NAC24 Workshop Opportunities

Identification & Field Workshop Opportunities

The Natural Areas Conference (NAC) is designed for land and water management practitioners; those who conduct research or practice on-the-ground stewardship of natural areas to protect biodiversity for future generations. Land stewardship benefits from shared knowledge rich in diverse perspectives. NAC24 invites participation from all viewpoints, backgrounds, abilities, and experiences to enrich learning for all.

In order to advance opportunities for new learning, collaboration, and information sharing, the NAC24 agenda will include optional half and full-day opportunities for both pre-conference experiences on Monday, October 7, and embedded field workshops on Wednesday, October 9, that relate to the conference topics. 

Below, please find a list of the optional workshop opportunities for conference registrants.

Transportation to and from the workshops will be provided unless otherwise noted. Many workshops will include a boxed lunch.

For those who prefer to "choose their own adventure," there will be additional "self-led" field trip suggestions on the conference app (coming soon!)

Click here to learn more about the conference topics. Click here to see the Overview Agenda.

Questions? Contact info@naturalareas.org.


Optional Pre-Conference Workshops

(Pre-registration Required)

Monday, October 7, 2024
Timing TBD for each workshop

Bike the Historic Flint Hills Trail - Full Day $149

Base Camp Flint Hills to Council Grove, KS

Bike a mostly downhill trail in the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie highlighting prairie plant & wildlife.

Join Matt Garrett, biking enthusiast and Natural Resource Manager, Johnson County Park & Recreation District, for a bike tour of the beautiful Flint Hills. One of the last remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystems in the world, the Flint Hills is home to abundant prairie plant and wildlife, spectacular views, and national historic sites. We will bike approximately 20 miles between Base Camp Flint Hills and Council Grove, KS, on a mostly downhill portion of the trail.

Transportation from the Manhattan Convention Center to Base Camp and the return from Council Grove will be provided, along with a rental bike, and boxed lunch.


Kayaking on the Kaw - Full Day $129

Ogden Access Ramp - River Mile 163

Enjoy scenic views from the river and picnic lunch on a sandbar.

Interested in getting out on the river? Friends of the Kaw will lead an educational trip 14 miles down river, paddling from Ogden to Manhattan. This a beautiful section of the river that is relatively untouched despite its proximity to Manhattan, KS. 

Friends of the Kaw guides educational paddle trips for paddlers of all ages and experience levels and combines that experience with watershed education. Single kayaks, double kayaks, canoes, paddles, and life jackets, basic instruction, safety information, and an educational sandbar seminar will be provided. Experienced Staff and Kaw River Guides will be there, and everyone will receive safety instruction.

Good to know: Life jackets are required. The group must stay together. This is a very physical activity. This trip is not recommended for first time paddlers due to the length of the trip.

View the waiver and learn more here.

Transportation to Ogden and back to the convention center, kayak & safety equipment rental, and a boxed lunch will be provided. 


Ecological research at the Konza Prairie Biological Station - Half-Day Tour $69

Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS)

A half-day, site-level, overview of fire and grazing treatments and some of the major research and environmental monitoring programs at the Konza Prairie Biological Station.

Dr. John Blair, Director, Konza Prairie Biological Station & Distinguished Professor, Kansas State University will offer a broad introduction to the Konza Prairie Biological Station, it’s history and development as a partnership between Kansas State University (KSU) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The workshop will include an overview of the site-level fire and grazing treatments, and information on some of the major research and environmental monitoring programs at the station, such as Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER), The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), The National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), and the US Geological Survey (USGS), etc.

Transportation and a boxed lunch provided.


Asters and goldenrods of Kansas: a primer emphasizing species in the Flint Hills - Half-Day ID Workshop $50

Manhattan Conference Center

An introduction to the morphology, ecology, and identification of the goldenrods and asters of Kansas and species found in the Flint Hills.

Asters (Symphyotrichum) and goldenrods (Solidago), with 22 and 14 species in Kansas, respectively, are among the most conspicuous, fall-blooming wildflowers in Kansas. Members of the species-rich sunflower family (Asteraceae), their identification often vexes both beginning and veteran botanists. Dr. Craig Freeman (Kansas Biological Survey & The University of Kansas Center for Ecological Research) will offer an introduction to the morphology, ecology, and identification of the goldenrods and asters of Kansas, focusing on the species found in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Basic morphological features and terminology will be explained and illustrated, and distinguishing features and ecological attributes of the species will be presented. Keys to the species in both genera will be provided, and use of the keys will be explained and illustrated. Participants will work with fresh and preserved material to identify specimens using the keys and other relevant reference material provided.


Introduction to lichens and lichenology - Half-Day ID Workshop $50

Manhattan Conference Center

An overview of lichenology, including aspects of their biology, ecology, and conservation, and an introduction to lichen identification.

