Bison Diorama Restoration Project
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Grass from Wyoming!

July 18, 2018

This morning, I received 3 large boxes at the Peabody Museum of fresh grass clumps from Wyoming. Michelle Downey from Yale Forestry School’s Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative in Clearmont, Wyoming organized a team of over 15 people yesterday to collect the grass. I had asked them to collect buffalo grass and blue gramma grass because it is listed on the label to the diorama.  Rachel Renne, a botanical research student at the Yale School of Forestry, wrote back her concerns about using the buffalo grass and gramma grass:
So, although the text that accompanies the diorama does mention buffalo grass and gramma grass, the habitat pictured in the mural behind the buffalo doesn’t really look like a buffalo/gramma grassland. Buffalo grass and blue gramma are short-statured grasses warm-season grasses and those in the background are taller and there are patches of sagebrush as well—which suggests that the grasses are more likely to be cool-season. The diorama is supposedly depicting a scene from near Cody, Wyoming and is at the base of some foothills that are almost fully tree-covered. The natural range of buffalo grass ends in eastern Wyoming and blue gramma becomes increasingly rare in western Wyoming.
Collecting grass

The collecting team

Rachel suggested that instead we use Idaho fescue Festuca idahoensis and Columbia Needlegrass Achnatherum nelsonii. since these grasses are more common in Western Wyoming and at the elevation suggested in our diorama. I decided that we would go with  Rachel’s suggestions and use grasses that are more accurate. We’ll change the label later. The boxes were sent express overnight to keep the grass as fresh as possible.

Collecting grass II

Collecting grass IV

Grass specimens wrapped in wet paper towel in preparation for shipping.

The following list are the names of all those who worked with Michelle to collect the grass. Many thanks to you all!!!
Rachel Renne
Sam Maher
Jesse Bryant
Elle Brunsdale
Jaclyn Kachelmeyer
Natalie Irwin
Selia De Leon
Michelle Downey
Sabrina Szeto
Jeff Goodwin
Fidel Hernandez
Rachel Mealor
Brian Mealor
Mark Bradford and family
Emily Oldfield

When I received the boxes, I removed the plastic bags, each containing 10-15 clumps of grass wrapped in paper towels. I unwrapped each clump of grass one-by-one. Since I can’t add too much depth to the surface of the diorama, I removed as much of the roots and dirt as I could without them falling apart. I must say, I felt transported to Wyoming with the smell of the earth! I then pushed a sharp wire through the root clump and hung the grass upside down from lines snaked across my lab. I will let the grass dry-I’m expecting two to three weeks-before I use my airbrush to spray them with green acrylic paint since they will turn brown naturally as they dry. There should be no other preparation needed before I install them in the diorama. The long stemmed grasses with seed heads may need to be strengthened with piano wire as the weight of the seed heads cause the grass to droop over time

WY grasses

The first grass clumps in my lab. Beautiful!

Hanging grasses

The first line of grass hanging to dry. My lab is now filled with clotheslines of grass!

Devices

 



Taken from the following blog: Museum Model Making at Yale Peabody