Photo of the Week – July 2, 2015

Independence Day is this weekend.  Fireworks have been going off in my my neighborhood for days now as people who apparently equate noise with patriotism are enjoying their right to put that feeling into action.  Earlier this week, I was photographing a patch of common milkweed in front of our field headquarters at the Platte River Prairies and thought the flowers looked much like fireworks – but quieter.  Maybe prettier too.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

The attention paid to milkweed has increased dramatically over the last year or two as concern over the plight of monarch butterflies has grown.  I’m excited to see that energy because it helps increase interest in broader issues of pollinator and biodiversity conservation.  What’s good for monarchs (plant diversity, natural land cover – especially prairie, land management that favors milkweed, intelligent use of pesticides, etc.) is also good for bees and many other species, as well as broader ecosystem functioning.

I’ve been thinking about milkweed management in our Platte River Prairies for a number of years now, especially related to cattle grazing.  Cattle like to eat the flowers off of common and showy milkweed (A. syriaca and A. speciosa) even in our moderately stocked patch-burn grazed prairies.  The “deflowering” of milkweed and a few others species has pushed us to modify our management somewhat to make sure that every portion of our prairies is completely excluded from cattle at least once every 4-5 years so those species can bloom and reproduce.  So far, that seems to have helped maintain healthy populations of those plant species, but we’re continuing to monitor and adapt our management as we learn more.

Milkweed plants are important to monarchs, but many other species as well.  Their flowers are among the most popular nectar sources for many pollinators, and a number of herbivorous insects have evolved mechanisms to deal with the toxic sap and rely on the plants for food.  Hopefully, the attention brought to milkweed by monarchs will help those other species as well.

Have a great 4th of July!

 

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Introducing the 2015-2016 Hubbard Fellows

On June 1, we began the third year of our Hubbard Fellowship Program, generously funded by Anne Hubbard through the Claire M. Hubbard Foundation.  We brought in two new Fellows, Evan and Kim, to follow in the footsteps of Anne, Eliza, Jasmine, and Dillon.  Between now and the end of next May, they will learn everything we can teach them about conservation and then go out into the world to become conservation leaders and professionals.

Hubbard Fellows Kim Tri and Evan Barrientos at The Nature Conservancy's Caveny Tract.

Hubbard Fellows Kim Tri and Evan Barrientos at The Nature Conservancy’s Caveny Tract.

I asked Kim and Evan to each write a short introduction describing themselves and how they got here.  In some ways, the two of them are very different from each other, but I think you’ll see a striking similarity in the paths they’ve taken to reach us.  I hope you’ll get to know them much better over the next year as they contribute their thoughts and images to this blog.

 

Evan Barrientos

Growing up as a nature boy in southeast Wisconsin I wanted to help protect nature, but I never could see myself working in the Midwest. To an aspiring wildlife biologist, it seemed that my home had lost all its nature a century ago to logging and farming. All that remained for me to explore were a few small nature centers and state parks surrounded by a vast desert of corn, soybeans, pavement, lawns, and strip malls. The real nature worth exploring and protecting, it seemed, lay in faraway places like Alaska or the Amazon rainforest. I even started teaching myself Portuguese in high school to prepare for my future career of saving Brazil’s rainforests. Yes, I had heard that only about one percent of Wisconsin’s native prairies remained, but what good could I do to help those sad fragments of nature when there were pristine forests being logged just a continent away?

In college a lot of this thinking changed. I worked in Alaska, Mexico, and Ecuador, and I discovered that even in those amazing places I could still miss the song of an American Robin. I saw how complex conservation issues are and learned that effective solutions often require decades to develop. Furthermore, it became clear that research alone wouldn’t be enough to achieve my conservation goals. Most importantly, I realized the extreme conservation impact of another species that I had previously ignored: humans.

Nelson Winkel teaches Hubbard Fellow Evan Barrientos (in hat) how to drive a tractor.

Our land manager Nelson Winkel teaches Hubbard Fellow Evan Barrientos (in hat) how to drive a tractor.

