citizen science

Cooper Breeden and Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative / TPCA

In Fall 2019, conservation partners from across the southeast began to convene on a monthly call to discuss how to tackle the complex problem of improperly managed roadsides—roadsides that are either being sprayed or mowed to death to the detriment of rare and unique plant species and communities. This update will include a summary of roadside protection efforts in Tennessee. We will briefly review recent changes in the state’s management policy and its implications on conservation. In addition, we will review a new project we have started in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. This project includes a status assessment of roadside pollinator and grassland habitat, the development of a roadside management plan, and the installation of a demonstration prairie.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Tara Littlefield and Tony Romano, Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves

Roadsides are increasingly recognized for their potential importance in conservation planning. Roadsides are generally less threatened by development than surrounding areas and are maintained in an open condition. Because of these factors, roadsides in Kentucky are one of the few areas that contain remnant native grassland communities. These roadside grasslands often support rare plant species and provide important habitat for pollinating insects including monarch butterflies and native bees. If these resources are not identified and incorporated into management plans, they can be highly vulnerable to harmful management actions and rapidly degrade. Since 2015, the Office of Kentucky Native Preserves (OKNP) and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) have worked collaboratively on several plant conservation projects including natural areas acquisition, restoration and planting recommendations, seed collection, and management coordination for several high quality roadside grasslands. In 2019, OKNP, in partnership with KYTC and Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF), updated inventories of remnant grasslands and rare plants along roads in the national forest. To expand on these surveys, OKNP partnered with the Kentucky Native Plant society to create an iNaturalist citizen scientist project where volunteers can contribute their observations of roadside habitats in the national forest. These projects were important for building positive collaboration between ONKP and KYTC, and we are now implementing a broader Pollinator Conservation Strategy to address the conservation needs along our roadsides. In 2020, OKNP is initiating a 5-year statewide survey of Kentucky’s roadsides to establish a baseline of data. This program will document remnant natural communities, rare plants, and high quality pollinator habitat. These surveys will inform coordination with KYTC districts and help prioritize conservation and management of important roadside habitats. This program will develop trainings for KYTC staff and incorporate citizen scientists to expand our reach. We still have a lot of hurdles to cross for roadside plant and pollinator conservation, but partnerships and communication is possible and can provide a path towards achieving conservation goals.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Margi Hunter, Tennessee Naturalist Program, Cooper Breeden, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative, Austin Peay State University, Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance

The lack of funding and resources necessary to conserve many of our most imperiled species and communities is a ubiquitous problem. In the absence of traditional support, more grassroots and citizen-led efforts are essential to ensure the survival of rare populations and habitats. In Tennessee, one citizen science-initiated and -led project has demonstrated the impact these grassroots efforts can have on our rare flora. We will present on the safeguarding efforts surrounding the running glade clover, Trifolium calcaricum. It is only known from 6 populations, only 1 of which in Tennessee is protected. With encouragement from the Tennessee Division of Natural Areas, a citizen volunteer initiated contact with a private landowner, secured permission to propagate plants from the site, and established 18 different reintroduction sites in nearby parks and state natural areas. In addition, a subset of plants were given to a local botanic garden to create an interpretive rare plant display. Future plans for this project include a suite of ecological and experimental studies to examine the effect of multiple factors on Trifolium calcaricum demographics on both introduced and natural populations.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Kay Havens, Chicago Botanic Garden

Plant conservation is promoted through outreach and advocacy. One way to cure plant blindness is by engaging the public in authentic research, as illustrated by the Bud Burst citizen science program. After 10 years of crowdsourcing phenology data, Bud Burst managers decided they could better engage the public by bringing them on a journey of research: asking a question, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. The question currently under investigation at five sites across the U.S. is whether cultivars of native species provide the same pollinator support as true, wild-type natives.

Government officials must also learn to value plants and plant communities. The Chicago Botanical Garden recently collaborated with the Garden Society of America and other groups to write HR1572, the Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research Restoration and Promotion Act. The bill creates an educational tool for elected officials, media and the public, and it encourages introduction of legislative proposals and enactment into law. The main aims of the bill are to fund needed research, encourage students to train for careers in botany and land management, and build a market for native plant materials.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019

Jennifer Possley, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

For over a decade, Fairchild's Connect to Protect Network (CTPN) has inspired South Florida residents to plant native pine rockland plants in order to help connect the few remaining isolated fragments of pine rockland—a globally critically imperiled (G1S1) plant community. CTPN members include more than 700 individuals and approximately 100 schools. Each year, we donate hundreds of “Pine Rockland Starter Kits” to homes and schools. CTPN is growing rapidly; more than half of our members joined in the past two years. We have found that it is wonderfully easy to get South Floridians excited about free native plants, however, it can be difficult to keep members engaged and is even more challenging to tap into the network and obtain meaningful citizen science data. This presentation reviews some of CTPN’s more recent changes and near-future plans, which include the use of iNaturalist and the incorporation of more media to help more homeowners garden with native pine rockland plants.

Contributing Author(s): 
Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 2, 2019