Spider's Web in Prairie
Wow! This year’s speaker at Prairie Preview, conservation planner with the Xerces Society Sarah Nizzi, delivered a narrative of her how her connection with nature became lifelong. And she is still a young woman. She titled the talk, “Integrating Nature into Our Daily Lives and Why It Matters.” What I liked best was her statement, “We all start somewhere.” She found her niche in the environmental world as a private land biologist. From her talk, we learned of the loss of native species, but also of actions people are taking to stop and sometimes reverse these losses.
Three hundred people attend the event each year for the many display tables filled with needed information on how to enjoy and preserve the natural environment in our yards and public areas. Seriously knowledgeable staff and volunteers, for the many organizations represented, eagerly engage with the attendees. An inspirational speaker then holds everyone’s attention. This year it was Nizzi, describing her personal experiences and the work she does.
Eight-spotted Forester Alypia Butterfly on Purple Coneflower in Prairie
The Bur Oak Land Trust manages Prairie Preview. The mission of the Trust is to protect and conserve natural areas to enrich and engage current and future generations. These properties are open to the public for hiking and exploration. The Trust holds events for families, opportunities to be outside and learn about the environment and the plants and animals living there.
Bumblebee on Monarda in Prairie
Bumblebee on Monarda with Coneflower in Prairie
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. A science-based organization, it utilizes Community Science, a form of research where everyone can contribute. Bumble Bee Watch and Monarch Watch are two of the programs.
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed in Garden
Opening Milkweed with a Guest in Prairie
Nizzi is one of 15 conservation planners in the U.S. working with landowners to support imperiled species by implementing habitat restoration and reducing pesticide use. She has partnered with the NRCS, National Resources Conservation Service, to train staff on the importance of invertebrates. An example she described is identifying the rusty patch bumble bee and then learning about the habitat it needs to survive. Of the wild bees, bumblebees are easiest to study because of their habit of nesting and overwintering close to each other.
Insects need overwintering and nesting habitat to complete their life cycle. We all can help with this by leaving some plant stems and leaves in our gardens during fall gardening chores. Leaving stems of 18” high provides those spaces. As Nizzi told us, “Habitat [creation] is key and the number one habitat action you can take.” Conservation can be carried out on any scale, anywhere.
Nizzi ended with, “We can’t get new people into the room if we do not share our own stories.”
Fritillary Butterfly on Butterfly Milkweed in Garden