Prairie and Native Plant Careers

Quinn Long

Director of Shaw Nature Reserve
Missouri Botanical Garden
Gray Summit, MO

Where did you study and what was your major field of study?
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Briefly describe your current job.
I provide leadership and advocacy for the mission of Shaw Nature Reserve, which focuses on ecological restoration, native plant horticulture, and outdoor education.

How do you use your native plant and/or prairie knowledge in your career today?
My experience with native plants and prairie ecology has been fundamental to my career trajectory. Although my role is now more administrative than field-based, my enthusiasm and ability to communicate about botany and ecology is critical to building relationships with strategic partners, foundations, donors, and colleagues.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your current work?
Building capacity for early-career land stewards and scientists. Inspiring youth to appreciate the natural world.

What native plant/prairie classes or trainings were especially important to your career?
Two decades of plot work and floristic inventories in remnant prairies and other remnant grasslands were formative experiences that shaped my career. I also completed my doctorate and took numerous botany courses.

What other subjects have you studies that have been important to your career?
Ornithology, Spanish.

Please describe volunteer or field work that was formative to your education and career.
Several summers of botanical inventories in remnant prairies in the Osage Plains of Kansas were among the most intellectually stimulating periods of my career, being immersed in the flora of these fascinating plant communities.

What materials and technology are must-haves for your field?
A fundamental common denominator to all field work is being highly organized and strategic.

What advice would you give students or others wanting to go into your field?
Seek opportunities to get outside and learn, whether focused on botany, ornithology, entomology, etc. Our native grasslands, inclusive of prairies, glades, and savannas, are fascinating ecosystems.