Summer Flowers Blossom Beautifully at Riveredge

Milkweed attracting a Monarch Butterfly at Riveredge Nature Center

Summertime is in full swing with flowers blooming in the prairies across Riveredge. Many plants have grown beyond eye-level (yes, for even adults!) and we can now watch the enjoy the phenological cascade of flowers that will appear in succession from now through September. Here’s a glimpse of what’s blooming right now across Riveredge.

Spiderwort at Riveredge Nature Center

Wow, Ohio Spiderwort Tradescantia ohiensis just seems to bloom forever. These flowers are now blooming in clusters throughout the prairie. Interestingly, whether blue or purple tells the tale of the air surrounding it. When growing in polluted air, Spiderwort turns from blue to purple.

Butterfly-weed blooming at Riveredge Nature Center

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa stands out with the bushy glow of its orange flowers. These are a relatively common native plant that does well in gardens. As its name suggests, this plant attracts Monarch Butterflies. Butterfly Weed roots have historically been chewed to cure pulmonary ailments.

Daisy Fleabane at Riveredge Nature Center

Daisy Fleabane Erigeron strigosus is continuing to bloom its small white flowers. This is an extremely long blooming plant – colonies sometimes lasting up to two months. Earlier in the year it was noted that these more often had a pink or purple hue to the petals.

Black-eyed Susan at Riveredge Nature Center

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta is what some people might consider the archetypal prairie flower, with its bright yellow leaves radiating straight out like spokes on a wagon wheel. This plant has been bred to show a variety of colors, but here we feature this flower in classic yellow. Parts of this plant have nutritional or remedy value, and portions are not edible.

Queen of the Prairie at Riveredge Nature Center

Queen of the Prairie Filipendula rubra is a fascinating flower to stumble upon with its slight bulbous pink flowers that almost seem to glow in the midday sunlight. These flowers haven’t yet opened and once they do will take on a blustery, bushy appearance.

Purple Coneflowers at Riveredge Nature Center

What would you call a gathering of Pale Purple Coneflowers (other than Echinacea pallida)? A cone-hort? A cone-henge? A cone-vention? These flowers are famous for their unique drooping pink/purple petals. The genus of this plant is named for hedgehogs; referencing the spiny appearance of the central brown portion of the flower.

St. Johns Wort at Riveredge Nature Center

It seems fitting that with its sunny yellow flowers and whimsical collection of anthers, St. John’s wort Hypericum perforatum has been use for years as medicinal cure for depression. This plant has also been mixed with Calendula (among other ingredients) to formulate the popular first-aid cream Hypercal.

Wild Bergamot at Riveredge Nature Center

Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa is also known as Bee Balm or Horse Mint, as it is in the mint family. This plant has a variety of medicinal purposes when steeped in a tea. Bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies are attracted to this common resident of prairies and savannas.

Milkweed attracting a Monarch Butterfly at Riveredge Nature Center

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca is blooming throughout Riveredge, and as common knowledge holds, attracts both larva and winged Monarch Butterflies. Other butterflies also use this species as a nectar source. If you have milkweed in your garden, multiple parts of the plant can be cooked and eaten.

Visit Riveredge for a hike today and see how many blooms you can identify!

Prairie Flowers are Beginning to Blossom at Riveredge

Within the past week prairie plants have shot up from the soil throughout Riveredge! Many are not yet blooming, but some have begun to display flowers. These pictures were taking in the last few days, and are a few of the plants you can find flowering throughout the prairies.

This weekend Riveredge hosts the Milwaukee Public Museum BioBlitz – a 24-hour celebration and race to find the most species in an area. Join us for free on Saturday, June 15 for the public portion of the BioBlitz from 10:00am – 3:00pm to meet MPM scientists and learn about their research. What’s a BioBlitz? Learn more here.

Daisy Fleabane at Riveredge Nature Center.

Daisy Fleabane Erigeron strigosus is blooming aplenty along the trails. This one is perfect for kids to learn to identify as it’s about perfect eye level for a three-year-old.

Red Clover at Riveredge Nature Center

Red Clover Trifolium pratense is a favorite of Bumblebees and increases soil fertility. Red Clover leaves and flowers are edible and it can even be ground into flour.

Slender Penstemon at Riveredge Nature Center

Slender Penstemon Penstemon gracilis also known as Slender Beardtongue is in the Snapdragon family. These can be seen in our Dry Prairie.

White Wild Indigo at Riveredge Nature Center

White Wild Indigo Baptisia alba is just barely beginning to show flowers. This showy legume grows tall and wide in the prairie, shaped like a bush. Despite how pretty it looks, this plant is toxic for humans and cows to eat.

