Indian Grass. Photo: Pat Whalen

Missouri Prairie Foundation Staff

Carol Davit

Executive Director

Executive Director Carol Davit works with the Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) board of directors and committees and oversees all operations of MPF – including fundraising, strategic planning, communications, advocacy, the Grow Native! program, and administration, and has edited the Missouri Prairie Journal since 1996.

Davit has worked for more than 25 years in the conservation and environmental fields in communications, development, administration, and leadership capacities. She has worked for private, nonprofit conservation groups and at the municipal and state government levels. She has been the editor of field guides and written on a wide variety of natural history and conservation topics for the Missouri Prairie Journal, the Missouri Conservationist, and other publications. Davit has B.A. and M.A. degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies. She is the recipient of the Erna Eisendrath Memorial Education Award and the Plant Stewardship Award from the Missouri Native Plant Society.

“I consider myself fortunate to help conserve some of the most biologically rich habitat on earth,” Davit says, “and to work with the many people in the MPF and Grow Native! community who are so passionate about prairie conservation and native plants.” Carol and her husband and son are Stream Team #3631. (Photo credit: Travis Duncan)

In addition to serving as the Executive Director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation and the Grow Native! program, Davit also serves in the following conservation leadership capacities for statewide groups:

  • Chair, Missouri Invasive Plant Council (administered by MPF and its Grow Native! program)
  • Chair, Prairies and Grasslands Resource Committee of the Conservation Federation of Missouri
  • Chair, Natural Resources Subcommittee of the Missouri OAKS Committee (Outdoor Action Committee)
  • Member, Missouri Land Trust Coalition Steering Committee
  • Member, Missourians for Monarchs Steering Committee

Davit speaks to many groups on the importance of prairie conservation and the many benefits of native plants, and has spoken at national conferences, including:
Opening Keynote, Oct. 2015, America’s Grasslands Conference, Fort Collins, CO
Opening Keynote, June 2019, North American Prairie Conference, Houston, TX

Watch Davit’s TEDx Gateway Arch presentation, February 2015: Why Prairie Matters: New Relevancies of a Vanishing Landscape

Listen to Davit’s interview with the Nature Revisited Podcast, January 2021: The American Prairie 

Jerod Huebner

Director of Prairie Management

MPF’s Director of Prairie Management Jerod Huebner oversees prairie management planning and execution including invasive species control, prescribed fire, and all other aspects of the stewardship of MPF’s prairies. Huebner also administers prairie stewardship grants and participates in prairie outreach and education activities.

Huebner earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2010. While in college, Huebner worked at MPF’s and the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Prairie Fork Conservation and Expansion Areas in Callaway County on a variety of prairie reconstruction activities. After graduating, Huebner worked as a wildlife biologist at the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles. Among his duties in that position were managing 18,000 acres of high public use conservation areas in the St. Louis region, preparing management plans, supervising staff, grant writing, and numerous outreach activities. He holds Level 3 Fire Burn Boss Certification and has conducted numerous wildlife population surveys.

Originally from Monett, MO, Huebner is pleased to have moved back to southwestern Missouri. He and his wife live in the Joplin, MO area, his home base for carrying out MPF prairie management.

“I look forward to helping protect Missouri’s prairies for many years to come,” Huebner says, “I started my career working on prairies and consider it a real blessing to be able to spend nearly every day at work on a prairie.” In his spare time, Jerod is an avid hunter and angler and enjoys spending time outside with his wife, son, and daughter.

Jerod was named Wildlife Conservationist of the Year by the Conservation Federation of Missouri on March 6, 2020. Read more about Jerod’s work in this Joplin Globe article

Portrait with grassy landscape in background.

Emily Gustafson

Operations Assistant

As Operations Assistant, Emily Gustafson provides administrative and outreach support to carry out the mission of MPF and its Grow Native! program. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and her love for conservation and the outdoors started with exploring her neighborhood’s state natural area in Portland and spending summers on the rocky shores of Hood Canal in Washington State. Emily studied political science at Stanford University and went on to graduate study in the same subject at Harvard University. She worked in higher education, including teaching public administration at the University of Missouri, before transitioning to political consulting. Emily currently serves on the City of Columbia’s Climate and Environment Commission and is a Missouri Master Gardener. In addition to being passionate about native plants and the communities of life they support, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and volunteering.

Portrait with grassy landscape in background.

Hayley Howard

Outreach and Education Coordinator

In her role as the education and outreach coordinator for MPF, Hayley continues the organization’s legacy of prairie and native plant awareness, protection, and stewardship through educational programs and events and fostering collaborative partnerships. 

Hayley has a background in education, communications, grant administration, and conservation. She joined the Missouri Master Naturalist (MMN) volunteer program in 2017 and serves as secretary of the Loess Hills Chapter. Through this program and previous work with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Hayley brings experience in prescribed burns, identifying native plants, animals, and natural communities, and in various citizen science projects including plant, bird, and insect surveys. Hayley has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English/journalism from Missouri Western State University and a Master’s degree in Teaching from Park University. 

Hayley enjoys rural living in northwestern Missouri, wildlife viewing, native plant and vegetable gardening, nature hiking, photography, and camping. 

Erika Van Vranken

Special Projects Coordinator

Erika was raised in a central Missouri family that liked to garden and fish. She became enamored with birds at an early age, birding throughout her youth, and, while at the University of Missouri-Columbia, participated as a research assistant with the Forest Interior Birds study of the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project. Her main academic pursuit at MU was plant science, where she received her B.S. in 1999. After working for several years with the Plant Protection and Quarantine program of USDA, Erika returned to MU and earned an M.S. in Library Science. She has nearly 15 years of experience working in research libraries, including a decade at Missouri’s largest newspaper repository. Erika also has experience working at a lavender farm, a horticultural nursery, and a plant pathology research lab. She is a Missouri Stream Team member and enjoys reading, especially natural history and poetry, hiking Missouri’s trails, and sightseeing by bicycle.

Erika is working for MPF on some Grow Native! initiatives and other key projects.

“I have a deep and abiding love for Missouri’s landscapes including its prairies,” said Erika. “With grasslands imperiled here and worldwide, research, advocacy, and preservation are essential to understanding the benefits of these ecosystems and ensuring that they persist into the future. I’m excited to contribute to these important functions by working on projects for MPF and its Grow Native! program.”

Jeremiah Casner

Prairie Stewardship Technician

In May 2023, MPF welcomed Jeremiah Casner as a new, seasonal staff member. As MPF’s Prairie Stewardship Technician, Casner is assisting Director of Prairie Management Jerod Huebner with invasive plant control this summer and will help with prescribed burning in the dormant season as well as other stewardship tasks. Casner is recently married and lives in Webb City, Missouri. He is nearly finished with his undergraduate degree from Pittsburg State University in Kansas, where he is majoring in ecology and field biology. Casner grew up on a farm in Fort Scott, Kansas, and in addition to being outdoors, he enjoys playing the drums and has been part of church music groups prior to moving to Missouri.