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Witsell Leads NatureServe Workshop

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Friday, June 28, 2019

NatureServe, a national conservation data network made up of more than 80 member organizations, recently held a three-day training workshop at the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) headquarters, including field trips to local sites, led by ANHC Chief of Research, Theo Witsell and NatureServe staff. The workshop, attended by 28 natural resource professionals from across Arkansas, focused on new Ecological Integrity Assessment (EIA) protocols developed by ecologists with NatureServe and the ANHC for assessing the condition and quality of several target natural communities. These include glades, prairies, flatwoods, and upland woodlands, which are all priorities for evaluation because they are frequently the subject of restoration and management activities.

These standards can help other natural area professionals target new areas for conservation as well as better manage existing protected sites. The ANHC has been a lead on this effort and the protocols are used by several states including Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin. Workshop participants visited the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Camp Robinson Special Use Area, the city of Little Rock’s Gillam Park, Lorance Creek Natural Area (NA), and Middle Fork Barrens NA to field test the methods and gather data.

NatureServe, established in 1994, was originally known as the Association for Biodiversity Information. In 2001, the organization evolved into its present form. Today, NatureServe includes more than 80 NatureServe Network Programs that collect and analyze data about the plants, animals, and ecological communities of the Western Hemisphere. NatureServe Network programs employ experts, including some of the most knowledgeable field biologists and conservation planners in their regions. Their data is collected, managed, and analyzed by NatureServe and distributed for use regionally, nationally, and internationally.



Top - Theo Witsell leads a field trip during the NatureServe workshop. Photo by Ryan Leeson.

Bottom - Milo Pyne (center), Senior Ecologist with NatureServe, describing the characteristics of a high-quality woodland restoration at the Camp Robinson Special Use Area. Photo by Theo Witsell.

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