Spiderwort Tradescantia occidentalis is just beginning to blossom and is immediately recognizable by the bright yellow anther against the purple backdrop. This species is named after John Tradescant the Younger (1608 – 1662), who was the head gardener for King Charles I of England.

Prairie Smoke at Riveredge Nature Center

Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum is beginning to display the reason for its name. The flower opens to display a wispy plume that blows in the the wind like a flowery smoke.

A few Sand Coreopsis Coreopsis lanceolata are just beginning to bloom at our Lorrie Otto Prairie. The interesting thing about Riveredge is that sometimes the same species in different locations will bloom at slightly different times depending on sunlight, soil type, and other factors.

Virginia Waterleaf at Riveredge Nature Center

Virginia Waterleaf Hydrophyllum virginianum looks like a flower that’s straight out of a Dr. Seuss book! These fascinating flowers can be found in shadier spots along the trails.

Blue False Indigo at Riveredge Nature Center

False Blue Indigo Baptisia australis is also known as Wild Blue Indigo and has many other colloquial names. It’s very similar in appearance to White Wild Indigo pictured above, but with deep blue-purple leaves, which seem presently a little farther along in blooming than the white.

Wild Four O’clock Mirabilis nyctaginea can be found beginning to bloom just outside of the backdoor the Riveredge Visitor’s Center. This plant is named for the time of day during which its flowers tend to open. This picture was taken around noon, and one could anticipate a showier flower later in the afternoon.

White Campion at Riveredge Nature Center

White Campion Silene latifolia is another that can be found close to the Visitor’s Center, and was introduced to North America in the early 1800’s. It’s flower petals tend to retract during the day.

Blue Flag Iris Iris versicolor is not a prairie plant, in fact it grows on the edges of ponds or along streams, but it’s blooming right now in its full splendor. Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow, indicating its variety of colors.

Stop by and see what you discover at Riveredge – make sure to visit for the Milwaukee Public Museum BioBlitz on Saturday, June 15 from 10:00am!

Blooming Spring Flowers at Riveredge

Lesser Yellow Lady's-slipper at Riveredge Nature Center

Spring flowers are flourishing right now at Riveredge! These are known as ephemerals, meaning they won’t last long – so get here to experience these beauties soon!

Great White Trillium Trillium grandiflorum has been blooming for a few weeks along the Milwaukee River trails. “But that flower isn’t white?!” you say? Indeed! As trillium flowers age, they commonly turn pinkish or purple before the petals wilt.

Golden Alexander at Riveredge Nature Center

Golden Alexander Zizia aurea is one of the spring flowers blooming along the trails at Riveredge. It might not be immediately obvious, but this forb is in the carrot family.

Wild Geranium

Wild Geranium Geranium maculatum is blooming throughout forested areas. This herbal plant has been used for pain relief throughout history.

Another example of Wild Geranium, this image better displays the vascular structure of the petals.

Swamp Buttercup Ranunculus septentrionalis can be found throughout our moisture-rich lowlands. It can easily be confused for Marsh Marigold, but its flowers are much more pointed.

Lesser Yellow Lady's-slipper Orchid

Lesser Yellow Lady’s-slipper Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin, or Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper, is one of the more elaborate flowers, so named because of its appearance (the image above may show a better angle of the slipper appearance. Learn about our Native Orchid Restoration Project here.

Small Yellow Lady's-slipper

Sometimes, don’t you just feel like a third slipper?

Prairie Smoke

Blooming Spring Flowers in the Prairie at Riveredge

Wild Columbine

One Wild Columbine Aquilegia canadensis was observed blooming in a shady spot adjacent to the dry prairie at Riveredge.

Prairie Smoke

Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum is springing up from the soil, but hasn’t yet opened to show the wispy tassels for which it is named.

Prairie Shooting Star

Prairie Shooting Star Dodecatheon meadia is just beginning to blossom in a few spots. This flower is easy to distinguish because it looks like it’s pointing to the ground.

Native Orchid Restoration Planting at Riveredge

Riveredge volunteers and staff, along with employees of Stantec, gathered to plant seedlings that will become the basis of our native orchid restoration project. Stantec, Smithsonian – North American Orchid Conservation Center, Sheboygan County, and Wisconsin Coastal Management Program are all partners in this wide-ranging orchid restoration project. Thank you to our friends at Sheboygan County, as well as American Transmission Company, for generously providing materials and labor to build the Orchid Shade House where these plants are being raised!

Melissa Curran of Stantec is the leader of this orchid restoration project throughout the Midwest. She explains to volunteers how to plant orchid seedlings in pots inside the Orchid Shade House at Riveredge.