After stepping out of childhood dreams and into real world conservation, I saw that at the root of nearly every conservation issue lies a problem with the way people view nature; whether it is a Mexican child who sees birds exclusively as slingshot targets, or an Ecuadorian farmer who sees virgin cloud forest only as a barrier to feeding his family. As a result, I became fascinated with the numerous social aspects of conservation such as environmental education and sustainable alternative livelihoods. I remained interested in ecology, but wanted to study ways nature could benefit people and vice versa. Finally, by discovering the importance of working with people, I realized that if I wanted to achieve real and significant conservation solutions, I would have to work long-term within a community that I understood intimately. Sorry, passport, looks like I won’t be filling your pages after all.

By the end of college I had learned that pristine wilderness wasn’t the only place worth conserving. The field of restoration ecology opened my eyes to the exhilarating possibility to bring nature back to places where it had been lost. Upon graduating, my conservation goals were to protect natural areas from human development, restore degraded natural areas, and engage people in the process. The Nature Conservancy embodies this philosophy, and I became eager to work with them. Astoundingly, The Hubbard Fellowship provided that exact opportunity. Would Nebraska and its prairies bore me? Maybe once, but not anymore. I now see them filled with fascinating species, deserving of restoration after a history of persecution, and located in a region that I can legitimately call home. So here I am, back in the Midwest; only now the prairie has become my Amazon.

Evan is passionate about communicating conservation issues and natural history through photography, videography, and blogging. You can view his work at www.evanbarrientos.zenfolio.com

 

Kim Tri

Though I grew up in southern Minnesota and prairies are a natural part of my life, my decision to study and work to conserve them took me kind of by surprise.  Conservation has always appealed to me—I’ve always wanted to do something with my life.  I just wanted to do it somewhere else.  At 19, frustrated with the Midwest and my lack of having done anything, I left my first college for a year in a conservation corps in Arizona, followed by another year in northern Minnesota, to see mountains and deserts and forests, and do something.  I credit where I am today to that first big move.  It allowed me to really learn from the land and the people around me, to understand the value of loving your work, and to really have a focus upon returning to college.

Sterling College in Vermont appealed to me then, partly because it offered the degree I wanted, but more importantly because of its dedication to educating the next generation of environmental stewards.  It was there in the beautiful Northwoods that I realized that what I really wanted was the grass and open space I’d left behind.  Running out of time to propose a senior project, the realization came in a “thunderbolt” moment.  It had to be prairies.  Without explicitly remembering learning the concepts, I already knew about fire and grazing, deep roots, and grass tall as horses.  Presenting the prairie to my advisor so that she could appreciate it as I do was a fun challenge and valuable experience.  Studying this ecosystem has been like coming home.  It illuminates old memories of purple coneflowers at the local zoo and chasing voles across the black of a new burn near my house.

Kim Tri (bottom left) on a Missouri River boat tour in early June - part of a large conference of Nature Conservancy staff in Nebraska City.

Kim Tri (bottom left) on a Missouri River boat tour in early June – part of a large conference of Nature Conservancy staff in Nebraska City.

Having tallied up something like ten moves in the past four years, I am excited to spend the duration of the Fellowship really sinking into one place and becoming part of the natural and human community.  I’m learning to put down roots, literally—the garden’s just getting going!  The peace of the prairie, I believe, will provide a perfect space in which to become a better naturalist, ecologist, land steward, and artist, and learn how to put all of those facets of myself to work in protecting the land.  I look forward, too, to the endless opportunities for professional development amid the blood, sweat, and tears of land management that will help hone the somewhat rough-and-tumble ecological education that I’ve received so far.

Kim volunteered with us last year while working on a senior project for college.  You can read more about her previous time with us here.

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2015 Grassland Restoration Network Workshop July 21-23, 2015

The 2015 Grassland Restoration Network Workshop is coming up in just a few weeks.  This year’s workshop will be located at Moorhead State University’s Regional Science Center and The Nature Conservancy’s Bluestem Prairie near Hawley, Minnesota.  As with previous workshops, this one will focus on both the nuts and bolts of converting cropland to high-diversity prairie and broader issues regarding how to make prairie restoration as effective as possible from a landscape conservation perspective.  This year, we will be visiting a range of interesting restoration sites, including The Nature Conservancy’s Bluestem Prairie and Glacial Ridge Project, Prairie Restoration Inc.’s Bluestem Farm, and several federal and state restoration projects in northwestern Minnesota.  It should be a great opportunity to learn from the successes and challenges faced by people restoring prairie in that part of the country.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Soils tour during the 2014 Grassland Restoration Network Conference at The Nature Conservancy's Nachusa Grasslands Preserve in Illinois.