Lichens are fungi that meet their nutritional needs by employing one or more algal partners in a photosynthetic symbiosis. This strategy, in which they have been described as "fungal farmers," has proved to be highly successful: lichens are abundant and widespread, and represent diverse fungal lineages. They also play important roles in nutrient cycling and animal ecology, and are indicators of air quality and ecosystem integrity. Caleb Morse (Kansas Biological Survey & The University of Kansas Center for Ecological Research) will lead a workshop intended for participants who may be interested in lichens, but are largely unfamiliar with them, this workshop provides an overview of lichenology, including aspects of their biology, ecology, and conservation, and an introduction to lichen identification. Participants will gain hands-on experience in diagnosing important morphological features and in simple spot testing for secondary chemistry, with an emphasis on identifying common "macrolichens" from eastern North America.


Optional NAC24 Field Workshops

(Pre-registration Required)

Wednesday, October 9, 2024
Timing TBD for each workshop

Returning bison to the prairie: Understanding the role of native grazers in tallgrass prairie - Half Day $69

Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS)

An overview of the reintroduction of bison, their behaviors, and the impact on ecological processes and biodiversity in tallgrass prairies.

Dr. John Blair, Director, Konza Prairie Biological Station & Distinguished Professor, Kansas State University, will provide an overview of the reintroduction of bison at KPBS to understand how their grazing and non-grazing behaviors affect ecological processes and biodiversity in tallgrass prairies. The workshop will include information about the management of bison for research and conservation and results of past and ongoing studies of the interactions of fire and bison at KPBS.

Transportation and boxed lunch provided.


Collaborative research, management demonstration, and learning opportunities on natural areas - Half Day $69

Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS)

A tour of long-term field experiments highlighting low-cost/low-effort approaches to monitor grassland ecosystems, integration with academic research, and outreach beyond the conservation community.

Join Dr. Sara Baer (Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas) and Dr. Elizabeth Bach (The Nature Conservancy) on a tour of long-term field experiments at Konza Prairie. Discussion will include insights from the long-term experiments at Konza Prairie and applications at The Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Grasslands. Highlights will include low-cost/low-effort approaches to monitoring grassland ecosystems, integrating management with academic research, and outreach opportunities beyond the conservation community.

Transportation and boxed lunch provided.


Woody encroachment: new ways of thinking about an old problem - Half Day $69

Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS)

The complexities of managing woody plant encroachment in grasslands including treatments, their impact and considerations for the road ahead.

In this workshop, Dr. Jesse Nippert (Kansas State University & Konza Prairie LTER) Chris Helzer (The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska), and Dr. Sam Fuhlendorf (Oklahoma State University) will briefly orient participants to the complexities of managing woody plant encroachment in grasslands. We will then embark on a tour of Konza Prairie to evaluate legacies of fire and grazing treatments that have led to various woody plant communities (shrub, tree, and mixed assemblages). We will also visit locations that have utilized specific management techniques (fire, grazing, mowing, simulated drought, etc) to control the spread or restore grassland impacted by woody plant encroachment. The workshop will conclude with a round table discussion back at Konza Prairie headquarters to solicit feedback on some new approaches for adapting to increasing pressure from woody plants. This approach will evaluate what has worked, what isn't working, and what the road ahead may entail for woody plants in grassland ecosystems.

Transportation and boxed lunch provided.


The Poop Scoop on Rangeland Dung Beetles - Half Day $59

Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS)

Consider the importance of dung beetles as soil engineers and how to maintain healthy communities.

Dung beetles assist with landscape resilience by removing waste, retaining soil nutrients, reducing pest flies that consume dung, enhancing plant productivity, aerating soils, and maximizing rain permeability. They are the uncelebrated heroes of grassland health. In this workshop, Dr. Mary Liz Jameson (Wichita State University) and colleagues will discuss the: 1) importance of dung beetles, especially for ranching and farming, 2) natural history of dung beetles and key features that makes them soil engineers, 3) features for dung beetle identification and dung beetle diversity, and 4) best practices for managing healthy and efficient dung beetle communities. We will visit the the field to learn how to survey for dung beetles using pitfall traps and interpreting dung beetle traces.

Transportation provided.


Prairie Ethnobotany and Restoration at the KU Field Station - Full Day $119

Kansas Biological Survey & University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Explore the deeper soils in eastern Kansas, projects at the KU Field Station, and tour the Native Medicinal Plant Research Garden.

This field trip will be traveling to deeper soils in eastern Kansas to see projects at the KU Field Station (just north of Lawrence, KS) to tour the Native Medicinal Plant Research Garden with its ethnobotanical focus, then the species-rich Rockefeller Native Prairie (over 200 species, including two T&E listed) in the morning, lunch will be at the research headquarters, and the afternoon will be focused on seeing the field research plots of Dr. Bryan Foster (his prairie restoration research is focused on species pools and seed limitations) and then Dr. Jim Bever (who studies how mycorrhizal associations benefit the establishment of prairie plants). The field trip will be led by Dr. Kelly Kindscher, ethnobotanist and restorationist.

