A unique ecosystem on the Missouri Southern campus is getting some much needed TLC thanks to a student-led project.

Restoring a 300-meter walking trail near the Biology Pond is the focus of Jeremiah Cline’s service-learning project through the Biology Department.

“The trail is pretty run down,” says Cline. “I found it my freshman year when I was walking around campus with my roommate at the time. It was overgrown, but not as much as (it is now).”

The trail dates back to at least the 1970s. The pond was formerly an Olympicsized swimming pool at the former Mission Hills Estate before it was torn out in 1972. The trail winds through the natural habitat, which includes a springfed swamp.

Over time, it has become congested with invasive species, washed out in places and blocked by downed trees.

When Cline suggested the project, his advisor, Dr. David Penning, wasn’t entirely sure how viable an undertaking it would actually be.

“Everyone wants to do something like this until they make first contact with the enemy and realize the gauntlet they’ve signed up for,” Penning says. “But it’s morphed into something way larger than either of us thought it was going to be.”

There was an online fundraiser through GoFundMe, the Biology Club chipped in toward the effort, and several of Clines’ classmates have volunteered their time to help clear the trail.

“My goal right now is removing at least three of the invasive species – winter creeper, Russian olive and Japanese honeysuckle,” says Cline. “I want to help the native plants grow, take back the trail and establish a good tread. I’d like to also put out picnic tables where students can study.”