2020 Conference Speakers

Featured Speakers

Emily Roberson, PhD

The Native Plant Conservation Campaign


Emily Brin Roberson is the Director of the Native Plant Conservation Campaign: a national network of native plant societies, botanic gardens and other native plant organizations. The mission of the Campaign is to promote the conservation of native plants and their habitats through collaboration, research, education, and advocacy. She worked as a researcher in plant and soil sciences for 10 years and as Senior Policy Analyst for the California Native Plant Society for 11 years before launching the Campaign. She holds a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in plant ecology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in soil microbial ecology from UC Berkeley.

Craig Huegel, PhD

The Truth About Pollinator Gardens

There is a great deal of attention focused on pollinator gardens in developed landscapes at the moment. Groups devoted to promoting pollinators are growing exponentially on social media and resources available for homeowners wishing to provide for pollinators in their landscapes seem to be appearing daily. There is a very real decline worldwide in the populations of bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects and it is laudable that there is a rising interest in helping to rectify that. However, many of these so-called pollinator gardens fall far short of actually improving conditions needed by pollinators. This class will focus on many of the most common misperceptions and provide some direction for improving our efforts at creating true pollinator gardens.


Craig is renowned for his knowledge of plant-animal interactions and the design of wildlife-attracting landscapes. At the University of Florida, he co-founded the Urban Wildlife Extension Program and established the Florida Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program. He also established the Pinellas County Environmental Lands Division and served as Division Administrator for twelve years.

A much loved professor and teacher, Craig has authored several popular books promoting the use of Florida native plants, including books on landscaping for wildlife, gardening with wildflowers and using plants in shady gardens. He lectures widely across the state of Florida on the use of native plants in ecologically beneficial, sustainable landscapes. And whether it’s 8:00am or 8:00pm, Craig’s dynamic delivery and entertaining speaking style will keep you alert and inspired.

Craig is passionate about the joy and satisfaction native gardens and landscapes bring to our lives. He has received numerous state and regional awards from public agencies and private conservation groups for his ongoing environmental education, restoration and preservation efforts.

Friday Speakers   (day subject to change)

Juliet Rynear

Native Plant Societies Track - Florida Native Plant Society


Juliet Rynear is the Executive Director of the Florida Native Plant Society and served as the Conservation Committee Chair for the Society 6 years.  Juliet’s work has focused on the conservation of the genetic diversity of Florida’s native plants and the restoration of native plant populations and plant communities.  She has extensive experience managing projects that include propagation protocol development, population introductions, habitat restoration, habitat monitoring, and post-project monitoring designed to inform ongoing management.  She received a Master of Applied Science in Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management from the University of Denver and earned a Certificate in Applied Plant Conservation from the Center for Plant Conservation.  Juliet has enjoyed a lifelong love of plants and seeks to inspire others to experience the transformative power of our natural world.

Sue Dingwell

Native Plant Society Track - Colorado Native Plant Society

Native Plant Societies: What Works?


An educator by profession, Sue became interested in native plants when her husband’s career moved her back to Florida, to the very same county where she had explored the woods and waters as a child. Simultaneously dismayed by the transformation, and introduced by a friend to the FNPS, she became a native plant advocate and entered fully into the fray. She became a Master Gardener, a Florida Master Naturalist, FNPS chapter president and then board member. When the next move was to Virginia, she became a Master Naturalist, and board member of the Virginia NPS. She will speak from experience from her roles as board member, chapter host in two different states for their Annual Conferences, webmaster, blogger, presenter, social media communicator, and  cheerleader.

Nancy Vehrs

Native Plant Societies Track - Virginia Native Plant Society


Nancy Vehrs is President of the Virginia Native Plant Society as well as its local chapter, the Prince William Wildflower Society. She was born and raised in Northern Virginia and resides in Manassas. She is an alumna of the College of William & Mary with a concentration in Economics and is retired from local government. She leads walks, volunteers with native plantings, and presents programs to the community. Nancy also serves on the Plant NoVA Natives steering committee and champions the cultivation and appreciation of native plants.

