The Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA) holds Bi-Monthly Meetings that are an open forum for anyone interested or working in plant conservation. Meetings are held every other month in the Washington DC metropolitan area, with an option to join online.
Each meeting features a speaker from the plant conservation community. In addition, there is a roundtable for attendees to share relevant events, as well as updates from each of the PCA working groups and committees. Regular attendees include representatives from the PCA Federal agencies and from Cooperating organizations; however anyone is welcome to attend this meeting.
Mark your calendars for the 2023 PCA Speaker Series - see the full list of 2023 speakers here.
NEXT MEETING: Wednesday March 8, 2:00 - 4:00 pm ET (Remote Only)
FEATURED PRESENTER: Dr. Tanisha Williams, Postdoctoral Fellow in Botany, Bucknell University
TOPIC: Protecting rare and endangered plants through university and governmental partnerships
ABOUT THE PRESENTATION: Pennsylvania’s unique geologic history has given rise to impressive levels of plant diversity. Sixty percent of the native species recognized by Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are classified as rare, threatened, or endangered. These statuses are often exacerbated by urban development, invasive species, and climate change. To conserve native species and combat population declines, a natural partnership emerged between Bucknell University and the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. The Natural Heritage Program is the boots on the ground: collecting materials, ground-truthing sites, and working with landowners. Bucknell University is the laboratory partner: working mainly with genomics processing and data analyses. Both parties are working together to update the conservation status of rare plants and conserve unique habitats. One such focal species is Chasmanthium latifolium (Poaceae), a perennial grass that lives in riparian areas. C. latifolium is native to the southern midwest and the eastern half of the US, and Pennsylvania denotes the northeastern range edge. The few remaining Pennsylvania populations comprise of two metapopulations that exhibit an east-west disjunction. Due to isolation between populations and habitat declines, C. latifolium is considered critically impaired (S1) by the Natural Heritage Program but is ranked as undetermined by the state. This research surveys the remaining C. latifolium populations and assesses genetic diversity and connectivity. Through this partnership, the state legislator is using scientifically-informed knowledge to revise the conservation status of this endangered species and address policies to protect its unique habitat.
ABOUT OUR PRESENTER: Tanisha M. Williams is the Richard E. and Yvonne Smith Postdoctoral Fellow in Botany at Bucknell University. Her dissertation research examined the impacts of climate change on plant species throughout South Africa. Her postdoctoral research elucidates the role Aboriginal Peoples have on the movement and maintenance of plant species and understanding how biogeographic barriers impact species distributions in Australia. She also uses genomics methods to update the conservation status of rare plants. Dr. Williams has extensive science communication and policy experience and is the founder of Black Botanists Week, a campaign to amplify diverse voices in botany. Dr. Williams completed her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut in 2019.
***TO ATTEND THIS MEETING, PLEASE RSVP by Monday, March 6 by 5pm Eastern, to firstname.lastname@example.org***
The meeting login details will be shared via calendar invite and email at least one day before the meeting.
Please see 'MS Teams How To' [pdf] for step-by-step directions to join the meeting. You will be able to join the meeting from the web or via the Microsoft Teams app, which can be downloaded in advance here.
Mark your calendars for the 2023 PCA Speaker Series, to be held the second Wednesday of January, March, May, July, September, and November. Download the full list of 2023 speakers here.
