PULLMAN, Wash. — A mere 20-minute drive north of the WSU Pullman campus, Smoot Hill offers a large outdoor classroom for students and faculty to study and research plants, animals and the environment.
 
An 800-acre farm purchased by the university in 1972, the tract is now used by scientists studying how to successfully reclaim cropland and fight the spread of invasive plant species.
 
 
 

Alan Black, manager of the area, said having a natural laboratory is a unique opportunity for researchers to make discoveries at Smoot Hill that apply to the entire Pacific Northwest.

“WSU is well-known for the amount of laboratory experience that students have, and this certainly represents one of the examples of where we own property, and actually have classes come out and use that property that would not be available in more urban types of settings,” Black said.

Converting tilled fields and planting trees are some steps that have been taken in the last few decades, not just for research, but for making a better habitat for plants and animals. Regarding crops around the area, Smoot Hill is unique, as it harbors some of the only remaining Palouse Prairie-type land.

“Quantifying the amount of native Palouse Prairie that’s in existence is a pretty difficult undertaking. We can certainly say there’s less than a fraction of one percent of the habitat that occurs that could be considered native Palouse Prairie, so its impossibly small to measure,” said Black.

 
 
 

“I’m hoping that the use of Smoot Hill will continue as it has in the past, and on into the futur. I would like to see the number of students who use this actually increase through time. It’s a very valuable resource that we’ve worked hard to maintain over the years, and it’s certainly has proven its worth in a number of different ways,” said Black.