The Journey of an Orchid Seed

Orchids seeds begin as tiny, difficult to see specks the size of dust, and are dispersed through the wind. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum propagates and provides the seedlings for this project.

Many people may not realize that orchids are native to the Midwest. Orchids throughout this region are terrestrial, meaning that these orchids grow in the soil. Epiphytic orchids, the types that grow with aerial roots, are more commonly known.

Terrestrial orchids have complex fungal relationships, and certain species of orchid seedlings will only grow with the help of certain species of fungus. These species relationships are still a part of the mystery scientists are trying to solve. In the interim, seedlings are raised in a media culture, which provides nutrients and functions as a surrogate fungal connection.

These orchid seedlings grow in clumps and have to be pulled apart delicate care.

A soil combination is mixed, which drains quickly and doesn’t retain more moisture than the plants prefer.

Thank You Orchid Restoration Volunteers!

Thanks to everyone who helped us plant our orchid seedlings! Many hands makes light work – if you’d like to volunteer to help restore orchids throughout the Midwest, learn about volunteering at Riveredge.

One orchid seedling is planted in every pot. These plants will harden off to become acquainted with the natural conditions in the wild inside our Orchid Shade House.

Of course, once the orchids are potted, that ever important ingredient – water! We’re still looking for volunteers to help water these fledgling flowers.

And voila! Two weeks after the initial planting a sea of orchid seedlings sprout their first leaves inside the Orchid Shade House! Some of these flowers will be planted at suitable locations throughout Riveredge. Many of the orchids are destined to be planted throughout the Midwest in habitats where they are likely to flourish, or will bolster or reestablish orchid populations that have existed historically.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel visited to chronicle our orchid planting day, read their story about the project here.

Early Spring Flowers at Riveredge

Pasqueflower blooming on the prairie. Interestingly, the plant is named for the Passover, as it generally blooms at about the same time as the celebration.

It might still be a little cold for us humans to feel like we’re in the swing of spring, but plenty of ephemeral spring flowers are already blooming throughout Riveredge. One can even find insects beginning to orbit around these early flowers close to the ground. And insects means that the spring migratory birds will soon follow. Check out some of these beautiful flowers blooming along the trails at Riveredge.

Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage is one of the first harbingers of spring.
Skunk Cabbage Seeds
Check out those intricate Skunk Cabbage seeds!
Trout Lily Leaves
The green speckled with maroon Trout Lily leaves can be seen along the trail.
Trout Lily
Trout Lily flowers are just beginning to appear – just one was spotted this past Wednesday!
Hepatica can be found in a variety of colors.
False Rue Anemone
False Rue Anemone is another early spring bloom.
A side view of the intricate Pasqueflower.
Swamp Boardwalk
Despite being ecologically important, swamps, bogs, and wetlands are often regarded negatively. Between the lichen, Skunk Cabbage, and Marsh Marigold, our Swamp Boardwalk is one of the most colorful locations at Riveredge right now!

Visit Riveredge for a hike today!

Supporting Environmental Education through A Community Thrives at Riveredge

Urban Education at Riveredge Nature Center

Children today are spending less time outdoors, despite studies that support benefits to time spent in nature. Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) students score significantly lower (20.8%) in science than the statewide average (49.7%). Further, urban areas are increasingly losing green space. As a result, access to and comfortability with natural resources may inhibit Milwaukee area students from learning about science in natural environments. Through urban education programs at Riveredge, such as River Connection and the LUMIN partnership, Riveredge provides thousands of students the chance to learn hands-on in nature. You can support students learning about waterways at Riveredge by donating to A Community Thrives. Read below to learn by these programs are so important with quotes from students about their experiences.

LUMIN Partnership

Beginning in 2011, Riveredge partnered with Lutheran Urban Mission Initiative (LUMIN) schools to provide access to field-based environmental education for urban youth enrolled in LUMIN schools. Students travel to Riveredge for on-site programming paired with lessons in their classrooms. Regular collaboration with teachers, administrators, and curriculum specialists informs Riveredge to adapt programming to best meet the needs of the students while providing relevant experiences to support grade level curriculum.

“I learned about the river and how to help nature.”

Following the 2017-18 school year, Riveredge evaluation staff found that LUMIN students that participated in the program are more likely to explore new places and things in nature (27% increase). The LUMIN partnership brings an average of 1,000 pre-school through 8th grade students to Riveredge every year.