May 10 : Ms. Carrie Radcliffe, on “The Southeastern Plant Conservation Alliance (SE PCA) and the development of the nation’s 1st Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need (RSGCN) for plants”
July 12 : Dr. Jeremiah Pinto, on “Nursery produced native plant seedlings: a valuable tool in the toolbox of landscape and cultural restoration”
September 13 : Dr. Julie Larson on “The relevance of seed and seedling traits in applied restoration, and what restoration can teach us about diversity & inclusion efforts”
November 8 : Dr. Anne Frances and Dr. Allison Miller “Restoring native grapes and crop wild relative research”
July 13, 2022 - Dr. Murphy Westwood, Vice President of Science & Conservation at The Morton Arboretum, oversees numerous key programs and initiatives with the Center for Tree Science, the Chicago Region Trees Initiative, Global Tree Conservation Program, Global Conservation Consortium for Oak, and ArbNet. Dr. Westwood introduced the Global Tree Assessment project [web] and discussed the current state of trees native in the contiguous United States. Through a partnership with The Morton Arboretum, NatureServe, Botanic Gardens Conservation International-US, United States Botanic Garden, and the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. contribution to the Global Tree Assessment initiative now includes 881 species of trees, with 77 out of 269 tree genera having at least one threatened and/or at-risk species. In addition, improved data sharing between the IUCN Red List and NatureServe platforms facilitated updates to 563 IUCN species entries and 109 NatureServe species. About 96% of U.S. tree species have now been assessed on these two platforms giving us a clearer idea of rarity and threats. ICUN Red List assesses and ranks species risk of extinction [web] and provides this data to its users to inform conservation decisions. Similarly, NatureServe [web] is the source that evaluates the conservation status and extinction risk of North American species and ecosystems. View this presentation [ppt] and recording [YouTube]. Links to websites with information related to this presentation: The Morton Arboretum; Center for Tree Science; Chicago Region Trees Initiative, Global Tree Conservation Program; Global Conservation Consortium for Oak; ArbNet. See also the July 15 edition of the Washington Post for an article, Tree's decline feared to be a climate omen, which provides timely information about this important work.
May 11, 2022 - Dr. Sarah Truebe, Habitat Conservation Manager, Sky Island Alliance, discussed water, wildlife, and collaborative stewardship of the sky islands of the desert Southwest. The Southwest Sky Islands are mountain ranges that rise up from desert grasslands in portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico. This ecoregion is a biodiversity hotspot, with a large range in elevation and biotic influences from the Sonoran Desert, Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, Chihuahuan Desert, and Neotropics that provide a home to more than 4000+ native plants – many, endemics at the edge of their range, including Thurber’s bog orchid (Platanthera limosa), which was relocated in 2018 for the first time in over 100 years! The entire region is designated as critical habitat for endangered species such as the jaguar and other sensitive species. Among the biggest impacts to the ecosystem is the loss of an estimated ~90% of spring habitats that many rate and endemic plants and animals relay on, due to groundwater overdrafting, where groundwater use exceeds the amount of recharge. Development, grazing and trampling, mining, pollution, climate change, and invasive species are also threats. View the presentation [ppt] and recording [YouTube]. Find more information on the Sky Island Alliance [web] projects and programs, including the flora of the region.
March 9, 2022 - Dr. Katie Heineman, Vice President of Science and Conservation at the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), is dedicated to improving access to biological data for plant conservation research and promoting synthetic research among botanical institutions. Her current research applies data science to plant collections records to develop smarter strategies for collections prioritization and to uncover patterns in rare plant storage behavior in seed banks. Sharing information and expertise provide invaluable platforms for the advancement of plant science. The CPC Rare Plant Academy is an online platform that integrates CPC’s Best Practice guidelines [web] with videos and online discourse. She also develops and maintains the web databases for the CPC National Collection and California Plant Rescue seed collections initiative. The CPC is a partnership of 10 botanical institutions in California. Together they work to conserve botanical diversity and prevent rare plant extinction in California. During their project period, species collection went from 9 new species to 94 new species collected per year. In 2014, 30% of California’s most rare plants were in collection. Currently, 75% of California’s rare species have been collected. These seeds can be used by land managers in future restoration. Watch the video here [YouTube].
