The Youngmeyer Ranch is a 1902 ha (4700 acre) site located in northeast Elk County (37.545022, -96.489850). Geologically, the site overlies primarily Permian age limestone and shale with layers of chert, and is at a higher elevation than surrounding areas due to uplifting and decreased erosion due to the resistant chert layers. The west side of the site is relatively flat plateau whereas the middle and east side features steep to moderate slopes and ravines that give way to rolling and sloped hillsides. The change in elevation over the site is 115 m with at least one spring and several natural and artificial ponds.
View from the ridge, facing east.
Natural Spring at Dead Man's Gulch
Based on the GLO records, this site was predominately grassland with scattered black oaks (Quercus velutina) along creeks or a collection of trees in the creek bottoms. The grassland cover was described as varying from nearly absent on very gravelly soils to moderate productivity on more well-developed soils. Although information on site usage is limited, all indications are that the site has been under cattle grazing since the land was settled. For at least the last 20 years, the site has been double stocked for grazing 90-120 days during late spring and summer. For much of this period, the entire site has typically been burned every 1 to 3 years. Currently, the tree cover is approximately 99 ha. There are more than 500 species on plants, 37 species of amphibians and reptiles, and more than 60 bird species known from the property.
Undergraduate students practice principles of wildlife photography, and ruminate on results.
Student researchers assess Sericea Lespedeza, an invasive plant species.
Student researcher refines notes from a herpetofaunal survey.
Ongoing research and future prospects: This site is owned by the Youngmeyer Trust, which gave access to WSU for research and teaching activities beginning in July 2014. Current studies include a helicopter survey for wildlife in the spring that has quantified the presence and identity of large mammals and greater prairie chicken, competition and survival techniques of Sericea Lespedeza, and a herpetofaunal survey.The site has many unique hydrological features associated with the geology and complex topography that influence erosion, drainages, and springs. Additionally, the topography and native grassland offer the opportunity for a wide variety of plant and animal studies in a context of cattle grazing.
An uncommonly dense stand of Leadplant on a ridge overlooking the eastern slopes.
A young Ornate Box Turtle hides from a "predator" on the access road.