Welcome to the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum

At one time, most of Fond du Lac County was covered by prairie -- native grasslands that were home to bison, prairie chickens, bobolinks and other wildlife. At the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum on the UW-Fond du Lac campus, a group of volunteers has reestablished the native plants that once grew on this site.

The project began in 1991, with the goal of representing the original plant communities of Wisconsin in a small arboretum. At present, volunteers have planted 42 acres of native prairie grasses and wildflowers, developed two wildlife ponds and planted 176 native trees and shrubs. Most of the wildflower seeds were collected from some of the last remaining original prairie sites in Fond du Lac County. To educate local residents there's an interpretive trail as well as six benches, two picnic tables, and a kiosk for recreation.

The Formal Arboretum is an innovative attempt to depict the native plants and plant communities of Wisconsin in a design representing the "Tension Zone" of our state. This is the area of overlap of northern and southern Wisconsin plant communities, which occurs in the Fond du Lac area. It consists of savannah, lowland forests and northern mixed forests, plus their associated wildflowers.

The Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum is named for Bradley Gottfried, former dean of UW-Fond du Lac, and a major force behind the project's initiation and development. Dean Gottfried's vision and persistence have resulted in the restoration of a portion of native prairie for county residents to enjoy.

Educational Programs

Snowshoe the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum

Saturday, January 28, 2017 1p-3p
Meet at the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum Shelter

Snowshoe through the prairie and arboretum while looking for animal tracks and other signs of wildlife in winter. During the snowshoeing, we will talk about some of the plants of the prairie and dormant trees in the arboretum. Snowshoes will be provided by the gracious donation of Attitude Sports of Fond du Lac. Pre-registration is required. No dogs please. Please call 920-940-8869.


in conjunction with FDL County Audubon
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 7 pm
Room UC 114

This wide-ranging and contemplative documentary explores our deep-seated connection to birds and warns that the uncertain fate of songbirds might mirror our own.  Humans once believed that birds could carry messages; their presence was meaningful.  Birds have helped predict the change of seasons, the coming of storms, and the rise of toxins in the food chain.  Once again they have something to tell us, and the message is not a comfortable one.  The Messenger is a visually thrilling ode to the beauty and importance of the imperiled songbird, and what it would mean to all of us on both a global and human level if we were to lose these wonderful beings.  The Messenger brings us face-to-face with a remarkable variety of human-made
perils that have devastated thrushes, warblers, orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks and many other airborne music makers.  It is an engaging, visually stunning, emotional journey.  

A Burning Need: Aldo Leopold, Restoration and the Big Picture of Fire as a Management Tool in Wisconsin

Jed Meunier
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 7 pm
Room UC114 UW-FDL

As with his position on predators, Aldo Leopold also changed his mind on the role of fire in maintaining forests and other fire-dependent systems. In this transformation, Leopold became an early advocate of fire as a management tool and initiated some of the first formal restoration attempts of fire-dependent communities. Many groups now are heavily invested in using prescribed fire to conserve and restore systems, primarily prairie and savanna which are greatly diminished. Rarely however, do we put our work into the context of regional or statewide opportunities and challenges. This talk is just that; a statewide fire needs assessment which aims to prioritize prescribed fire to maintain a full suite of fire-dependent communities in Wisconsin over the coming decades. It will also explore how Leopold's Shack and Sand Counties fit into this picture.
Jed Meunier is an ecologist and research scientist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources studying forest and fire ecology. His dissertation research was on fire ecology in northern Mexico aimed at guiding forest management and restoration in northern Mexico and the U.S. southwest, very much in line with what Aldo Leopold had himself promoted seven decades prior. Jed received his M.S. in the Wildlife Ecology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Department his great-grandfather started in 1933, where he studied the effects of hunting on declining American woodcock populations. Jed has not lacked sources for inspiration; his mentors and role models include his grandmother, Nina Leopold Bradley, and her siblings. Jed's course, both personally and academically, is very much entwined with the mission and legacy of his family and the Aldo Leopold Foundation where he serves on the board of directors.