the suppression of fire has resulted in encroachment by woody plants. Treeless areas that are not dominated by native prairie plants are more appropriately called old fields. Click here to know more about prairies.

The James Woodworth Prairie Preserve Mission

Our mission is to maintain populations of native prairie plants and invertebrate animals with abundances as close as possible to those prior to agriculture, so researchers and interested citizens have a place to study and enjoy what pre-settlement prairie was like.

Research has been done on:

  • The role of animals in building soil
  • Reverse fertilization to reduce the impact of atmospheric nitrogen deposition
  • The reason remnant prairies are so much shorter than restorations
  • Population dynamics of the prairie cicada

Management activities focus on: 

  • Processes (fire and water)
  • The elimination of non-native species
  • Enhancing abundance of autocthonous species with small population sizes
  • Controlling overabundant native species

James Woodworth Prairie (JWP) also plays a role in educating citizens about Illinois prairie.

Bernice Benedict Popelka

Bernice Benedict Popelka was instrumental in saving this endangered piece of prairie more than a half century ago. Without her vision, persistence and hard work, Woodworth Prairie would not exist. She wrote a definitive book published in 2011 called Saving Peacock Prairie, as it was formerly know. It recounts how it was saved and how this benefits today's scientists, photographers, school children and other visitors.

Google Earth images of the Prairie since 1998


31 May 2010 Panorama

Frank Mayfield of black sweater art, inc has published Abundant Splendor, and Elusive Spendor, focusing on common and uncommon plants, respectively, with all photos exclusively from the James Woodworth Prairie.