The River Connection Program

The River Connection program was established in 1998 to provide socioeconomically disadvantaged children access to environmental educational experiences that would likely be unavailable to them otherwise. The River Connection Program is a collaborative undertaking of two well-respected environmental education organizations within the Greater Milwaukee area: Riveredge Nature Center and The Urban Ecology Center. This collaboration optimizes the opportunity for students to compare and contrast the rural Milwaukee River location of Riveredge Nature Center and the urban Milwaukee River location of the Urban Ecology Center.

The entire experience, including the bus ride is an educational opportunity when taking part in The River Connection Program. Students make observations about the changes they see in the land over the course of the trip to Riveredge. Then, after testing the water here and comparing the results with water tested in Milwaukee, they’re able to hypothesize what uses of the land makes a difference in what is found in the water.

“It was scary but fun.”

It’s natural to fear that which we have little experience. For many children, nature can be an intimidating if they have little or no familiarity with the natural world. The LUMIN partnership brings several classes from Milwaukee to the Milwaukee River and Riveredge’s natural sanctuary to participate in the River Connection program.

“We got out into the country.”

Results from the 2017-18 pre/post survey found that 94% of students said they learned something new about nature, 82% of students said they would like to do the day’s activities again, and 90% of students said they want to do more to help nature. These findings indicate students’ desire to learn about, explore in, and care for the environment. In fact, 75% of students had never visited Riveredge before the River Connection program, and 85% responded either “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they’d come back to Riveredge again. The River Connection program provides impactful environmental education experiences for an average of 700 5th grade students each year.

“I loved the field trip so much!”

By expanding the science curriculum, the River Connection program and LUMIN partnership is fostering greater awareness in both students and teachers of the roles they play in nature. Exposure to both nature centers provides a broad portrait of Wisconsin’s natural landscape, illuminating the rural (Riveredge) and the urban (UEC). This diversity in exposure is critical, in both enhancing the learning experience through comparison and opening new doors to nature that students may not have considered before.

“I learned about the river and how to take care of it.”

This is just a small handful of stories collected from the thousands of students who have been impacted by urban education at Riveredge.

Riveredge subsidizes these programs to offset the costs for schools, but we cannot do it alone. With your help, thousands of kids can continue to get their hands dirty, learn about nature, and discover the interconnectedness of life. Together, we can foster the next generation of nature stewards to care for the bountiful natural resources of southeast Wisconsin.

Click Here to Support Environmental Education Today!

Fostering the Flowers of Tomorrow: Native Orchid Restoration at Riveredge

If a canary is a health gauge for air quality in a coal mine, then one might consider our native temperate orchids a gauge for the health of our native plant communities.

Judy Larsen, spouse of the first Riveredge employee Andy Larsen, remarked that when they arrived to Riveredge 50 years ago, she observed a healthy orchid population, including a prominent grouping of Yellow Lady’s Slipper along the Milwaukee River. Yellow Lady’s Slipper has since been extirpated. White-tailed Deer are known to prefer this species, and the large herd size could be part of the reason behind its disappearance. Today, we have three known orchids on the property and are working to support these remaining species.

By researching our ‘canaries’ we hope to better understand the variables that individual orchid species need for success. We aren’t doing this alone but rather through collaborations with local partners so we may ultimately restore them to areas where they once thrived.

Through a Wisconsin Coastal Management grant, we have partnered with Sheboygan County, Stantec, The Chicago Botanic Garden, and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to setup long-term monitoring locations in coastal counties, propagate hundreds of individuals, and raise said individuals in a shadehouse until they are vigorous enough for out-planting. Partners outside of this two-year grant include The Smithsonian Institute, North American Orchid Conservation Center, The Ridges Sanctuary, and Illinois College.  

Certain fungal communities work with orchid species through symbiotic relationships. In this way, the fungus is a surrogate root system for germinating seeds. Recognizing the importance of these relationships when returning a species to the landscape, our partner Illinois College is isolating unique fungal species associated with native orchids.

“It’s wonderful to see so many passionate researchers working together for the good of these species,” said Land Manger Matt Smith, “Through collaboration we can not only ensure the health of these species on our land, but in our region as well.”

In spring 2019, we will construct an Orchid Shade House, a nursery to raise native orchid seedlings for our immediate acreage and other natural areas that are suitable for temperate orchid reintroduction. We’re seeking the help of Citizen Science volunteers to document the health of orchid populations across our study sites, as well as anyone who has an interest in growing plants in the shade house. Through this project, you can help us discover the complex interconnected lives of Wisconsin plants and foster flowers that will be found by the next generation of explorers.

Make a difference with an end of year gift to Riveredge Nature Center


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens

can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing

that ever has.”  – Margaret Mead

Hello Riveredge Friends,

This much loved quote above has inspired countless impactful works that have indeed changed the world for the better. Yet, at the close of the 50th Birthday year of Riveredge Nature Center, there surely cannot be a more fitting summary of the collective effort which has been, and continues to create the impact of Riveredge.

