Favorite Photos of 2019 – Part 1

The year 2019 was amazing and thinking back on it makes me very grateful for my job, my colleagues, and my family. I was able to visit some incredible places, including both new and familiar sites, and I learned a lot from smart, energetic people everywhere I went. I also had wonderful opportunities to spend time with Kim and our kids at many of those places. While I usually do a poor job of including people in my photographs, their influence is strong in the memories I associate with each image. Here is the first half of my favorite photos from 2019. The rest will be coming soon…

Bison (Bison bison) in the snow. Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Sandhill crane feather along the Platte River.
Carolina anemone (Anemone caroliniana). Gjerloff Prairie.
Prescribed fire. Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides). Clymer Prairie, Texas.
Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), Platte River Prairies.
Narrowleaf beardtongue (Penstemon angustifolius), Fort Robinson State Park.
Backlit hills at sunset at the Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Northern bobwhite (Colinus virgnianus) in the Platte River Prairies.
Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) on butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). Lincoln Creek Prairie.
Spring-fed creek, Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum). Flat Ranch Preserve, Idaho.
Bison and primroses. Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Western bush cicada (Megatibicen tremulus) on yucca (Yucca glauca). Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Fourpoint evening primrose (Oenothera rhombipetala). Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Spider and prey at sunrise. Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula). Helzer family prairie.
Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) and sunrise. Lincoln Creek Prairie.
Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and dew, backlit by rising sun. Lincoln Creek Prairie.
Hover fly and dew drops. Lincoln Creek Prairie.
Dragonfly and sunrise. Lincoln Creek Prairie.
Hover fly (Syrphidae) on New England aster (Aster novae-angliae).
Scotts Bluff National Monument, Gering, Nebraska.
Bison in the corral, Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) seeds. Lincoln Creek Prairie.
Plains leopard frog (Lithobates blairi) on ice, Springer Basin Waterfowl Production Area.

This is the 108th post I’ve written in 2019. I strive for two posts a week, and – at least on average – managed to hit that this year. Of my 2019 posts, the one that seemed to catch people’s attention the most was the one about the roots of prairie plants. We’ve all been taught that prairies are resilient because the plants can draw water from very deep in the soil profile, but numerous research projects show they aren’t actually doing that. It’s intriguing to me, and apparently to many of you as well.

This was apparently a good year for interest in the belowground activities of prairies. The other 2019 post that was widely shared and discussed was from back in March, when I wrote about how prairie management affects soil carbon. Or, to be more exact, I wrote about how little we actually know about how prairie management affects soil carbon and how frustrating that is. Because we know so little, anyone who claims to understand it can get a lot of attention, regardless of whether their information is good or not (most of it’s not).

Whether you’ve followed this blog since its beginning in 2010, or have just recently discovered it, please know that I greatly appreciate all of you. I continue to be incredibly honored and gratified by the thoughtful and polite discussions that occur in the comments section of this blog – a sharp contrast from the well-deserved negative reputation of most internet comments sections. I have a lot of optimism about the future of prairies, despite the many challenges we all face. Much of that optimism comes from getting to know the people who care about prairies, both through meeting you in person and through reading your comments.

Thank you. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

  • Chris Helzer

(Part 2 of my favorite 2019 photos coming soon…)

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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.

30 thoughts on “Favorite Photos of 2019 – Part 1

  1. I’ve enjoyed your photos and your commentary all year. I concur that these are some of the best! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  2. Thank you, Chris. It is my good fortune that you delight in photography, have such a good eye, and you share. Hope 2020 is wonderful for you and yours and our beautiful Niobrara country.

  3. Your blog and your outstanding photography are such an education and an encouragement. Working towards restoration and connecting Prairie Corridors can be daunting, but then I see the future results in your photos and get excited all over again. Thank you for the knowledge and beauty you share.

  4. Please know that we greatly appreciate you, too, Chris! You have been my most informative teacher, and my best connection to TNC. Thank you. May 2020 be filled with many more awesome experiences for you (which I hope you will continue to share with us).

  5. Pingback: Favorite Photos of 2019 – Part 2 | The Prairie Ecologist

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