2015 Conservation Symposium

Date: Friday, November 6, 2015

Time: 10:00AM - 4:00PM

Instructor: Various

Location: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History's Fleischmann Auditorium

Places still available.  Please register at the door.

Saving Rare Plants: What will it Take to Meet the Growing Challenge?

With 35% of California's plants now rare or endangered, and the current extinction rate 1,000 times that of pre-human levels, one might ask is it even possible to save these plants? With 2,300 imperiled species, where do you start? And why is it worth our attention with so many other competing causes? This year's speakers are addressing these questions with thoughtful answers, new scientific resources, and inspiring partnerships. The challenges and complexity of each species and each situation are met with unprecedented opportunities that give us hope for meeting the increasingly vital need to preserve our plant biodiversity. We thank Union Bank for sponsoring the 2015 Conservation Symposium.

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The Honarable John C. Pritzlaff Conservation Award

2015 Pritzlaff Conservation Award Recipient
Dr. Peter White, former Director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden and Professor at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Botanical Garden Futures: Lessons Learned, and Dreams Dreamed for the Conservation Garden

image of Dr. Peter White, 2015 SBBG Pritzlaff Conservation Award Recipient

 Botanical gardens have always been about the interface between people and nature as well as between the biological world and the physical environment.  Now we find ourselves in exciting times, at the crossroads of such issues as biodiversity threats, water supplies, food resources, human connections to nature, climate change, and sustainability.  Meeting this challenge, while also continuing the centuries-long work of making the world a greener and more diverse place, will require a network of institutions, like the North Carolina Botanical Garden and Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, dreaming dreams at the local and global scale and sharing information and experiences.  And this work is not just about the problems we face—as gardeners have always known, this work is also good for the human spirit.


Dr. Dieter Wilken, former Director of Conservation, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Conserving Threatened Species by Understanding their Life History

image of Dr. Dieter Wilken

Conservation at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has grown into a multi-faceted effort, including surveys, monitoring, and research; propagation; reintroduction and restoration; and seed-banking of the most imperiled plants of the central coast of California.  In particular, an understanding of rare plant biology is critical to predicting and enhancing long-term survivorship.  Natural seed banks, seed longevity and germination, recruitment, breeding system, pollination biology, and age structure, among other characteristics, each contribute to the life history of a particular species. The relative importance of these features varies widely from species to species; some are more critical to long-term survival than others, and need special attention in developing conservation strategies. Dieter will focus on several species that demonstrate variations in life history, and discuss how particular methods for implementing recovery and enhancing management may benefit from such knowledge.

Dr. Naomi Fraga, Director of Conservation Programs, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Rescuing California’s Rarest Plants at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

image of Dr. Naomi FragaSusanna Bixby Bryant established Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG) in 1927 with a vision “to preserve our native California flora,” and to “try to replenish the depleted supply of some of our rarest plants.” At RSABG we are working to save endangered plant species from extinction through our inventory, monitoring, research, horticulture and seed bank programs. RSABG holds the largest seed bank for California plants in the world with 4,600 seed accessions that represent more than 1,900 native Californian species. In this presentation, Naomi will demonstrate how RSABG is working to fulfill Susanna’s vision, including taking a leadership role in the newly formed California Plant Rescue (CaPR), a partnership among California conservation institutions whose goal is the long-term conservation of wild species and populations of California plants.

Dr. Kathryn McEachern, Research Plant Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, WERC, Channel Islands Field Station

Uncovering the Ecological Secrets of the Channel Islands’ Rarest Plants

Dr. Kathryn McEachernThe endemic plants of the California Channel Islands come in a variety of shapes and forms, including tiny annuals, slow-growing perennials, and even one that forms parasitic root connections with other plants. All have experienced enormous changes in their habitats as the land was used for ranching and farming. Dr. McEachern has focused a research program on the most rare and endangered of these plants over several decades. From searches on foot and by helicopter, thorough yearly measurements of plant growth and using greenhouse and field experiments, she is learning where these plants live, how they grow, and how they respond to changes in their environments. Come hear the stories these plants tell, and how we can use this knowledge to help them as the islands rebound from the effects of ranching and farming.

John Knapp, California Islands Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy

Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again: A Systematic Approach to Reintroducing (Presumed) Extirpated Species Back to the California Islands

John KnappThe native plants of the California Islands were severely impacted by introduced vertebrates for nearly two centuries. With the removal of nearly all of these animals, the native flora and fauna are now recovering, and conservation management has transitioned to increasing ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change. Island managers are now taking active steps to put these systems back together, and as part of this effort are now considering whether or not to reintroduce those taxa that
are presumed extirpated. The Nature Conservancy has developed a decision tree to evaluate candidate taxa, and will present three examples, which illustrate how the tree helps land managers weigh the risks and benefits of reintroducing different taxa, and reveals the complexities of making these decisions.

Dr. David Ackerly, Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley

Climate Change and Conservation: Visualizing our Future

 Dr. David Ackerly

As the global environment changes rapidly, conservation biology strategies must adapt along with ecological communities.  In this changing world, some of the critical tools of conservation - especially the protection of large landscapes with enhanced connectivity - become even more important in the future. Other approaches may need to be reevaluated, especially the focus on restoration to historical conditions and the methods used to select genotypes and species for restoration efforts. Most importantly, in the face of uncertainty about the future, protecting biological diversity at all levels provides critical insurance as we will never be certain, in advance, about which genotypes, species and communities will thrive in the future.