Soils tour during the 2014 Grassland Restoration Network Conference at The Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Grasslands Preserve in Illinois.

Registration has been limited to keep numbers manageable for tours, but there are slots available if you’re interested in joining us this year.  You can see the agenda and registration information here.

I hope to see you in northwest Minnesota next month!

 

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Photo of the Week – June 25, 2015

It’s black-eyed susan season!

Black-eyed Susan flowers (Rudbeckia hirta).  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Black-eyed susan flowers (Rudbeckia hirta). The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

How can I not photograph these flowers?  I have more than enough black-eyed susan flowers in my photo files, but they’re just so STRIKING!  After returning from our Texas vacation, I spent much of Monday scouting our Platte River Prairies to see what prairie seeds were ripe and where the optimal harvest locations were for each species.  For a while, the sun was poking in and out of thin clouds, so I pulled the camera out and looked for something to help me capture the light.  I really did try to find something besides black-eyed susan to photograph, but I just couldn’t do it.

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I photographed them from the front, side, and back.  I photographed the flowers, stems, and leaves.  These are just a few of the shots from the 10-15 minutes I spent satisfying my need.  I may have a problem…

 

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The Prairie Ecologist Goes to the Beach

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent last week on a family vacation near Corpus Christi, Texas.  The kids really liked swimming in the ocean, looking for shells, and playing in the sand.  I enjoyed all of those things too, but I also spent quite a bit of time wandering the beaches and adjacent dunes with my camera.

Hermit crab

Along the beach near our hotel in Corpus Christi, we found several largish intact shells and didn’t immediately realize that all of them hosted hermit crabs.  Once we figured that out, we put them back on the beach and watched them crawl back into the water.

Waiting for hermit crabs

My wife and stepson waiting for hermit crabs to emerge and start moving around.

It was fun to see what the waves were washing up on the beach.  Even the trash – and there was a lot of that – was interesting.

Sea shell on beach. San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Sea shell on beach.  I know that some snails drill holes into mollusk shells and feed on the animal inside, but I don’t know how to explain the high abundance of holes in this particular shell.  San Jose Island near Port Aransas, Texas.

Barnacles on driftwood.  On the beach at San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Barnacle shells on a big driftwood log. San Jose Island near Port Aransas, Texas.

There were others walking the beach too – especially gulls and various shorebirds.  I was just looking for interesting objects and photo subjects.  The birds were looking for food.

Gull at Padre Island National Seashore.  Corpus Christi, Texas.

Laughing gulls and other birds were walking the edge of the surf at Padre Island National Seashore, feeding on various small animals washed up on the beach.

Stink bug washed up on beach at Padre Island National Seashore.  Corpus Christi, Texas.  Seemed to be major food source for gulls.

As I followed gulls to see what they were eating, much of what they seemed to be feeding on were small terrestrial invertebrates that had apparently gotten caught in the water and washed ashore.  Stinkbugs were very abundant, along with a few different beetle species.  I saw 20 or 30 stinkbugs washed up in a pretty short stretch of beach.

The starkest reminders that I was far from the prairies of Nebraska were the crabs.  Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know about my minor obsession about photographing crab spiders in prairies.  I think I could probably develop a similar addiction to photographing crabs.  They’re just so otherworldly and fantastic.

Crab at Padre Island National Seashore.  Corpus Christi, Texas.

Ghost crabs (and other species?) were very common on the beaches at Padre Island National Seashore and San Jose Island.  They seemed to spend a lot of time carrying sand out of their holes, and skittered back into those holes quickly as we approached them.  This one eventually came back out after I sat quietly next to its burrow.

Crab.  San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

The crabs along the beaches ranged from very small (this one was about an inch or inch and a half wide – including legs) to maybe 5 or 6 inches wide.

