Come explore Missouri’s natural heritage!
Missouri is home to 1.5 million acres of national forest, 53 state parks, and the confluence of two of the nation’s great rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi. Beyond the riverine lowland, where St. Louis and Washington University sit, lie Missouri’s Ozark forests to our south and the great prairie to the north. Careful stewardship of these habitats over the past half-century has resulted in an unprecedented recovery from the clear cutting of the 19th century and commercial hunting, trapping, and fishing of the early 20th century.
Each year, a willing group of Wash U students forms the “Missouri’s Natural Heritage” FOCUS class. As a class, we experience Missouri’s habitats and wildlife firsthand. We study Missouri’s natural heritage from the perspectives of biology, environmental studies, geology, history, and archaeology. Additionally, we visit diverse habitats (prairies, forests, glades, and streams) and study the plants and animals we observe (from arthropods, mollusks, and fish, to salamanders, lizards, birds, and mammals).
We welcome you to explore Missouri yourself and hope that these pages help you identify and understand the diversity you find in the Show Me state’s natural habitats.