NAC24 Symposia

Topic: Technology in Natural Areas Management

Advancing Land Management with GIS: Unlocking Opportunities for Impact

GIS technology has evolved well beyond a desktop application, but how can we leverage these tools in our day to day work? This GIS Symposium highlights a cross section of land managing agencies and their partners to highlight their innovative uses of GIS to transform common workflows, what the future holds, and how federal funding and partnerships can help jump start your own modernization efforts.

Moderators: Sunny Fleming Director, Environment, Conservation & Natural Resources Solutions, Esri; Chris Tracey, NatureServe.


  • Seeing the Forest through the Trees, & the Patterns through the Points: GIS as an Agency-Wide Asset at SCDNR
    • Joe Lemeris | GIS & Data Manager, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

  • Using GIS-Based Multicriteria Decision Analysis to Prioritize Invasive Plant Treatment: A Creative Solution for a Pernicious Problem
    • Joshua Cohen | Lead Ecologist, Senior Conservation Scientist, Michigan Natural Features Inventory

  • The Future of Conservation: ECOSphere’s Species Workflow
    • Gina Glenne | Conservation Innovation Data Analyst, U.S. Fish and Wildlife; Adi Sastry | Cartographer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife

  • Improved Statewide Ecological Mapping System Datasets for Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas
    • David D. Diamond, Ph.D. | Senior Ecologist, University of Missouri, Columbia & Past Director, Missouri Resource Assessment Partnership (MoRAP)

  • Phenobvious' Traits: Integrating Phenology and Community Science to Advance Invasive Species Management
    • Lea Johnson | Associate Director, Land Stewardship and Ecology

Topic: Good Fire/Bad Fire Management (Fire Science and Practice)

Spark big benefits with prescribed burning

Prescribed burning is critical for the maintenance and restoration of natural areas. Beyond recognizing the importance, it's also necessary to understand how to actually apply prescribed burning. Learn with us as we explore how to develop skills and obtain equipment, find cost-share funding to support conservation efforts, and become aware of potential impacts on air quality. The 90-minute mini-symposium will serve to orient participants on prescribed burning and will be followed by a related concurrent session.

Moderator: Carol Baldwin & Lori Bammerlin, Great Plains Fire Science Exchange


Topic: Native Plant Materials in Restoration

Seeding Successful Prairie Restoration

Native plants are a foundational element of ecosystems and millions of pounds of seed are used every year to revegetate or enhance disturbed and damaged habitats. As such, native seeds are the currency of ecological restoration, but developing a seed mix with the right species, mix ratios, and seeding rates can be challenging. Decisions made at the seeding stage can have implications for years to come and determine the success of the project. With presenters from academia, non-profit organizations, and agencies, this symposium will look at recent research and share success stories around developing the right species mix for the right habitat restoration project with a focus on mid-western prairie restoration.

Moderator: Alexis Larson | Plant Materials Program Director, Institute for Applied Ecology


Topic: Conservation of Grassland Ecosystems

New Solutions to an Old Problem: Adapting to Grassland Woody Encroachment

Currently, the greatest conservation threat to grasslands worldwide is woody encroachment - an ecological process whereby native woody plants increase in abundance, displace grasses, and alter normal ecological functioning. For the past half century, land managers, conservationists, and ecologists have been documenting this process and working to identify solutions to stop the spread of woody plants into grasslands. While some of these strategies have slowed woody encroachment, most large landscapes continue to transition from grassland to shrubland or woodland. For these reasons, natural areas managers need additional tools and strategies beyond a 'resist at all costs' approach to woody encroachment. This symposium will focus on woody encroachment in the central Great Plains, and provide information illustrating the drivers and consequences of this phenomenon followed by information identifying potential approaches to maintain biodiversity, range production, and other key ecological services. For the last portion of the symposium, we will facilitate an open discussion between the speakers and the audience regarding this phenomenon and steps to facilitate new management guides that promote acclimation to altered landscapes in the future.

Moderator: Jesse Nippert | University Distinguished Professor, Kansas State University





Topic: Ecological Restoration

Managing Midwest Oak Savannas for Biodiversity

Savannas and other grasslands are globally threatened, and Midwestern oak savannas are among the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Characterized by a patchy canopy of scattered oak and other species over a grass- and forb-rich understory, the heterogeneous light and moisture environments of Midwestern oak savannas support exceptionally high plant diversity. Prior to European colonization, these fire-dependent ecosystems covered approximately 13 million hectares from Minnesota and adjacent Canada in the northeast, south to Missouri, and east to, Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario, but have been reduced to less than 1% of their historical extent. Following decades of habitat conversion and destruction due to anthropogenic development and fire suppression, remnant savannas support some of the rarest plant and animal species of this region. Managers use prescribed fire in concert with mechanical thinning of shrubs and trees, among other management actions, to overcome woody encroachment and restore structure, diversity, and composition. This symposium will focus on how plant and animal biodiversity respond to restoration management in Midwestern oak savannas, and the tradeoffs in managing diversity among taxonomic groups. We will address which restoration practices are most effective in restoring these dynamic oak savanna ecosystems.

Moderator: Tyler Bassett, Michigan Natural Features Inventory





  • Life in the Oak Savanna from a Butterfly’s Eye View
    • Ashley Cole-Wick | Conservation Biologist, Michigan Natural Features Inventory


  • The Consequences of Burn Pile Scars for Midwest Oak Ecosystem Biodiversity
    • Meghan Midgley | Director, Center for Tree Science; The Morton Arboretum

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