Crab at Padre Island National Seashore.  Corpus Christi, Texas.

A larger crab at Padre Island National Seashore.  I don’t know how many species are there, and couldn’t find much information on them.  Maybe they are all ghost crabs, but the coloration patterns seemed to vary somewhat between individuals.

Crab larva(?) the beach at Padre Island National Seashore.  Gulf coast of Texas near Corpus Christi.

I’m guessing this is a larval crab, but I really don’t know.  It was only about 1/2 inch wide and was moving around by squirting water out a tiny jet engine-like appendage coming out its rear end.  Padre Island National Seashore.

Tiger beetles were a more familiar sight to me than the crabs.  I know tiger beetles, though not the species I was seeing on the beach last week.  It turns out beach tiger beetles are just as fun to stalk with a camera as those in prairies.  And their faces are just as cute.

Tiger beetle.  San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Tiger beetle. San Jose Island. Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, Texas.

Tiger beetle.  San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Tiger beetle. San Jose Island. Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, Texas.

Unfortunately, much of what we saw washed up along the beaches was debris from the human race.  A huge range of objects, especially plastic ones, were strewn about along the base of the dunes.  I tried for a while to compose photos that avoided the trash, but eventually gave up and just photographed the trash itself.

Trash washed in on beach.  San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Trash washed in on beach. San Jose Island. Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, Texas.

While the beaches were pretty different from prairies, the dunes right next to them felt much more like home.  As I walked through them, I felt as if I should know the plants I was seeing.  They looked just like prairie plants I am familiar with in Nebraska except that they weren’t quite.  I saw grasses that were almost prairie sandreed, wildflowers that were almost purple prairie clover, and many others.  If I squinted my eyes, it felt like home.

Padre Island National Seashore.  Corpus Christi, Texas.

Dunes at Padre Island National Seashore. Corpus Christi, Texas.

Ldunes along the beach at Padre Island National Seashore.  Gulf coast of Texas near Corpus Christi.

The plant community in the dunes looked and felt just like the sandhills prairie of Nebraska.

Not only did walking the dunes feel familiar, photographing the little creatures living in them did too.  I heard this cicada before I saw it, and was able to slowly creep up close enough for a photo.

Cicada. San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Cicada. San Jose Island. Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, Texas.

Grasshoppers were very abundant in the dunes.  Every time I stopped to photograph one, I’d see several others right next to it.  The result was a kind of neverending cascade of photographic opportunities.  Even with a stiff breeze blowing, I managed to get a few decent portraits taken.

Grasshopper.  San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Grasshopper. San Jose Island. Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, Texas.

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Grasshopper.  San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Grasshopper. San Jose Island. Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, Texas.

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Grasshopper.  San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Grasshopper. San Jose Island. Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, Texas.

Lizards were also a comforting sight.  The habitat looked like it should have lizards in it, and sure enough, there they were.  I had to look up the species online (I think I got it right)?

Lizard.  San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Keeled earless lizard (Holbrookia propinqua). San Jose Island. Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, Texas.

Lizard in the dunes along the beach at Padre Island National Seashore.  Gulf coast of Texas near Corpus Christi.

Another keeled earless lizard.  (You can tell they’re related by their identical facial expressions…?)  I’m not sure if the more colorful one is a juvenile or different gender – I couldn’t figure that out online, but I’m sure readers can help me out.  Padre Island National Seashore. Gulf coast of Texas near Corpus Christi.

Atticus Miller (stepson of photographer) looking at a lizard found on the beach.  San Jose Island.  Gulf of Mexico.  Port Aransas, Texas.

Atticus (my stepson) looking at a lizard found on the beach. San Jose Island. Gulf of Mexico. Port Aransas, Texas.

As always, it was great to be on vacation but nice to be home again.  I enjoyed walking through the familiar black-eyed susans and big bluestem of the Platte River Prairies yesterday.

Though I do miss those crabs…

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo of the Week – June 19, 2015

I’ve been on a family vacation to the Corpus Christi, Texas area this week.  It’s been a great week, with pleasant weather and lots of beach exploration.  I’ll have more photos to share next week, but today wanted to share a plant that I very much enjoyed photographing down here.

