July 14, 2016 – The Natural State of The Natural State: A Brief Tour of Arkansas’s Natural Heritage

Speaker: Theo Witsell, Botanist, AR Natural Heritage Commission

From the High Ozarks to the swamps of the Mississippi Valley, Arkansas was once a rich and patchy mosaic of grassland, forest, glade, and wetland. Theo’s talk will explore the state’s natural communities past and present, visit remnants of rare landscapes, and meet rare, endemic, and otherwise unique flora and fauna. Emphasis will be on how ecosystem processes, including anthropogenic management, shaped the native biota and how modern conservationists are working to secure the future of our natural heritage.

As the senior botanist and ecologist with the Arkansas Natural Heritage Program, Theo explores and inventories some of the best remaining natural areas in the central United States. His research helps identify conservation targets and prioritize sites for protection, restoration, and management within the state’s System of Natural Areas and beyond. He works closely with state, federal, municipal, and private partners to achieve conservation goals. Theo collaborates widely with both professional and amateur naturalists, publishing regularly and speaking to a variety of audiences. He serves as a regional reviewer for the Flora of North America Project, was co-editor of the recently published Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas, and is co-author of a new guide to the state’s woody plants. In 2014 he was named a Research Associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.