Since 1968, so much has changed across the Riveredge landscape, and yet so much has stayed the same. Through it all, individuals coming together have been the driving force making a difference at Riveredge. On these last days of 2018, I ask you join with us to continue this collective impact in 2019 and beyond.

Just as in 1968, our world still needs nature centers and, I would argue, the need for this work is increasing daily. In 1975, Riveredge’s Board President wrote, “This (work) seems terribly important in an age when one can seriously foresee a walk through a forest as a walk through a plastic bubble.” In 2018, our world has appeared to strengthen the imaginary and real bubbles around us – separated from the natural world by our homes, our cars, our schools, our work places, and the alternative realities provided by technology. Traversing these barriers to invite nature into the lives our families, our neighbors, and our greater community is the work of Riveredge today.

If people are to become inspired to learn and care for the natural world, they must first discover and learn to enjoy it.

On these last days of Riveredge’s 50th birthday year, I leave you with words from Andy Larsen’s first newsletter article published in the autumn of 1969. Andy was the first Executive Director and Naturalist at Riveredge.

Being a part of this legacy of committed individuals changing the world at Riveredge is truly an honor. I hope you will join us as a committed member of the Riveredge Family. Alone, we can only do so much. Together, we are the thoughtful, committed citizens changing the world.

With great gratitude,

Jessica Jens, Executive Director

Where are We Going  
by Andy Larsen (1969)

“As Riveredge readies its facilities for schools and the public, our purposes and goals must be carefully examined.

Today, as never before, man’s existence is threatened by his very effect on his environment. I feel that the goal to which Riveredge must dedicate itself is the development of environmentally literate citizens.

An environmentally literate citizen can be defined as one who is able to recognize environmental problems and will take action to solve these problems. He must have a basic understanding of the relationships between man and his biological, geological and chemical environment.

Ecology, which might also be called environmental biology, is the foundation of the environmentally literate citizen and will be the basis for the programs conducted with groups using the nature center.  Without this basic awareness and understanding of the bio-physical environment, one cannot recognize or anticipate breakdowns in environmental systems that might arise through the development of a new technology, a social or a polictical decision or an economic action.

Preparing people to make educated choices about the social, political and economic activities that affect the environment that maintains their lives must be a major purpose of education. It is this aspect of education that is called environmental education – or, perhaps, survival education.

The goal for Riveredge, then, is offering programs that will help develop the environmentally literate citizens that are needed if man is to survive. Riveredge will be a center for Environmental Education. The land is our starting point for learning those ecologic principles that direct our existence. Riveredge can provide the framework for many programs in Environmental Education for the greater Milwaukee area.”

– Andy Larsen, 1969

Winter Camp 2018!












Do your kids miss summer camp and wish they had something exciting to do during winter break? We’ve got just the solution! Join us at Riveredge for our fourth annual Winter Camp!

Our beautiful 379 acres unveil a whole new world in winter. During our fun-filled days, we’ll hike, snowshoe, build campfires, create winter crafts, play awesome games and much more! Both indoor and outdoor activities are carefully planned based on the weather and led by our fun and fully trained camp staff!

It’s the perfect recipe for beating the winter doldrums (and saving mom and dad’s sanity during winter break).



What ages is this camp for? 

Winter camp is for campers aged 6-12. Once we have all our campers signed up, they will be divided into groups based on age, so you can be assured your child with be placed with an age-appropriate group!

What do campers need to bring? 

Once you’re signed up, you’ll get a full packet of info with everything you’ll need to know closer to the start of camp. But basically, enough layers and gear to be appropriately dressed for winter weather and a lunch. We’ll provide all the fun!

What time is camp? 

Camp is from 9 AM to 4 PM each day (Wednesday, Dec 26th to Friday, Dec 28), with an optional overnight option on Friday night (see below). Campers will need to be transported to and from Riveredge at those times each day.

What’s this overnight option about?

Campers will have the rare chance to experience Riveredge at night. Our camp staff will lead fun activities all evening, we’ll cook dinner over a campfire, and in the morning we’ll make pancakes with delicious Riveredge maple syrup. Don’t worry though, we’ll be sleeping inside! This Friday overnight is completely optional and participating campers will be need to be picked up at 9 AM on Saturday.

Do I have to sign up ahead of time?

Yes, please! Pre-registration is required and Winter Camp enrollment is limited and will be filled on a first-come, first served basis, so be sure to register as soon as possible!

What’s the cost?