Railroad vine in bloom at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas.

Railroad vine in bloom at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas.

Railroad vine, or beach morning glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae) is a native vine that sprawls across many of the dunes along the beaches of the Gulf Coast of Texas.  Although it is in the same plant family as the bindweed I’m fighting in my home garden, it wasn’t hard to appreciate its color and character.

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We spent Thursday at San Jose Island, just north of Port Aransas, Texas.  Railroad vine was common on the beach dunes there as well.  Also abundant on those dunes were grasshoppers of many colorful species.  The two interacted in at least some cases, with the grasshoppers feeding on the flowers of the vine.

Grasshopper feeding on railroad vine flowers.  San Jose Island, Texas.

Grasshopper feeding on railroad vine flowers. San Jose Island, Texas.

It turns out that photography (at least for me) along the beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast is much like it is in the prairies of Nebraska.  I walk through the vegetation and appreciate the scenery, but mostly focus in on the small creatures (like grasshoppers) living there.  More on that next week…

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Photo of the Week – June 12, 2015

While I was doing some vegetation monitoring in a native hay meadow this morning, I found a bobolink nest.

Bobolink nest hiding in the grass - Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Bobolink nest hiding in the grass – Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.  Four bobolink eggs and one cowbird egg.

If you’re not familiar with grassland nesting birds, the idea of building a nest right on the ground might seem pretty silly and dangerous.  However, while a predator doesn’t have to fly or climb into a tree to get to the eggs, it still has to find them, and that can be pretty difficult when the nest is out in the middle of a large grassland.  To illustrate how well hidden the above nest was, here is a series of photos taken at various heights above it.

I took these photos with my phone.  This first one was taken about 2 feet  above the vegetation, which was itself about a foot and a half tall.  Can you see the nest?  (No you can't)

I took these photos with my phone. This first one was taken about 2 feet above the vegetation, which was itself about a foot and a half tall. Can you see the nest? (No you can’t.)

This photo was taken right at the height of the vegetation.  If you look closely, you can see the eggs below.

This photo was taken right at the height of the vegetation. If you look closely, you can see the eggs below.

A little closer.

A little closer.

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This image makes the nest look very exposed, but only because I was holding the vegetation away from it to get a good photo.

The only reason I found the nest is that I crouched down in the vegetation a few feet from the nest to examine the plants in my plot frame.  About a minute later, the female bobolink fluttered out of the nest.  She must have waited anxiously as long as she could stand it, but my continued presence that close to the nest finally flushed her – allowing her to fly to safety but exposing the location of her nest.  Fortunately for her and her unborn chicks I took only photographs.  I wish her the best with her family, including one (so far) cowbird.

(For those of you who might not know the story of brown-headed cowbirds, they are brood parasites who drop their eggs in the nests of other bird species.  Those host birds then raise the cowbird young – often at the expense of their own.  This is a host-parasite relationship that has been going on for thousands of years in North American prairies.)

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Next Platte River Prairies Field Day – June 26, 2015

Hikers enjoying the prairie during one of last year's Field Days.

Hikers enjoying the prairie during one of last year’s Field Days.

We’ve finalized the agenda for our next Platte River Prairies Field Day, which will be June 26, 2015.  I hope to see many of you there.  This Field Day will include a wide range of topics including:

– ecology and natural history of stream fish, birds, prairie invertebrates, and reptiles and amphibians

– prairie restoration and management strategies

– plant identification

– ethnobotany (food and medicinal uses of plants)

– use of prairie plants in gardens and landscaping to benefit pollinators

There is no cost for the field day, and you’re welcome to come and go anytime between 9am and 4pm.  A full agenda can be seen here.

Posted in Prairie Animals, Prairie Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Plants, Prairie Restoration/Reconstruction | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Life on a Weedy Plant

Daisy fleabane (Erigeron strigosus) is considered by many people to be a weed.  It’s a biennial with very pretty, albeit small, daisy-like flowers that flourishes when the dominant plants around it have been weakened.  As a prairie manager, I’ve always appreciated daisy fleabane as an indicator that we’ve created conditions for new wildflowers (short- and long-lived) to insert themselves between the grasses in our sites.

