Boots On The Ground Conservation


  • Gene Drive Technology

    A powerful new technique for generating “supercharged” genetically modified organisms that can spread rapidly in the wild has caused alarm among scientists who fear that it may be misused, accidentally or deliberately, and cause a health emergency or environmental disaster.

    The development of so-called “gene drive” technology promises to revolutionise medicine and agriculture because it can in theory stop the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as malaria and yellow fever, as well as eliminate crop pests and invasive species such as rats and cane toads.

    “They have tremendous potential to address global problems in health, agriculture and conservation but their capacity to alter wild populations outside the laboratory demands caution,” the scientists say.

    The researchers have drawn up a minimum set of safety rules to protect against laboratory escapes and have called for a public debate on the potential benefits as well as risks of a technology that allows geneticists to rapidly accelerate the inheritance of GM traits throughout a population within just a few generations. Read more here and here.

  • Milkweed Pollination

    Common milkweed.  The Nature Conservancy's Bluestem Prairie - Minnesota.

    Common milkweed flower buds can be just as attractive as the open flowers…

    Bee on milkweed.  TNC Bluestem Prairie, Minnesota.

    This bee spent the night on a milkweed leaf and wasn’t quite warm and dry enough to fly off when I spotted it.  If you look carefully, you can see pollinia stuck on two (maybe three?) of its feet.  If you’re not familiar with the fascinating (and unlikely) story of how milkweed is pollinated, you can learn more here.

  • The 2015 Grassland Restoration Network Workshop

    Leadplant and wildflowers.  TNC Bluestem Prairie, Minnesota.

    Bluestem Prairie near Glyndon, Minnesota.

    Lesson #1: It’s not the seed harvest or planting that limits our capacity to do good restoration work, it’s the management of invasives after planting.

    There are basically two ways the issue manifests itself...

  • Photo of the Week – July 2, 2015

    Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

    Asclepias syriaca (field milkweed)

  • Photo of the Week – June 25, 2015

    It’s black-eyed susan season!

    Black-eyed Susan flowers (Rudbeckia hirta).  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

    Black-eyed susan flowers (Rudbeckia hirta).

  • Mass Extinction Number 6

    The Earth's sixth mass extinction is already underway — and humans are the driving force behind it, according to a new study.

    "Recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth's history," according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances. "Our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years." Read more...

  • Life on a Weedy Plant

    Last Friday evening, I took my camera for a walk in a small prairie here and found quite a few daisy fleabane plants growing along the trail.  I wasn’t the only one enjoying them – I saw numerous small bees and flies feeding on the pollen.

    Daisy fleabane (erigeron strigosus).  Lincoln Creek Prairie.  Aurora, Nebraska.

    A little further up the trail, I saw crab spider that had caught a fly.  I figured it would make a run for cover when I got close, so I came in low and slow.  I’m not sure it would have mattered – this spider sat very still while I set up the tripod and waited for the breeze to pause long enough to get a good shot.  Maybe this spider was too distracted by its meal to care about me (though that’s not been my experience in the past).

    Crab spider on daisy fleabane.  Lincoln Creek Prairie.  Aurora, Nebraska.
  • Grassland Restoration Network Workshop Registration

    The Grassland Restoration Network (GRN) is an informal network of people working to improve the conservation effectiveness of grassland restoration. Through annual meetings and other communication pathways, GRN participants share information on such topics as restoration techniques, objectives, challenges, measures of success, and more. The ultimate goal is to conserve native grasslands by using restoration to defragment and enhance existing habitats.

    GRN Saxton tour 2 by MS

    The schedule and registration form are now available for the July 21-23 annual GRN Workshop. The workshop will be held at the Moorhead State University Regional Science Center, in Hawley, MN. You can find all the details here. Workshop capacity is limited, so reserve your spot soon.

  • 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.