Iowa Prairie Network – Winter Meeting; January 29

I’m honored to be a speaker at this year’s Winter Meeting of the Iowa Prairie Network.  The free and open-to-the-public meeting will be in Ankeny, IA on January 29.  More details can be found here or at IPN’s website.

I’ll be talking about using prairie reconstruction to improve the viability of remnant prairies.  Many of our remaining prairies are so small and isolated that it’s nearly impossible for many prairie plants, animals, and insects to maintain healthy populations.  As a result, it is extremely difficult (perhaps impossible) to manage those tiny prairies without losing species.

One strategy that can help remedy the situation is to use prairie reconstruction to make those small prairies larger – and sometimes to reconnect them with others.  Reconstructing prairie around and between small remnants can increase the population size and viability of species such as birds, butterflies, and many others.  I’ll present examples of where this is being done, as well as the successes and challenges associated with it.  I hope to see you there!

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
Aside | This entry was posted in Prairie Insects, Prairie Management, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Plants, Prairie Restoration/Reconstruction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Iowa Prairie Network – Winter Meeting; January 29

  1. Frank Reid says:

    Turn prairie restoration into a movement. Teach people how to use prairie plants in their gardens. Native plant gardens in suburbia and the city. Encourage garden centers in prairie states to put up native prairie displays and annotate, in some way, native plants. Teach local native define xeriscape in the community college programs. Plants that are resistant to the local bugs, disease and climate.
    You can develop small scale garden schemes using prairie plants and show garden centers how then can sell plants that are much easier to grow to their customers. Take those schemes and build them in our state parks, around state office buildings…
    I keep hearing about these larger restorations. I tried it on two acres and was threatened with lawsuits by the homeowners association. Okay, fine… change tack and do the same thing as gardens. If you get people growing it in their gardens, they’re going to be the impetus behind larger scale efforts. Its a “grass roots” effort.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      I often tell people that I learn an awful lot about prairie ecology from watching my backyard prairie gardens. Although they function in a somewhat different world than the larger prairies I manage (much smaller, more manipulated by me, and missing many species of insects, plants, soil fauna, etc.) I can watch those gardens much more intensely and have picked up on species interactions and behaviors – plant and insect – that I never would have been able to see in bigger prairies.
      – Chris

  2. Hi Chris,

    Are you going to write a blog post that summarizes your talk? I’d be very interested in that! It’s exactly what we’re trying to do – restore and enlarge our remnants, and connect them – as much as possible – to our planted prairies. I’d love to hear any insights you have about that process. I wish I could come to your talk, but we’re pretty far away, and I just can’t make it.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      I will absolutely write a blog post on the subject. I’ll wait until I after I give the talk so I can incorporate comments and suggestions from the group. I’ll be interested to hear your response when I post it. – Chris

      • Dan Glomski says:

        Hi Chris,

        I won’t be able to attend either, unfortunately. Would someone be willing/able to record your talk and turn it into a Podcast?

        Strongly agree with Frank Reid’s comments above. But native plant gardens around govt. buildings in particular are often difficult sells; the formal flower garden and weedless lawn have been held up as ideals for so long that many are outright hostile to anything else.

        • Chris Helzer says:

          Don’t know about the podcast, but I’ll capture the ideas (and more) in at least one blog post and share that way.

          No reason we can’t use prairie plants in formal gardens, right? Maybe that’s the transition step…

          – Chris

  3. For the insect monitoring and identifying I’d recommend telling people to take advantage of existing websites aimed at this goal already.

    http://www.bugguide.net is a great resource here. Anyone can submit photos to have just about any kind of insect and such identified.

    http://www.greatsunflower.org/
    Is a citizen science group aimed at getting people to plant sunflowers and then monitor the blooms for a half hour to fifteen minutes and count the bees. They’ve since “sold out” to allow people count bees on other plants as well. Perhaps a similar model could be used for all pollinators just to get everyone on the same page at least.
    The trouble with sunflowers I’m told is they’re either a tame annual or they spread aggressively and can take over prairies sometimes.

    http://www.lostladybug.org/
    These people have identified a number of lady bugs I’ve found in my garden. I’m sure asking people to submit pictures of lady bugs to them might help their project a good deal. (Apparently some 400 species of native lady bugs have been displaced by a single species farmers release as a biological control on their crops!)

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