Daisy fleabane (erigeron strigosus).  Lincoln Creek Prairie.  Aurora, Nebraska.

Daisy fleabane reaches toward the sky. Lincoln Creek Prairie. Aurora, Nebraska.

Last Friday evening, I took my camera for a walk in a small prairie here in town and found quite a few daisy fleabane plants growing along the trail.  I wasn’t the only one enjoying them – I saw numerous small bees and flies feeding on the pollen, and a few crab spiders hoping one of those pollinators waiting to ambush those same small pollinators.

Daisy fleabane (erigeron strigosus).  Lincoln Creek Prairie.  Aurora, Nebraska.

Daisy fleabane flowers and small fly.

Fly on Daisy fleabane (erigeron strigosus).  Lincoln Creek Prairie.  Aurora, Nebraska.

A closer look at the fly.

The first crab spider I noticed slipped over the edge of the flower to hide when it spotted me coming toward it.  I turned away to photograph something else nearby.  When I looked back, the spider was back on the flower.  I adjusted my position very slightly and the spider slipped back to its hiding place.  Argh.  Stubbornly, I decided I was going to photograph that spider if I had to wait all evening to do so.  I didn’t have to wait quite that long, but it felt like it.  I got my tripod positioned so that I could take the photo when/if the spider reappeared.  Holding perfectly still, (with sweat running down my nose and mosquitoes feeding on my neck) I stayed in position for at least 5-10 minutes until the spider finally showed itself again.  Got it!

Crab spider on daisy fleabane.  Lincoln Creek Prairie.  Aurora, Nebraska.

This spider photo is nice enough, but will always be memorable to me because of the effort it took to get it.  I hate to think how many mosquitoes got a free meal while I sat still waiting for my little spider buddy to make itself available for a photo…

A little further up the trail, I saw another crab spider that had caught a fly.  I figured it too would make a run for cover when I got close, so I came in low and slow.  I’m not sure it would have mattered – this spider showed none of the anxiety of the first one, and sat very still while I set up the tripod and waited for the breeze to pause long enough to get a good shot.  Maybe this spider was too distracted by its meal to care about me (though that’s not been my experience in the past).   I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful to the second spider for its cooperation or mad at the first one for all the mosquito bites on my neck.

Crab spider on daisy fleabane.  Lincoln Creek Prairie.  Aurora, Nebraska.

This crab spider seemed happy to have its photo taken with its hunting trophy.

I can understand why people might think of daisy fleabane as a weedy little plant, but its just filling an important role.  When the grasses are weak, something has to take advantage of the temporarily available resources around and between them.  There are numerous species that can do that, including a few that can cause real problems if they become established.  Given the choices, I’m always happy to see the pretty little daisy flowers and the diverse tiny creatures they attract.

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Photo of the Week – June 4, 2015

Kim Tri inspects a skunk skull in the prairie while Evan Barrientos looks on.  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Kim Tri inspects a skunk skull in the prairie while Evan Barrientos looks on. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

This week, we began the third year of our Hubbard Fellowship program here in Nebraska.  Evan Barrientos (Wisconsin) and Kim Tri (Minnesota) are both recent college graduates who will be spending the next year with us, learning all we can teach them about ecology, land restoration and stewardship, conservation strategy, fundraising, marketing/outreach and more.  After a short orientation day on Monday, we spent Tuesday and Wednesday at a big conference with other employees of The Nature Conservancy.  It was an uplifting, but somewhat overwhelming experience for Evan and Kim.  While they learned a lot and met a lot of people at the conference, I was glad to get them back out on the prairie today so we could just take some time to wander the prairie together and talk about natural history and ecology.

There are countless positive attributes of the Hubbard Fellowship program, but one of my personal favorites is the opportunity I get to interact with young, bright, and enthusiastic conservationists.  I love seeing our work and sites through their eyes, and their questions and ideas challenge and inspire me every day.  You’ll get the chance to hear much more about and from Kim and Evan in the coming year, and I hope you’ll feel some of the same hope and energy I do.

We have a lot of conservation challenges to face in the coming years, but I think the next generation of conservation professionals is going to be equal to the task.

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