Cost is $145 per camper for Riveredge members (not yet a member? Sign up here for huge discounts on camps, programs, special events, and much more!) or $160 per non-member child. The optional overnight add-on is $25 per child. (Pssst, have more than one child interested in attending camp? We offer a multiple child discount!  First registration is full price and each additional child will receive 10% off.)

Any other questions?

We’re happy to help answer them! Give our camp coordinator, Steff Merten, a call at 262-375-2715 or by email at

Cancellation Policy: Registrations may be cancelled up to 30 days prior to camp to receive a refund of registration fees minus a $50 non-refundable deposit. If you cancel less than 30 days before your week of camp, refunds are only given for medical reasons and family emergencies. These refunds are also subject to the $50 non-refundable deposit. 

2018 Southern WI Restoration Field Day Experts

Want to learn more about the amazing folks presenting at this year’s Restoration Field Day? You’re in luck!


Andrew Struck, Planning And Parks Director- Ozaukee County
Presenting: Ozaukee County Aquatic Connectivity and Habitat Restoration – Adaptive Management to Meet Multiple Goals












Andrew Struck has a M.S. in Applied Ecology/Regional Planning from Indiana University – Bloomington, a B.S. in Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and more than 20 years of planning and restoration experience. He is the Director of the Planning and Parks Department for Ozaukee County and specializes in regional planning, natural resource planning, management, protection and restoration, education, park and open space design and implementation. He has lead collaborations with numerous governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and private sector firms on planning and natural resource design, management, protection, education and restoration projects including: the USEPA, NOAA, USFWS, USFS, WDNR, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, WisDOT, NFWF, and other conservation organizations. He is the Program Director and main point of contact for the Ozaukee Fish Passage Program and currently serves as a member of the WDNR Fish and Wildlife Technical Team and Citizen Advisory Committee Leadership Team for the Milwaukee River Estuary AOC. Andrew also served as Program Director for the nationally recognized, USEPA-funded sustainable brownfield redevelopment of the Menomonee River Valley in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Andrew serves on several planning and environmental nonprofit organizations Board of Directors including officer positions (e.g., President, Treasurer, etc) and received the Conservationist of the Year award from Gathering Waters in 2013.

Bill McNee, Forest Health Specialist – Wisconsin DNR
Presenting: Forest Health and Ecological Restoration Success, Parts 1 and 2














Bill McNee is a DNR Forest Health Specialist stationed in Oshkosh. He began working for the DNR in 2001 as a gypsy moth suppression coordinator based in Green Bay, and has been in his current position since 2013. He primarily works with the detection and management of non-native insects and diseases such as emerald ash borer, gypsy moth and beech bark disease. He currently serves on the executive committee of the National Gypsy Moth Management Board. Bill received a PhD in Entomology from the University of California at Berkeley.

Carrie Hennessy, Horticulturalist & Landscape Designer- Johnson’s Nursery
Presenting: They’re Here, They’re Deer (Creating Deer Resistant Landscapes)











I grew up in southern Wisconsin, just one mile from my grandparents’ dairy farm. Being able to run freely around the rolling hills and farmland of Green County instilled a deep love of nature at an early age. But it wasn’t until my parents gave me my own raised bed in our family vegetable garden and for flowers and herbs that I realized a whole world of horticultural potential! Every year I could change the design and experiment with new culinary herbs and flowers. A chance encounter with a Horticulture major when I was in high school inspired me to turn my love of gardening and design into a career. I received a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and a minor in art at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. My varied work experiences include time at several renowned botanical gardens (such as Olbrich Gardens, The Paine Art Center & Gardens, and the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden) and four years as the designer and lead foreman for a small landscape company in Oshkosh, WI. I was thrilled to join Johnson’s Nursery in the spring of 2008. I knew first-hand how great their plant material was and that I’d be surrounded by incredibly knowledgeable people who enjoy plants as much as I do. As the Retail department’s lead Horticulturist and Designer, it is my mission to approach each client’s landscape needs with enthusiasm and to help make their landscape a unique reflection of their own aesthetics, whether they just need a single shade tree installed or a complete redesign. As a professional horticulturist and designer, I enjoy speaking publicly on a variety of horticultural topics to local garden clubs, libraries, and educational institutions. In addition, I host the Johnson’s Nursery online web-series “The Dirt” and “Carrie’s Quick Tips” which show that gardening doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. It’s easy to take control of your own yard, with a few professional tips. In my spare time, I like working in my own garden, creating new & exciting container displays with each changing season, reading, hiking, trying new recipes, visiting new places, and going to Brewers baseball games with my husband.

