Science Cafe returns to spread appreciation for prairie dogs and science


Mia Hennen

Nicole Brown, WSU alum and co-founder of Grassland Groupies, speaks about praire dogs on Dec. 13 inside the Social Tap Drinkery.

Inside the Social Tap Drinkery, the words and phrases that came to most people’s minds about prairie dogs were “cute,” “adorable,” “keystone species,” “burrows,” and more. 

“I think of burrows; I think of them living underground; I think about how smart they are; I think about how social they are,” Nicole Brown, WSU alum, said.

Presented by Brown, “A Love Letter to Prairie Dogs” informed the restaurant’s patrons and lovers of science about the North American rodents Tuesday evening. 

Brown is the co-founder of Grassland Groupies, a nonprofit organization, alongside Rachel Roth. The nonprofit deems itself “the grasslands PR team” and works to save grasslands and educate people about them.

“We’re here just to spread our love of grasslands, spread our love of prairie dogs,” Brown said.

The presentation was the second of the recently restarted group “Science Cafe.” Patrick Mathews, a biology professor at Friends University, and Dexter Mardis, a biology field station manager at WSU, teamed up to get the group rolling in Wichita again. 

“It used to be that this met every month pretty regularly … until the pandemic,” Mathews said. “The people who had been running it kind of said, ‘I don’t know that I want to do it anymore.’ So, some new people – myself and Dexter Mardis – kinda said ‘let’s get this going again.’”

“Mostly right now (we’re) just reaching out to people we know,” Mathews said. “We’re hoping as awareness of it gets increased, people will maybe step forward and volunteer, or people will say ‘hey, you know, I know a guy.’”

Science Cafe is also a nationwide movement to inform and educate people in a variety of social settings about science.

The group plans to meet on the second Tuesday of every month inside the Social Tap Drinkery.

“Anybody can come. It doesn’t cost anything,” Mathews said. “It’s just a way to sort of socialize with other people that might have an interest in science-y things, and hear somebody talk about something that might be cool to you.”