Prairie and Native Plant Careers

Chris Newbold

District Supervisor
Missouri Dept. Of Conservation
Central Missouri

Where did you study and what was your major field of study?
University of Missouri (BS) and University of Tennessee (MS) Wildlife Ecology

Briefly describe your current job.
Supervisor multidiscipline teams that strive to restore/reconstruct natural communities and improve wildlife habitat and populations.

How do you use your native plant and/or prairie knowledge in your career today?
To evaluate the relative success or failure of restoration and reconstruction management, particularly in grassland communities (prairie, glade, savanna).

What is the most satisfying aspect of your current work?
Seeing success reintroduction/reappearance of plant and animal species, through management, in locations where they have been lost in the past.

What native plant/prairie classes or trainings were especially important to your career?
Plant taxonomy in school, ongoing specialized plant ID training (such as course/field work focused on grasslands, wetlands, Cyperacace, etc.). For me I have to continually be learning/relearning or I lose skills and knowledge.

What other subjects have you studies that have been important to your career?
Statistics (for research and understanding scientific investigation), Wildlife Management techniques, Ornithology. I wish I has taken an entomology class as I am quite ignorant in that field and it would be quite useful in better understanding plant/insect interactions and natural community function. But, it is hard to study it all and at some point people begin to focus in areas.

Please describe volunteer or field work that was formative to your education and career.
I took summer field work jobs during my undergraduate work, including a project that looked at CRP fields, their structures and how that related to song bird use and production. In graduate school I had a forest management project that measured forest bird and flora (mostly structure and some species) response to disturbance. Find field work to give you practical experience in the field – it becomes invaluable in helping you understand what you see (and don’t see) later.

What advice would you give students or others wanting to go into your field?
Find what you enjoy and do that.