Photos of the Week – January 22, 2021

One of the few silver linings of the global pandemic has been that I’ve had the opportunity to talk to more groups in more places than would ordinarily be logistically feasible. A few upcoming talks are at events that are open to broad audiences, so I thought I’d share those here in case anyone is interested. My talks, of course, will be fabulous, but I’d encourage you to also look at the full agendas of the conferences/workshops that are hosting me – there are a lot of great talks and interesting topics being covered.

Upcoming talks:

January 27, 1 PM. Topic: Growing a larger constituency for conservation. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, See more information and register here.

January 28, 7 PM. Topic: All the Little Things (how plants and invertebrates play critical roles in ecosystems). Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission‘s Nature Speaks Program. See more here.

February 24 (evening). Topic: All the Little Things (how plants and invertebrates play critical roles in ecosystems). Annual Conference of The Prairie Enthusiasts. Conference website here.

February 26 (afternoon). Topic: Photography workshop. Annual Conference of The Prairie Enthusiasts. Conference website here.

March 4. Topic: Managing for Diverse Prairie Habitats with Fire and Grazing. Best Practices for Pollinators Annual Summit. See the summit’s website here.


Today’s photos were all taken in late December and early January. I just haven’t had a chance to post them since then. Most of January has been a pretty dry month for photography – both from a weather standpoint and in terms of my own inspiration and energy. I’m hoping to boost my motivation a little this coming week, and a forecast that includes snow might help with that. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Indiangrass and snow at Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, 1/60 sec at f/18.
Water boatman encased in ice at the wetland in our family prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, 1/100 sec at f/20.
Central Platte River with ice and snow at The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. DJI Mavic Zoom drone. 4.5mm lens. ISO 100, 1/400 sec at f/2.8.
Beggarsticks seed head along a wetland at The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, 1/250 sec at f/13.
Maximilian sunflower seed head in a snow window at Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, 1/320 sec at f/14.
Wild bergamot in frosty morning prairie at our familiy prairie. Tokina 11-20mm lens at 11mm. ISO 320, 1/320 sec at f/22.
Dotted gayfeather seeds and frost at our family prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, 1/320 sec at f/20.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized 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.

7 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – January 22, 2021

  1. Thank you for the list of events!! I am one town over from Prospect Heights! Small world. Several years ago we attended an event featuring Gerould Wilhelm at the same library. I will definitely register for the event you will be speaking at.

  2. I’ve stared and stared at the photo of the Platte with ice and snow, trying to figure out what the vibrant blue streak is. The river, reflecting the sky? Or something else? Even after seeing the drone mentioned in the tags, I can’t quite figure it out — it’s a great abstraction of the landscape.

    • It’s a great question and I puzzled over it too. The blue streak is the shade thrown by trees along the river. Shady light always has a bluish cast to it, but the drone camera’s sensor interpreted that blue much more vividly than it looked in reality. I played around with trying to diminish the saturation of the blue, but it just ended up looking weirder.

  3. Hello there!

    I’m a grassland ecologist working in South Australia and enjoy your posts and thinking about the similarities and differences between our ‘praries’ in the southern hemisphere.

    I would like to listed to your talk “all the little things”. I have attempted to register through the Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission link and although I’m sure the phone number I’ve given may not work, I hope the link for the zoom talk is sent to my email ☺.

    Whilst our plant species are different, and we have kangaroos instead of bison, there are a lot of similarities in the ecology and management of these systems globally.

    One of the things I am trying to get better at is communication on the wonder and importance of native grassland systems. I am particularly obsessed with wanting to convey the critical importance to farmers in maintaining a diverse grassland to increase their resilience. I am focusing on the functional groups of plants, rather than species – as I feel this is the level that we need to focus on. Overgrazing by sheep and now Kangaroos (because of the water we have provided) has led to the loss of some groups like lilies and C4 grasses. I can explain the importance of these groups, but there is also a very species rich ‘microflora’ – ephemerals that only get about 1 inch high – and I’d love to figure out how to factor them in. Do you have any of these tiny plants in the northern praries?



    [Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board]

    The information in this e-mail may be confidential and/or legally privileged. Use or disclosure of the information to anyone other than the intended recipient is prohibited and may be unlawful. If you have received this email in error please advise by return email.

    • Hi Nicola,

      Sounds like you’re doing wonderful and important work! I agree completely that it’s important to talk about how diversity influences resilience, and that resilience sustains both ecosystems and farmers that depend upon them. Talking about functional groups also makes sense to me as a way of sharing how different kinds of plants contribute toward function and resilience in different and important ways. We do have a lot of tiny annual plants around here, but not as many as it sounds like you do. I wrote a blog post years ago about annuals that kind of relates to what you’re trying to do:

      In addition to focusing on the important jobs plants do for resilience, you might also consider trying to build empathy, in a way, between farmers and the species that live on their land. What I mean by that is simply helping farmers learn more about the life stories of some of those species. If they know what something looks like and know a little about its life, they’re going to remember it as they think about management choices they make. With those tiny annuals, I’d consider worrying less about how/whether they contribute to ecosystem function and resilience and focus on how interesting/challenging their lives are. They have to bloom and make seeds in order to perpetuate their kind… Each of those seeds has a very tiny percentage of landing in a place where it will get an opportunity to grow… Annuals lie in the soil as seeds for many years, sometimes, just waiting for the right light/moisture conditions to appear and rush through a brief life aimed at nothing more than putting out a flower and making seeds… There’s a lot there that people can connect to.

      Again, it’s really important that people know facts about the importance of conservation for our own lives, but a lot of times it can be easier to start conversations with stories that build personal connections between people and species living nearby. Then, once you’ve got some empathy established, you can more easily talk about how those species contribute to something important and why we need to change our actions to help them out.

      Keep up the great work, and good luck! I hope you enjoy the talk tomorrow night!


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

You are commenting using your 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.