January 12, 2022 - Dr. Alan Weakley, Director of the UNC-CH Herbarium (NCU), North Carolina Botanical Garden and Adjunct Associate Professor, discussed the reasons for and implications of the rich and dynamic biodiversity patterns found in the Southeastern United States, information tools for finding biodiversity and for managing biodiversity of private and public lands. He explained the problem between the low publishing frequency of Floras and the high frequency of newly described endemics. A collaboration of botanical experts is seeking to reinvent Floras as a digital tool for citizen science and engagement, while addressing the ongoing problem of plant blindness, a concept that was introduced in the late 1990s as "the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment." "Flora Manager" is a customizable database that provides a new foundation for the inventory and management of the region’s critical biodiversity. View the presentation and recording. Additional Resources: Download the Flora of the Southeastern United States; More information about plant blindness.
November 10, 2021 - Dr. Lauren Weisenberger, Botanist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Pacific Islands Field Office, discussed the Hawaiʻi Plant Conservation Network known as Laukahi, under the umbrella of the Hawaiʻi Conservation Alliance Foundation. Established in 2014, this voluntary alliance of agencies, organizations, and individuals aims to protect Hawaiʻi’s plants and their ecosystems through coordinated conservation efforts outlined in the Hawai’i Strategy for Plant Conservation (HSPC), modeled after the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. A growing number of HSPC partners are making great strides in achieving the five objectives and 20 targets. This presentation illustrates the significant accomplishments of this multi-faceted collaboration; the value of establishing metrics and gauging collaborative progress; the important need for and benefits of data sharing. An integrated database- dashboard being developed in collaboration with partners at Bishop Museum will be ready to launch by 2022 at laukahi.org. View the presentation and recording.
September 8, 2021- Mr. Sam Droege, USGS Wildlife Biologist at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Bee Lab, discussed the do's and dont's of native plant gardens from a specialist bee's perspective, with advice on navigating wildflower seed mixes, mulch types, and plants of interest to specialist bees. Unlike generalist bees, specialist bees have very specific native plant needs for food sources (nectar and pollen); see this article. Conservation efforts that address the plant needs for specialist bees will also benefit generalist bees--but not vice versa. The majority of the talk provided examples of plant groups that are beneficial to specialist bees. View the presentation and recording.
July 14, 2021- Dr. Ellen Damschen, Full Professor, University of Madison-Wisconsin, discussed her research on habitat corridors and native plant biodiversity, conducted over large spatial and temporal scales, including recent results from an 18-year study. While the importance of habitat connectivity is well known for animal species, its value to plant communities has largely been inferred. With study sites in tallgrass prairie, oak savanna, longleaf pine savanna, serpentine grasslands, and dolomite glade grasslands across the United States, her research has provided the first documented evidence that connectivity does increase the number of plant species. She further explores the roles of edge effects, isolation, and area on plant biodiversity, extinction, and colonization rates; differential impacts on bird- and wind-dispersed seeds; and positive correlations in species richness from the combined effects of connectivity and low-intensity fire in these fire-adapted ecosystems. The scale and time span for her work provides unique data to help determine drivers of species declines and strategies we can use to promote species persistence and recovery. Take-home messages: Conservation management based on area alone without considering connectivity will shortchange species richness; Restoration with seed additions promote establishment, persistence, and spread of desired plant species; Habitat connectivity and fire prevent species loss; Concurrent planning for connectivity and fire management enhances diversity and prevents species loss. View the presentation (part 1, part 2, part 3) and recording. Additional resources: A graphic cartoon of results from Dr. Damschen's 2019 paper, Conservation Corridor website.
