In 1968, the college acquired these 365 acres and named the area to honor the inspiring Grinnell College faculty member, botanist Henry S. Conard. (Find out more about H. S. Conard...) Shortly thereafter, a system of all-weather roads, a laboratory for 24 students, an apartment for the manager, and the 14-acre pond were constructed, and forty-five acres of cropland were planted with prairie grasses.
In 1987, an additional 80 acres of cropland were planted with prairie grasses. Between 1990 and 1996, over 30 of these acres along the entrance road and south of the lab were supplemented with forbs. At the same time, annual burning and clearing were in progress to restore 50 acres of degraded oak savanna and woodland. Seeding, burning, clearing, and exotic species control are continually used to maintain and increase the diversity of habitats and native species throughout CERA.
In 1997, experimental burned and unburned plots were established in both prairie and oak forest. A series of 300-gallon experimental ponds was also installed on the edge of the 14-acre pond.