Clayton M. Frazer, Senior Ecologist – Eco Resource Consulting
Presenting: Native Broadcast Seeding















Clay received his Bachelor of Science in Zoology/Wildlife Ecology from Southern Illinois
University at Carbondale in 1996. Following a two-year Peace Corps Volunteer post in West
Africa working in the agro-forestry sector, he began his professional career as a Wildlife
Technician for The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. This work led to a position
with Pheasants Forever in Southeast Wisconsin as a Grassland Ecologist where he facilitated
more than 6,000 acres of reconstructed prairie. In 2008, Clay came on board with EC3
Environmental Consulting Group as a Project Manager. And in 2012, Clay accepted a position
as a Senior Ecologist with Eco-Resource Consulting, Inc. He has a strong background in native
plant ecology, invasive species management, comprehensive land management, and project
planning/design. Through the design and implementation of adaptive management
approaches, Clay has accrued 20 years of “hands-on” knowledge base in native plant
community management and now oversees business and new project development at ERC, one of the fastest growing ecological consulting and restoration firms in the Midwest.

Cory Gritzmacher, Director of Habitat Restoration and Operations- Mequon Nature Preserve,
Jason Nickels, Director of Education and Research- Mequon Nature Preserve
Laura Holder, Co-founder and Executive Director- Midwest Conservation Dogs
& Tilia, Conservation Ambassador – Mequon Nature Preserve
Presenting: Conservation Dogs Part 1 and 2

Cory has been in the Green Industry for over 20 years. He graduated from MATC with a degree in Landscape Horticulture in 1998. He has been an ISA Certified Arborist for over 15 years.  Cory is a past president of the Wisconsin Arborist Association and has served on a number of committees over the past 20 years. Prior to his position at Mequon Nature Preserve he owned and operated Second Nature Landscape Company. Cory enjoys family vacations to Colorado with his wife Andrea and two boys Caleb and Ryan.

Jason received a BS in Life Science Education from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, MN in 2002, and a MS in Environmental Education from Concordia University – WI, Mequon, WI, in 2015. After graduation he began teaching in 2002 at Lakeside Lutheran High School in Lake Mills, WI. At Lakeside he took on many roles: teaching biology and human anatomy / physiology, serving as the head coach of the wrestling program, coaching varsity and junior varsity football as a defensive coordinator, advising the school’s Affinity Club (a service organization) and taking care of Lakeside’s internal courtyard and ponds. In June of 2011 Jason joined Mequon Nature Preserve’s staff and now serves as the Director of Education and Research. During the school year he takes thousands of students on nature walks in his new, 444-acre classroom. When not teaching kids, he spends his time performing land restoration tasks in the prairies, wetlands and forests of Mequon Nature Preserve. Jason lives in Milwaukee with his wife, Becky, and his two young children, Madelynn and Sawyer.

Laura’s lifelong fascination with canines, especially their unique ability to work alongside humans, inspires her every day in the field. She loves training and deploying the MCD canine teams to support clients in their critical conservation efforts. Driven by her boundless curiosity about how dogs think, learn and detect scent, Laura has spent more than a decade as a professional in the fields of scent-detection, nose work and dog training. She is a Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI™) through the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NASCW) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) through the CCPDT. Laura has also trained for obedience and agility. In addition to co-founding Midwest Conservation Dogs, Laura is also owner of Connecting with Dogs, co-founder of the Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin, and has a long list of continuing education credits. Her Labrador Retriever, Ernie, is her current canine partner for detection work. She continues to “play” K9 Nose Work with her title-winning German Shepherd Dog, Oscar, as much as she can.

Tilia is the newest addition to the family at Mequon Nature Preserve. After her training, Tilia will become the first on-staff conservation dog in the state of Wisconsin and will also be a conservation ambassador, joining MNP staff on field trips at the preserve. Follow Tilia on her MNP Instagram (tilia_mnp) to see what she’s up to!

Craig Maier, Coordinator- Tallgrass Prairie & Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium
Presenting: I’ll Give It to You ‘Trait’ – Native and Non-native Plant Adaptations to Fire














Craig Maier is the coordinator of the Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium, a knowledge exchange funded by the Joint Fire Science Program ( The consortium’s mission is to accelerate the awareness, understanding, and application of fire science, and he partners with researchers, land managers, and staff from institutions, agencies, and NGOs across the Midwest. Craig grew up in southern Wisconsin and has earned a B.S. in Geoscience from Northland College and a M.S. from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the UW-Madison. He has experience with prescribed fire, prairie restoration, managed grazing, and oak ecosystem restoration from work with the Aldo Leopold Foundation, The Nature Conservancy’s Baraboo Hills Project, UW Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and MacLeish Heritage Farms.