May 12, 2021- Dr. Irish, Geneticist/Curator and Lead Scientist with the USDA-ARS Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research Unit, described the nearly 20-year collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management's Seeds of Success (SOS) national native seed collection program that has resulted in the inclusion of 19,000 accessions corresponding to more than 4,300 species into the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). In assessing the NPGS SOS collections, Dr. Stephanie Greene, Supervisory Plant Physiologist, USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation, found the holdings to be taxonomically diverse, representing 147 families, 1,001 genera, and 4,333 species, with collections from nearly every state in the contiguous United States. In addition to their importance in ecological restoration, many of these species are crop wild relatives with the potential for crop improvement. They are also valuable as ornamentals, food, fiber, forage, and medicine. The NPGS SOS collection and its associated information is preserved in long term storage and small quantities are distributed to scientists, plant breeders and educators. However, nearly 8,000 SOS accessions are not actively curated (i.e., regenerated when seed stocks are depleted or lose viability) due to resource constraints in infrastructure and personnel. Research is needed to develop protocols to efficiently genebank this germplasm, including genetic diversity assessments, germination, seed regeneration and storage. Enhanced partnerships and funding for the management, curation, and strategic development of wild plant taxa called for by the U.S. National Seed Strategy are integral to the conservation and availability of these ecologically diverse U.S. native plant germplasm. See the PowerPoint (Part 1, Part 2) and recording of the presentation.
March 10, 2021 - Dr. Thomas R. Easley, Assistant Dean of Community and Inclusion at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, spoke about Relationships, History, Hip-Hop, and Forestry. Easley provided an overview of how he uses hip-hop as a vehicle to discuss diversity in forestry, monitoring, and education, providing specific examples. See the PowerPoint and recording of the presentation
January 13, 2021 – Dr. Jared Margulies, Assistant Professor of Political Ecology in Department of Geography at the University of Alabama, spoke about Illicit succulent plant trade and pathways towards sustainability. His research explores environmental inequalities, human-nature relationships, and how contemporary social issues intersect with pressing environmental questions. The presentation described drivers and stereotypes of illegal trade in succulent plants, providing two case studies (Mexican-endemic Mammillaria bertholdii and U.S.-endemic Dudleya farinosa) that have been illegally harvested and traded to East Asian and Southeast Asian countries. View the presentation (Part 1, Part 2) and the recording.
November 18, 2020 – Ms. Alyssa Samoy, Natural Resources Specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs- Tribal Resilience Program and Chippewa Cree Tribe Member presented on BIA's programs that fund or inform native plant conservation. She began with a brief history of the BIA and its current organizational structure and then focused on various grants and programs, including the Tribal Resilience Program (TRP) and other BIA-funded tribal projects related to native plant restoration or Tribal education. Under the TRP, projects related to native plant conservation may be funded if they relate to the overarching tribal climate adaptation plan. Native plant conservation or invasive species should be outlined as key priorities of the tribe and add as one among other highlighted components stitched together as a cohesive plan by multiple tribal departments. View the presentation and the recording.
September 9, 2020 - Dr. Kayri Havens, Senior Director of Ecology and Conservation and Senior Scientist at Chicago Botanic Garden, spoke about Budburst, a national community science program that brings researchers, conservationists, and community citizen scientists together to focus on phenology--seasonal changes in plant life cycles and plant-animal interactions--to better understand how humans impact the environment. Scientists use phenological observations (e.g., when plants leaf out and bloom) to draw conclusions about how changes in climate will impact agricultural production, the relationships between plants and their pollinators, invasions of weedy species, and more. BudBurst allows people of all ages to engage in the scientific process and to contribute data in any of three ways through a web interface: 1) one time observations; annual life cycle observations; and special projects, such as "Budburst: Nativars" and "Milkweeds and Monarchs," collecting data on the interplay of plant phenology and plant-animal interactions. Extensive educational resources for all ages and learning contexts support this work and, since April 2020, new tools for public/private/home school educators to support students as part of formal science classes and for families looking for safe, outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic -- after all, you can collect phenological data while keeping a safe distance from each other! View the presentation and the recording. Learn more about BudBurst or become a Budburst partner.
