Quick Hitters

Here are a few tidbits of information you might be interested in:

#1. We’ve set the data for the first Citizen Science BioBlitz Prairie Extravaganza (still working on the title) at our Platte River Prairies here in Nebraska. If you’re within traveling distance, I hope you’ll consider joining us on Saturday June 29, 2019 for an all day learning and data collection event. Our main focus will be to collect data on butterflies, namely regal fritillaries and monarchs, as well as habitat they are using (especially flowering plant availability). However, we’ll do much more than just collect data.

We will be counting regal fritillaries (and monarchs) on June 29, but also working to quantify the quality of pollinator habitat overall. I hope many of you will come give us a hand, but the day will be about more than just collecting data. We’ll have prairie hikes and other educational sessions available as well.

This effort builds upon data we’ve been collecting since about 2010 on regal fritillaries, including population trends and habitat use. We spent a couple years collecting pretty intensive data across our sites and then have been doing an annual survey since then. We’ve learned a lot but realize that we aren’t collecting enough data to really understand what’s happening with populations of this at-risk butterfly species or why. We’re hoping that we can pull in a lot of help and collect an abundance of data once a year to better understand how butterfly numbers and flowering plant populations are responding to our management, climate change, and other factors. Our data will apply to butterfly conservation, but also more broadly to all pollinators and overall ecological resilience.

You don’t need any special knowledge or expertise to attend and be helpful at this event. We’ll train you for the data collection we’ll be doing and will have educational sessions on other topics available as well. Think of this as a field day to learn and celebrate prairies, but also a chance to contribute to some important science along the way. We’ll provide many more details in the coming months, but please put this on the calendar if you’re interested.

#2. The next North American Prairie Conference will be held June 2-5, 2019 in Houston, TX. I’m excited and honored to be a featured speaker at this year’s conference, and am looking forward to seeing a lot of you there. This is always one of my favorite conferences because it attracts a diverse and interesting group of people who all care about prairies. It plays an important role as a scientific conference, but is also a venue where a lot of prairie management and restoration knowledge is shared, along with discussions about conservation education, art, and much more. This year’s field trips sound amazing and there’s a great list of featured speakers. You can learn more and register at this website.

#3. Former Hubbard Fellow Evan Barrientos has written a blog post about some of the restoration work he did during his time at our Platte River Prairies. It’s a great post that includes many photos of his first restoration efforts (family backyard) as well as some before and after photos of the high-diversity prairie/wetland restoration he helped with here. The “after” photos were taken last summer when Evan came back to visit and he and I wandered through that site together. The post is a nice story about the gratification found in projects like this, as well as some of what it took to make this particular project come to life. I encourage you to take a look at the post, which you can find HERE on his blog “The Naturalist Lens”. Evan is now working for the National Audubon Society in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he continues to apply his skills as a visual story teller.

Here’s Evan last August, while visiting the restored prairie he helped create when he worked for us.
This entry was posted in General by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

6 thoughts on “Quick Hitters

    • I read your blog post. It reminded me that I had lived most of my childhood in the heart of prairie country, but I never really saw one (or at least a good one) until I was in college.

  1. Chris,

    Just wanted to pass along a tidbit I saw from Audubon the other day—to be more inclusive, they changed the term “citizen science” to “community science”, which makes sense to me. Love these newsletters (especially the images)!


    Why We’re Changing From “Citizen Science” to “Community Science”

    The word citizen was originally included in the term citizen science to distinguish amateur data collectors from professional scientists, not to describe the citizenship status of these volunteer observers. Today, however, it is important for us to recognize that the term has become limiting to our work and partnerships in some contexts.

    Audubon welcomes everyone who finds delight in birds and nature. As part of Audubon’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, we have transitioned from using the term “citizen science” to the more inclusive term “community science.” No matter where a volunteer was born, or how they came to the United States, we value their contribution to our science and conservation programs. Citizenship, or the perception that a volunteer may or may not be a citizen, certainly isn’t a prerequisite to caring for birds.

    Furthermore, participation in volunteer data-collection initiatives like the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count are, at their best, communal experiences that bring us together as a caring community of people who are inspired by birds and want to protect them. The term community science better reflects these social and relational realities.

    Read more about Audubon’s statement on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion here.


    Jenny Trucano Muller
    Director of Finance and Operations
    The Nature Conservancy in Kansas
    785 233 4400
    [TNC Kansas 30th Anniversary Logo_full color]

  2. I absolutely adore Evan’s essay! A photographer, essayist, and hard worker. Thanks, Evan, for showing us the “before” and “after” and blessings to you in your current location..


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.