A Prairie Gallimaufry

I was going to say ‘hodgepodge’ or ‘mishmash’ but went looking for alternatives. Who’s ever heard of ‘gallimaufry‘?? What a great word… I almost went with ‘omnium-gatherum’, but that Latin term sounds little too posh for this blog.

Regardless, I have a real mixed bag of short topics today – a farrago, if you will, of announcements and other tidbits. (Isn’t language grand?) I try not to make this blog into a bulletin board very often because I’d quickly be overwhelmed by requests to advertise various events and job announcements. However, since I’m both author and editor of this platform, I can make exceptions whenever I choose, and I choose to do so today.

Topic 1: North American Prairie Conference will be held in Des Moines, Iowa, July 20-22, 2020. The last North American Prairie Conference was held in Houston, TX in 2019. It was a great meeting, but was a little off schedule, since those conferences are normally held on even years. A group of us offered to host the conference in Lincoln, Nebraska in 2022, to get it back on schedule, but we didn’t feel like we could be organized quickly enough to put it together by 2020.

Fortunately, Tom Rosburg and a large group of other prairie folks in Iowa had more confidence than we did and stepped up to organize a great slate of sessions and speakers for THIS COMING SUMMER. I’m planning to attend (and will be part of a panel discussion on prairies and climate change) and I hope to see many of you there. You can learn more about the conference at http://www.northamericanprairie.org/.

As long as I’m presenting a welter of topics today, I might as well share a random rummage of turtle photos too. Why? Did I mention I’m the author AND editor of this blog? Here’s an ornate box turtle from the Nebraska Sandhills.

Topic 2: The 2020 Grassland Restoration Network Workshop will be August 18-19, 2020 and will be focused on The Barrington Greenway Initiative in the northwestern part of the Chicago metro area. This annual workshop is designed for people actively working on prairie restoration projects, especially those aimed at achieving specific conservation purposes. Bill Kleiman and I help ensure a workshop takes place annually, but the bulk of the work is done by each year’s hosts. So far, the plans being discussed sound wonderful.

Not much information about the 2020 workshop has been released yet, apart from the date and location, but those details will be coming soon. You can see the initial information on this year’s workshop, along with lots of other great restoration information, at grasslandrestorationnetwork.org.

This tiny spiny softshell turtle was in a stream at our Platte River Prairies.

Topic 3: Speaking of grasslandrestorationnetwork.org, there was a recent announcement posted on that site about the launch of a new freely accessible journal called Ecological Solutions and Evidence. The journal encourages ‘sharing of work, lessons learned, and research between practitioners and scientists.’ As part of that, they include a type of article called ‘From Practice’, which are short pieces with no strict format. In contrast to typical scientific journal articles, these ‘From Practice” articles are meant to be written by someone working in land stewardship and focus upon a wide range of topics, including ideas for new restoration techniques or prairie management approaches.

This sounds like a terrific idea and I’m excited to see what comes of it. I also hope to contribute some of those ‘From Practice’ articles myself, probably building off of posts from this blog. There is a tremendous need for better communication between land stewards and academic scientists – among many others – and this looks like a great venue to build more of that. Check out the details here.

This young painted turtle was photographed at the Broken Kettle Grasslands in northwest Iowa.

Topic 4: The Preserve Manager position for The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies in Nebraska closes in just a few days (March 6). I’m biased, of course, but I think this is one of the best jobs in the world. My first professional job out of college was the land steward position along the Platte River, and I still work very closely with the stewardship staff here as we develop and test techniques for restoring and managing prairies. If you’d like to come join us, please check out the job description and learn more about what we do at the Platte River Prairies.

A young snapping turtle. Platte River Prairies.

Topic 5: My new book on my Square Meter Photography Project is available for pre-order! We’re just finishing up some final formatting in preparation for the book to be printed and released later this spring. Now that there is an official title and cover design, it’s starting to feel real, and I’m really excited to hold it in my hands soon. Check it out at The University of Iowa Press website.

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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.

5 thoughts on “A Prairie Gallimaufry

  1. I grew up in Newton, about 30 miles from Des Moines and equally near to the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge. My dad was a friend of Neal Smith, and I’ve visited the refuge once, albeit long before I was interested in native plants. Needless to say, I’m tempted to come back for the Conference; it would be fun to experience my old stomping grounds in a new way.

  2. Your interest in vocabulary and your upcoming book on 1 sq. meter make me think of David G. Haskell and his book, The Forest Unseen: a Year’s Watch in Nature.


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