July 8, 2020 - Mr. David Lincicome, the Natural Heritage Program Manager with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Natural Areas, and chair of the steering committee for the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance, and Ms. Kristi Allen, Program Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Plant Conservation Network, shared information about state-level Plant Conservation Alliances and their efforts to coordinate with each other. Based upon the nationally recognized success of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance and the New England Plant Conservation Program, the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA) model has now been adopted by other states, including Tennessee and Pennsylvania, to successfully implement at-risk plant conservation. A state-based PCA is a network of private and public entities that agree to work together to leverage expertise and resources for the common goal of conserving the state’s native plants and their habitats, using targeted conservation horticulture and habitat restoration. PCA’s emphasize an informal structure and building of trust for efficient communication of diverse scientific data and institutional perspectives. A major strength of the PCA model is the effective use of trained volunteers (Citizen Science) to perform conservation actions. Mr. Lincicome also describes efforts begun in late 2017 to increase communication among the coordinators of plant conservation alliances (PCA) or similar entities in the Southeast United States. These efforts have helped create a more cohesive and effective plant conservation network throughout the Southeast and beyond. See their presentations, Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance and Pennsylvania Plant Conservation Network, and learn more about the Tennessee PCA.
May 13, 2020 - Ms. Katrina Outland, Deputy Prosecutor for Skagit County, Washington and former biologist, presented findings from her research on Venus flytrap poaching and the challenges of enforcing legal protections for plants. For some plants, poaching is a leading threat to their survival. Venus flytraps are one such species—they are endemic only to one small region on the planet and serve as easy cash for poachers selling to collectors or makers of fake health tonics. The presentation proposes a road map for more equitable distribution of punishment and for stronger protections for plants, with some examples of cases that used existing state laws and the Lacey Act to target illegal distributors of poached plants, and prospects for such examples to effectively protect the Venus flytrap. See the presentation and a recording of the presentation.
March 11, 2020 - Dr. Peter Marra, Director of the Georgetown Environmental Initiative (GEI), Laudato Si’ Professor in Biology and the Environment, and Professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, summarized the results of his recent paper on bird loss and described several actions that are necessary for recovery including the role of native plants. Slowing the loss of biodiversity across terrestrial and marine biomes is perhaps the greatest conservation challenge we face as environmentalists in the 21st century. Over the past 150 years, vertebrate extinctions have been driven largely by habitat loss, overharvesting and invasive species, but the pervasiveness of current avian declines suggests multiple and interacting causes ranging from habitat loss and change to overharvesting to cat depredation, and identifying which of these factors drives population dynamics is complex and challenging. Dr. Marra’s presentation provides information through the plant species and habitat perspectives. See the publication, Decline of North American Avifauna (Science, Oct. 2019) and view his presentation or the recording.
January 8, 2020 - Dr. Kirk W. Davies, Lead Rangeland Scientist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Unit at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns, OR., to presented "Collaboration and precision restoration to improve native plant restoration in arid ecosystems." He spoke about research to overcome some common barriers to successful restoration with native plant seeds, focusing on four experimental innovations in the early stages of development: 1) agglomeration - to facilitate seedling emergence through soil crust; 2) activated carbon pellet - to protect from herbicides used to decrease competition from invasive; 3) seed pillow- to promote seed/soil contact for germination; and 4) hydrophobic seed coat - to delay germination to the spring. View the presentation, published information on this topic, and address any questions to <kirk.davies @ ars.usda.gov>.
November 13, 2019 - Gerry Moore, the National Plant Data Team Lead for the US Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, spoke about the genesis and future of the USDA PLANTS Database, which provides standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. and its territories, including a section on PLANTS T&E which provides access to state and federally protected plant information. Gerry discussed the variations in rare plant protection from state to state (with some states having full legal protections and others having no legal protections for plants) as well as the regulatory, management, and rangewide implications of state-level determinations of native or non-native status. Download the presentation, a recording of the presentation, and The PLANTS Database.
