Over the past two years, high school senior Raghav Kalyanaraman has worked with hundreds of youth volunteers to restore the Blackland Prairie Ecosystem of North Texas. Less than 0.001 percent of the prairie’s tall grass ecosystem remains today, much of it lost to development and agricultural land conversion. But what is left sustains over 500 species of native plants and animals, mitigates soil erosion, and absorbs water that feeds local aquifers.
So far, Raghav, 17, has led the restoration of 5 acres of this prairie land at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary, a process that involved clearing the land of nonnative and overrepresented native species and planting native wildflowers and native grasses. His team also mitigated soil erosion on Blackland prairie trails through the installation of 118 waterbars, which divert water away from trails towards vegetated areas, and has worked to restore dwindling native box turtle populations by constructing turtle pen enclosures. Earlier this year, he founded the nonprofit Eagles For Environment to unite his community around prairie restoration work.