PITTSBURG, Kan. — Pittsburg State University has been given two small patches of native prairie land northeast of Cherokee as a gift.

The university has managed the land known as the O’Malley Prairies for several years and received it as a gift this week from the descendants of Mary O’Malley and her brother, Charles O’Malley, according to the Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/2daPR3B ).

The O’Malley Prairies total about 12 acres and are remnants of the vast prairie ecosystem that once covered large swaths of the Midwest

Charles O’Malley and former biology department chairman Jim Triplett made an informal agreement in 1991 that allowed the university to manage the land.

A ceremony was held Thursday to mark the land’s transfer.

Pittsburg State biology students have since used the land as an outdoor research lab and will continue to do so.

Dixie Smith, current chairwoman of the university biology department, said students would research the prairie and compare it with the adjacent Monahan Outdoor Education Center, a 153-acre site that contains an 80-acre grassland sitting atop a pile of coal-mining refuse.

“Because the O’Malley and Monahan properties are adjacent to each other, it is perfect for students to compare and contrast native, undisturbed prairie with partially reclaimed land that has been mined,” Smith. “It’s really dramatic when students compare core samples of the soil in the O’Malley prairie and the Monahan site. They can see clearly the differences between the undisturbed grassland and the partially reclaimed mined land.”

Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com