September 11, 2019 - Kelly Rourke and Elizzabeth Kaufman of Pollinator Partnership discussed the Monarch Wings Across America Program, which began in Ohio in 2015 and has since grown into a 9-state monarch and imperiled pollinator conservation effort. MWAA is currently operating in AR, CA, IL, IN, MI, MO, OH, PA, and WI. Through first an ecoregional approach (Monarch Wings Across the Eastern Broadleaf Forest) followed by state-based boundaries (Project Wingspan), this program has engaged NGO and Federal partners, along with private volunteers, to rapidly increase habitat, native plant materials, and preferred land management practices for pollinators. So far, these collective efforts have impacted over 30,000 acres of pollinator habitat in the target areas. Learn more athttps://www.pollinator.org/monarch/mwaa.
July 10, 2019 - There was no speaker for this meeting and discussions centered on new efforts to develop a better mechanism for the National Seed Strategy progress-reporting and initial thoughts to revise the National Seed Strategy (post-2020), in addition to forging connections with the UN Decade of Restoration (that will launch in June 2021), updates on the Plant Performance Data Integration Project, and 2020 PCA speaker planning. The Oak Conservation Alliance and the National Academies of Sciences' Assessment of Native Seed Needs and Capacities were announced.
May 21, 2019 - Javier Robayo spoke about Foundacion EcoMinga and the facinating botanical diversity of Ecuador. ABSTRACT: Fundacion EcoMinga (EcoMinga Foundation in English) is an Ecuadorian foundation with international sponsors, dedicated to the conservation of the unique foothill forests, cloud forests, and alpine grasslands (“paramo”) of the Andes, especially those on the edge of the Amazon basin in east-central Ecuador and those on the super-wet western Andean slopes of the Choco region in northwest Ecuador. The foundation was established in Ecuador in 2006, under the statutes and supervision of the Ecuadorian Ministerio del Ambiente.
March 13, 2019 - Chris Martine (Bucknell University) presented Plants are Cool, Too: #SciComm, media relations, and a botanist on Mars. ABSTRACT: Using case studies based on recent attempts to promote new scientific findings through multiple types/tiers of media, this talk will present strategies that any biodiversity professional might employ when hoping to spread the word about (and engage the public in) their research outcomes. While taking on the job of promoting your own work might seem like a daunting (or even painful) task, the payoffs ideally include: a) Increased reads and/or citations; b) Expanding the reach and impact of your work; and d) Building public enthusiasm for biodiversity science/protection/conservation.
November 14, 2018 - the PCA welcomed Doug Tallamy, Mary Phillips, John Rowden, and Judy Venonsky as panelists (Moderated by Casey Sclar) on “Identifying and addressing information gaps in plant databases to support emerging planting design technologies promoting biodiversity and ecological benefits”. ABSTRACT: Technological advancements, including databases, websites, and intuitive parametric design apps, show great promise to assist landscape professionals and home gardeners alike with simplifying the planting design process. However, information gaps need to be addressed in order to optimize the emerging data tools, particularly when it comes to selecting the most useful and available plants to enhance ecosystem services and sustainable design. Much great work has already been achieved through development of the national databases of the Biota of North America Project (BONAP), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) PLANTS, NatureServe, and the Ecoregional Revegetation Application (ERA). This panel discussion will address the current plant databases available to algorithms and applications and what efforts are needed to ensure consistent and vetted data on ecologically beneficial plants is readily accessible to emerging technologies and the general public. See the presentation associated with this meeting here.
September 12, 2018 - Abby Meyer, Executive Director, Botanic Gardens Conservation International U.S., spoke about leveraging the garden community to complement and backup collections within and among institutions to close gaps and secure plant diversity for the future. This talk also discussed implementing The North American Botanic Garden Strategy for Plant Conservation and the ways garden staff can use information available to them to assess gaps and priorities for their own collections. Specific information about time and location of the talk will be posted at the end of August.
March 14, 2018 - Margaret O'Gorman - President of the Wildlife Habitat Council
January 10, 2018 - Jeannette Whitton, Director University of British Columbia Herbarium, Canada's SARA & COSEWIC
November 8, 2017 - Emily Sessa, University of Florida, Fern Conservation.
September 13, 2017 - Dwayne Estes, Director of the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative. You can find a copy of Dwayne's talk here.