Boots On The Ground Conservation


  • The Echinacea Project

    The tallgrass prairie used to be a vast continuous expanse of habitat harboring diverse populations of plants and animals. Now prairie habitat exists in small and isolated patches. How long will small remnant populations persist and what can we do to conserve them? To answer this central question in conservation biology requires better understanding of some basic biological processes and how they interact. And that's the job of the Echinacea Project.


  • Prairie Ecology and Ants


    There are 129 different ant species that call Illinois home, about 1/3 of which live in the prairie.  Today they are continuing their work as being one of the main bioturbators (animals that move soil) in the  prairie, a job that was partially outsourced recently to an exotic invader: the earthworm. 

    Ants are still transporting and burying native seeds, allowing plants to move around a preserve.  They are concentrating soil nutrients in and around their nests, which other animals and plants take advantage of.  The ants are also taking care of some native plants and other insects, much like they are tending to a garden. 

    These are just a few of the tasks that ants take on that allows a prairie to function normally.  Read more here, here and here.

  • Top ten new species for 2015

    Phryganistria	tamdaoensis

    From a cartwheeling spider and a bird-like dinosaur to a fish that makes beautiful circles on the seafloor, these curious creatures made the annual list created by an international committee of taxonomists. Read more...

  • Plants have cuticles - who knew?

    The surface of plants (with a few exceptions, such as those that live submerged under water) is covered with a tough, transparent, waxy layer called the cuticle, composed of cutin secreted by the layer of epidermal cells that it covers. The best way to see the cuticle is to snap the leaf of a drought-adapted succulent plant and pull one part of the leaf against the other, peeling away the cuticle, which covers the above ground parts like a wrapping of cling-film. Read more...

  • 2015 Seed Picking Schedule

    Date        Place                   Activity            Start

    7-8 (W)    Hanley Savanna    Pick Seed         9 am
    7-29 (W)   Hanley Savanna    Pick Seed        9 am

    8-4 (Tu)    Casper Bluff          Pick Seed         9 am
    8-6 (Th)    Hanley Savanna     Pick Seed        9 am
    8-10 (M)   Wapello Reserve    Pick Seed        9 am
    8-13 (Th)   Gateway Park       Pick Seed        9 am
    8-14 (F)    Lonetree Farm       Pick Seed        9 am
    8-17 (M)   Hanley Savanna     Pick Seed        9 am
    8-18 (Tu)   Casper Bluff          Pick Seed        9 am
    8-20 (Th)   Hanley Savanna    Pick Seed        9 am
    8-22 (Sat)  Lonetree Farm      Pick Seed        9 am
    8-24 (M)    Wapello Reserve   Pick Seed        9 am
    8-25 (Tu)    Casper Bluff         Pick Seed        9 am
    8-27 (Th)    Hanley Savanna    Pick Seed       9 am

    9-1 (Tu)    Casper Bluff           Pick Seed        9 am
    9-3 (Th)    Hanley Savanna     Pick Seed        9 am
    9-4 (F)      Lonetree Farm       Pick Seed        9 am
    9-8 (Tu)    Casper Bluff           Pick Seed        9 am
    9-10 (Th)   Gateway Park       Pick Seed        9 am
    9-12 (Sa)   Hanley Savanna    Pick Seed        9 am
    9-14 (M)    LT/Twin Ponds       Pick Seed        9 am
    9-15 (Tu)   Casper Bluff          Pick Seed        9 am
    9-18 (F)    Wapello Reserve    Pick Seed        9 am
    9-21 (M)    Hanley Savanna    Pick Seed        9 am
    9-22 (Tu)    Casper Bluff         Pick Seed        9 am
    9-23 (W)    Lonetree Farm      Pick Seed        9 am
    9-24 (Th)    Gateway Park      Pick Seed        9 am
    9-26 (Sa)    Lonetree Farm     Pick Seed        9 am
    9-28 (M)     Hanley Savanna   Pick Seed        9 am
    9-30 (W)    Wapello Reserve   Pick Seed        9 am

    10-1 (Th)    Hanley Savanna     Pick Seed       9 am
    10-5 (M)    Stewardship Park    Pick Seed       9 am
    10-6 (Tu)   Casper Bluff            Pick Seed       9 am
    10-8 (Th)    Gateway Park        Pick Seed       9 am
    10-12 (M)   LT, TB, Elmo & TP  Pick Seed       9 am
    10-13 (Tu)  Casper Bluff           Pick Seed        9 am
    10-15 (Th)  Wapello Reserve    Pick Seed        9 am

    Check for further details


    Please Join Our Email List! Send an email to to be kept informed all season long. You may also call Laura Dufford (815-947-2720) or Barb Siekowski (815-275-5175) with questions. The updated schedule will be posted on the NIPES website: .

    Timing: You will receive instructions on what to pick. Sessions generally last 3 hours. You are welcome to leave at any time. It is very useful for you to arrive on time, so you will not need to search for us in the field.

    Attire: Sturdy shoes, long sleeves, long pants, a wide-brim hat, and gardening gloves.
    Bring: Sun screen, bug repellent, and a bottle of water. Bring your clippers and picking bag if you can.

  • Grassland birds abandon sites near wind turbines

    In a new study, a group of researchers demonstrate the impact that a wind energy development in Kansas has had on Greater Prairie-Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido). Read more...and here's a possible solution.

  • Medicine is about health. So is conservation.

    The way the public hears about conservation issues is nearly always in the mode of ‘[Beloved Species] Threatened With Extinction’. That makes for electrifying headlines, but it misdirects concern. The loss of whole species is not the leading problem in conservation. The leading problem is the decline in populations, sometimes to a radical degree, often diminishing the health of whole ecosystems.

    Viewing every conservation issue through the lens of extinction threat is simplistic and usually irrelevant. Worse, it introduces an emotional charge that makes the problem seem cosmic and overwhelming rather than local and solvable. It’s as if the entire field of human medicine were treated solely as a matter of death prevention. Every session with a doctor would begin: ‘Well, you’re dying. Let’s see if we can do anything to slow that down a little.’

    Medicine is about health. So is conservation. And as with medicine, the trends for conservation in this century are looking bright. We are re-enriching some ecosystems we once depleted and slowing the depletion of others. Before I explain how we are doing that, let me spell out how exaggerated the focus on extinction has become and how it distorts the public perception of conservation.


  • Plant Diversity is Important All Year Long


    Prairies with high plant diversity have green vegetation for more of the growing season. Every plant species starts and ends their growth period at different times. Some start early, bloom, and are done before summer even starts. Others bide their time and don’t bloom until late in the fall. When you mix all those species together in one prairie, you end up with consistent, but ever-changing, availability of nutritious vegetation and flowers throughout the growing season.


  • Photo of the Week – April 24, 2015

    The aesthetic value of prairie is more subtle than that of some other ecosystems.  There is much beauty to be found, but you sometimes have to look for it – it doesn’t often rise up and slap you in the face.  That’s especially true in the early spring. For example, this beautiful little Viola rafinesquii is easy to miss.

  • Earth Day 2015

    At NatureServe, we delve every day into the details of this natural world, into the biological and ecological building blocks that weave miraculously together to form the fullness of life all around us. Today, our network of scientists and conservation professionals have taken pause to reveal a few of the species and natural communities that they hold dear. Read more...