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Good-bye, Larissa

It is with deep regret that the Center for Prairie Studies bids farewell to Larissa Mottl, Outreach Coordinator for the Center and manager of the college's Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) for the Biology Department for the last dozen years. Larissa has accepted an almost too-good-to-be-true position with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in St. Paul, where she will be involved in ecological restoration at several state parks near the Twin Cities and will likely participate in the ambitious public-private partnership, recently announced, to create an enormous corridor of monitored and protected prairie in western Minnesota.

Larissa and her husband, Erik Mottl, are both from Minnesota originally, and their parents still live there, so the move will permit more frequent family contact. Among other things, this means that Larissa and Erik's two young children, Branden and Emily, will be able to see their grandparents on a regular basis. The move is also appealing, Larissa told me, because the state of Minnesota cares a great deal about its natural lands and allocates more money to their enhancement and protection than does Iowa.

Larissa was everyone's top choice, back in 2000, to fill the newly created position of CERA Manager and Outreach Coordinator for the Center, and for the past dozen years she more than lived up to our expectations and hopes. She quickly learned to balance the needs of the two programs she supported. For the Center, she inaugurated a host of activities to bring CERA to greater public awareness, including leading public prairie walks in the fall, woodland wildflower walks in the spring, organizing volunteer work days, and promoting the use of CERA by classes and groups beyond the Biology Department. She led the effort to reissue and update Professor Henry S. Conard's 1927 publication, Our Trees. She worked tirelessly to create the Center's multimedia DVD program, "Prairie Through the Seasons." She hosted ecology workshops on various topics for professional biologists. In partnership with the City of Grinnell, Larissa conceived and organized the Grinnell Youth Conservation Corps, in which a Grinnell College student supervises a team of high school students during the summer to engage in conservation activities in the town of Grinnell, especially at Arbor Lake.

Larissa also volunteered her time in support of many public and private efforts to expand prairie awareness and prairie plantings in the community. Most recently, her efforts at Drake Community Library have been crucial in establishing the native species landscaping that is part of the library's LEED certification.

What I have mentioned here is but a sampling of a much longer list of Larissa's innovations and accomplishments during her tenure at Grinnell. It has been my pleasure to have worked so closely with her, and we wish her and her family the very best in their new home in Minnesota.