Tallgrass Prairie Center


2015 Iowa Prairie Conference: Working Prairies

Yellow coneflowers at Neal Smith NWR

July 16-18, 2015
University of Northern Iowa - Tallgrass Prairie Center


The 2015 Iowa Prairie Conference is now a part of prairie memories and lore. More than 200 conference attendees and 70 workday participants created those memories.

The conference got off to a rousing start.  After a thought-provoking welcome by UNI Executive Vice-President and Provost Jim Wohlpart, the plenary speakers primed the program with a pair of marvelous presentations: Doug Ladd’s comprehensive and spellbinding talk “What is Prairie,” and Lisa Schulte-Moore’s articulation of a working prairie concept “Tweak, Adapt, Transform: Harnessing the Power of Prairie for Agriculture in Iowa and Beyond.”

Ten presenters in the 40+ Years of Prairie Preservation and Restoration Symposium provided a wide range of reflections, projects and ideas representing the period. Dean Roosa received a standing ovation following his talk “Sung and Unsung Heroes: A Crotchety Old Man Looks Back At The Modern Conservation Movement in Iowa.”

Kristine Nemec and three veterans of roadside management reviewed a county IRVM program, discussed more public involvement with roadsides and explained state highway management.

UNI President Bill Ruud opened the second day with a renewed sense of vigor. The audience especially appreciated his request to have a “prairie patch” planted near his on-campus residence shortly after he arrived at UNI.

John Price and three other authors – invigorated by contact with so many prairie enthusiasts – offered insights into their perspective of prairie and how they expressed their feelings through the pen (word processor). Perhaps this will become a regular feature of the conference.

Sixteen paper and poster presentations provided glimpses into what is happening in prairie research and management, and provided an opportunity for participants to mull over ideas and techniques. 

Two social events, the barbecue and my informal retirement gathering, were occasions for a free-flowing exchange of thoughts, ideas and reminiscences. The latter group was gentler with me than expected!

Fourteen exhibitors were also essential components of the conference, and we are especially grateful for the support of the eight conference sponsors.

Field trips are an integral part of a conference and this conference culminated with visits to Cedar Hills Sand Prairie and Cedar Bend Savanna, the UNI Prairie Power Project Research Site and Bearbower Prairie, and Rowley Fen and Quigley-Slattery Prairie.  

Kudos to all who contributed to making the 2015 Iowa Prairie Conference a success!

A special thank you to:

  • The Iowa Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for organizing and coordinating the highly successful pre-conference workday at Cedar Hills Sand Prairie.  
  • Maria Urice for managing the web pages and producing the program guide.
  • Kelli McCarty of UNI Conference Services for handling registration and coordinating all campus activities.
  • Tallgrass Prairie Center staff for all their cooperative efforts in ensuring a successful conference.
  • Iowa Prairie Network and Diversity Farms for providing student registration grants.
  • All program participants, plenary speakers, symposium participants, paper and poster presenters.
  • Field trip leaders
  • Conference sponsors
  • Exhibitors

And most of all, thank you to the conference attendees who provided the critical mass and enthusiasm for a wonderful experience.

~ Daryl Smith