Transportation and boxed lunch provided.


Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie - Half Day $69

Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie, Wamego, KS

Experience a unique combination of history (commemorating the Underground Railroad), geology, and biodiversity in this unique tallgrass prairie remnant.

Join Dr. Valerie Wright, Retired Coordinator of the Konza Environmental Education Program (KEEP), Dr. Lauren Ritterbush, Professor of Anthropology at Kansas State University, Dr. Brian Peterson, Professor of Park Management and Conservation at Kansas State University, and Michael Stubbs, President of the Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards, to explore the 164-acre Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie Park. This is a unique combination of a historic site, geological wonder, and tallgrass prairie remnant of remarkable biological diversity. The Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards have been developing this natural area for 19 years. It now includes walking trails, historical signage, and ADA-compatible facilities, including a path to the ruts of the Topeka-Fort Riley Road, which was the westernmost route of the Underground Railroad. Recent work includes returning 100 acres of former farmland to native prairie.

Among its distinctions, the Park is: a Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area Star Attraction; a National Park Service Network to Freedom Site commemorating the Underground Railroad; an auxiliary site of the Brown V. Board National Historic Park and the US Civil Rights Trail. It is also a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places; an auxiliary site of the Kansas River Water Trail; an official Monarch Butterfly Way Station; and a featured attraction along the Native Stone Scenic Byway and the Road to Oz. When improvements are completed, the Park will be eligible for inclusion in the Kansas African American History Trail.

Transportation and boxed lunch provided.


Bird Identification Walk at Milford Nature Center - Half Day $59

Milford Nature Center, Junction City, KS

Early October marks the peak of sparrow migration and the return of Harris's Sparrows to winter in a region well known for it's diversity of habitats & over 330 species of birds.

Join local author and birding authority, Chuck Otte, for an opportunity to view the birds of the region and the season, who call the habitats at the Milford Nature Center and Milford Lake area home. This will be a half day workshop with time being spent in grassland and riparian woodland areas. Early October marks the peak of sparrow migration and the return of Harris's Sparrows to winter in the region. This area is well known for it's diversity of habitats and boasts a check-list of over 330 species. Bring comfortable walking shoes, binoculars, and clothing appropriate for the weather.

Transportation provided.


Reading the Landscape: The Flint Hills and Beyond - Half Day $69

Griffin Wyrick Conservation Easement/Kansas Land Trust

Kansas Land Trust and private landowners will share how owners taking responsibility for the stewardship of land protected through conservation easements in the region.

This workshop will be an exploration of the unique natural communities of the Flint Hills by local botanist/ecologist, Jacob Hadle, Research Staff, Konza Prairie LTER, and regional botanist/ecologist, Justin Thomas, Director and primary instructor, Institute of Botanical Training, with on-site examples. The discussion will focus on reading the landscape through various expressions along a spectrum of chaotic to dynamically stable states and how these states are common features of any landscape (reading the hallmarks of dynamically stable and damaged systems regardless of ecoregion). Regionally characteristic flora will highlight the discussion. Topics will include succession, nutrient cycling, thermodynamic ecological stability, prescribed fire, and a heightened awareness of ourselves as living, contributing members of the natural world. This workshop will be held on private lands protected by the Kansas Land Trust (KLT). KLT staff and landowners will be present to lead a discussion about the role of conservation easements in Kansas, the importance of stewardship, and maintaining strong and trusting relationships with owners of conserved land.

Transportation and boxed lunch provided.


Community-based Conservation in the Flint Hills - Full Day $119

National Park ServiceTallgrass Prairie National Preserve & Private Ranches in the area

Learn how private landowners are on the leading edge of conservation practice and research through a unique partnership with multiple public and nonprofit entities. 

This workshop will travel to the central Flint Hills to meet with some of the ranchers, conservation groups, and government agencies that are working together to conserve the four million acres of remaining tallgrass prairie within the Flint Hills. Join Kristen Hase (NPS), Tony Capizzo (TNC), Chris Mushrush (Mushrush Red Angus Ranches), and Jim Lauer (Homestead Ranch) for presentations and discussions about addressing some of the biggest threats to the landscape, including woody plant encroachment, invasive species, and incompatible development. We will start the tour at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve to learn about the public-private partnership between NPS and TNC and discuss Preserve management, including prescribed fire, conservation goals related to bison and cattle grazing, and exciting research projects including a partnership project with Mushrush Red Angus deploying virtual fence technology. We will then travel to the Mushrush Red Angus Ranch and the Homestead Ranch, both of which are on the leading edge of conservation practices and research, to learn about their partnerships with the different conservation organizations and agencies and hear their perspective on how conservation fits within their ranch and business management.

Transportation and boxed lunch provided.

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