Drew Ballantyne, Owner of Woodland Restoration LLC & Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium Board Director
Presenting: Giant Hogweed














I received Bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Science with an emphasis in Water and Life and Geography from Carthage College.  Then I received my Masters’ in Forest Science from Michigan Technological University in 2010. I have done research or worked all across the Great Lakes region.  Shortly after starting a PhD program at Michigan State my advisor recommended I get more land management experience and see how I like it. Since then I have worked for an ecological restoration company, a golf course performing ecological restoration, and numerous sites with my own business.  From those I have obtained pesticide applicator licenses, chainsaw safety training, and wildland fire training certificates. I enjoy working outside restoring Wisconsin’s native ecosystems both for clients as well as on my wife and I’s own properties. When I am not in prairies, savannas, forests, or wetlands, you can usually find me on the golf course or at a restaurant.  I am always looking to network with more folks as well as on the lookout for the next areas that have potential to be high quality natural areas.

Matt Smith, Land Manager – Riveredge Nature Center
Presenting: Review of herbicide application equipment and tactical approaches












Matt Smith is the Land Manager for Riveredge Nature Center based in Newburg, Wisconsin. Mr. Smith has 13 years of experience in the field of ecology and restoration. Prior to employment with Riveredge, Mr. Smith has worked as a Consulting Ecologist for Eco-Resource Consulting, Land Manager for National Audubon at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, a restoration technician for Tallgrass Restoration LLC, a Conservancy Steward for the Sand County Foundation, a Technician through Seifert Field & Forest, a certified Arborist and Cultural Landscape Specialist for Green Tree-Tree Care and Consulting, and a plant surveyor for NatureServe. Mr. Smith’s work has led him to practice restoration throughout the Midwest, experiencing first hand its wide variety of diverse environments and conditions. Mr. Smith’s work has allowed him to play an active role in projects on large and small scales in the public and private sectors.

Melissa Curran, Environmental Scientist – Stantec Consulting Services
Presenting: Midwest Orchid Conservation Project


















Melissa Curran is an Environmental Scientist with Stantec Consulting Services, specializing in botanical surveys and restoration ecology.  Over the last 11 years, she has completed numerous natural resource assessments, rare plant surveys and restoration projects throughout the Midwest.  She has documented dozens of new rare plant populations and is currently working on reintroducing orchid species to restoration sites throughout Wisconsin.

Michelle Stowers: Nursery Ecologist-  Agrecol LLC
Presenting: Introduction to Agrecol’s Native Vegetated Mat (NVM)










Michelle was raised on a farm in South Central Wisconsin. Her passion for our native flora and fauna started young and has carried through the present. She holds a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Field Ecology and a minor in Environmental Studies from UW-Whitewater. Michelle has worked with Agrecol, a native seed and plant nursery since 2016. As the Nursery Ecologist, one of the many hats she wears is oversight of the Native Vegetated Mat (NVM). Ms. Stowers is especially passionate about stopping the decline of the Monarch butterfly population. She hand raises caterpillars through metamorphosis and releases hundreds of Monarchs each year.

Peter Ziegler, Project Manager- EC3 Environmental Consulting
Presenting: Forestry Mowing- Taking the sweat out of woody invasive removal.














Peter Ziegler from a young age was introduced to many outdoor activities growing up in the
country outside of Slinger in Washington County. Coming from a conservation minded family. Peter was hooked on restoration at a young age when he saw the success a wetland restoration
can provide to wildlife and the land. Peter has over 18 years of natural resource restoration and
management experience across the upper Midwest, and takes great pride he is close to where he grew up and able to utilize his skills to restore the natural habitat in the area. Peter currently
manages the state wide habitat program for a non-profit, Wisconsin Waterfowl Association,
specializing in wetland restorations; as well as managing restoration projects for EC3
Environmental Consulting. His experience comes from a diverse background working from
North Dakota to Iowa and from Native shoreline, prairie and wetland restoration to invasive
species management. Peter’s diverse restoration management background is recognized as he
participates on land management advisory committees for multiple non-profit organizations.
EC3 is a full line restoration, land management and consulting company.

Ryan Wallin, Stewardship Director – Ozaukee Washington Land Trust
Presenting: GIS Collector’s Best Attributes for Stewardship













Born and raised in the Milwaukee Metro area, BS from Stevens Point – Wildlife Ecology and Management, MS from American Public University –Environmental Policy and Management, worked for Native American Fish and Wildlife Society as a CWD Biologist 07-12, Washington Department of Natural Resources as Fish and Wildlife Biologist II 12-16, and came to OWLT in January 2016.