Grinnell sits in the middle of a vast and dynamic environment known as prairie. Tall grasses, flowering plants, deep root systems, soil, and fire comprise the ecosystem. The complex root system means that two-thirds of the prairie lives below ground, and that fire will destroy only the dead matter above ground. This ecosystem is responsible for creating the rich Iowa soil that agriculturalists have enjoyed for generations.

The College engages with the surrounding prairie through the Center for Prairie Studies, which organizes related events, courses, and tours of local prairie preserves and farms. The Conard Environmental Research Area offers state-of-the-art facilities for biological study of the prairie. In addition to learning opportunities, Grinnell students experience the bounty of the prairie in the commitment of Grinnell Dining to local foods, supplied by nearby Iowa farms.

Students work on research for a Biology Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) at Conard Environmental Research Area.