Tara Littlefield

Native Plant Societies Track - Kentucky Native Plant Society


Tara Littlefield serves as the senior botanist and manager of the Plant Conservation Section at the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves.  She is also currently the president of the Kentucky Native Plant Society and coordinator of the newly formed Kentucky Plant Conservation Alliance.  She grew up on the southern edge of the cedar creek glade complex in Hardin County, Kentucky and has had a fascination with the natural world since a small child.  Tara has a B.S. in Biogeochemistry from University of Louisville and a M.S. in Plant Ecology from the University of Kentucky.  Much of her work involves rare species surveys (state/federally listed/globally rare), general floristic inventories (vascular and nonvascular), natural community classification, natural areas inventory, protection of natural areas, rare plant propagation, restoration and recovery, and rare plant/community management.  She is particularly interested in plant distributions, endemism, paleoecology/botany, seed collecting, mushrooms, lichens, caterpillars, spiders, exploring natural areas, environmental education for kids, medicinal/edible plants, and the chemistry of plants. 
Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves http://naturepreserves.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx

Brian Sean Early

Native Plant Societies Track - Louisiana Native Plant Society


Currently, he works for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) as a botanist in the Natural Heritage Program and is actively involved in the Louisiana Native Plant Society (LNPS) serving as president.  With the LDWF he is part of a team studying and working to preserve Louisiana’s costal prairie remnants, serves as a botanist for the US Forest Service in Kisatchie National Forest, maintains the LDWF Native Plant Gardens, and supports many other projects. He also serves as the LDWF Louisiana Master Naturalist aid and teaches many master naturalist classes .As a graduate research assistant at Louisiana Tech University, he studied plant communities and macro-invertebrates associated with oil-brine spills and remediation techniques.  When Brian is not working or volunteering he loves spending time, especially outdoors, with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs.

Ellen Honeycutt

Native Plant Societies Track - Georgia Native Plant Society


Ellen Honeycutt is the current Chair of the State Board of the Georgia Native Plant Society. She has gardened with and appreciated native plants for over 20 years as a member. Helping others to see the beauty, versatility, and ecological importance of Georgia’s native plants—whether it be in the wild or in the garden—is both a passion and a compulsion—just ask her kids! She uses her personal blog, http://usinggeorgianativeplants.blogspot.com/, to share seasonal ideas and pictures about native plants in her area.

Stacie Greco

Using Regulatory and Marketing Tools to Change Landscaping Behaviors

Alachua County uses regulatory and educational tools to encourage residential landscaping behaviors that reduce water and fertilizer use to protect our groundwater, surface waters, and springs. This presentation will describe Alachua County’s eight month fertilizer ban and the State’s first enforceable Florida Friendly LandscapingTM (FFL) Ordinance to assist homeowners in converting intensive landscapes to FFL. Additionally, we will explore how social marketing techniques are utilized to influence landscaping choices and management. By effectively leveraging social marketing, The Alachua County Turf SWAP Landscaping Rebate Program helped 129 property owners remove almost 1,900 high volume irrigation heads to save an estimated 16 million gallons of water per year through grant springs protection funds administered through the St. Johns River Water Management District.  


Stacie Greco currently serves as the County’s Water Resources Program Manager with the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, where she has worked to protect our water resources for the past 15 years.  She received a B.S. in the Environmental Sciences from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC prior to obtaining her M.S. in Environmental Engineering Sciences from the University of Florida.  In 2010 she received a graduate certificate in Social Marketing at the University of South Florida to learn how to apply traditional marketing tools to change behaviors for protecting our water.  Stacie enjoys exploring Florida’s natural areas by kayak, foot, and bike, while camping in her vintage trailer.

Jim Draper

Radical Naturalism: Negotiating the natural order in the twenty-first century


Jim Draper grew up in Kosciusko, Mississippi, the geographical center of the state. His work which includes drawing, painting, photography, video and writing is informed by journeys into the wilds of Florida and Georgia. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1974, and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Georgia at Athens in 1978.

Karen Willey

Climate Change Communication


Karen Willey is a NAI Certified Interpretive Guide and a Certified Climate Change Interpreter through the National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) – a network of scientists and educators committed to changing the public discourse around climate change to be positive, civic-minded and solutions-focused.

Karen sold Around the Bend Nature Tours environmental education company last July after founding it 20 years ago. She is a Climate change communicator. Flower hunter. People connector. Tree hugger. And Educational consultant: helping folks to learn more about Florida native plants and ecosystems.

Karen’s motto is: Go Wild! And Learn the Florida story…

Meg Gaffney-Cooke

Shifting Lenses: Transitioning to a New Landscape Design Aesthetic

Gardens and Parks all hold an image in our minds of manicured plantings. Explore the challenges and benefits of transitioning our cultural lens from “maintaining plants” to “managing plant communities” with a designer. As a key factor in regional and planetary resilience we must spread an appreciation for plants’ interdependence with each other, their location and the local fauna. This discussion will present an overview of theory, projects and practitioners in the field of design and the challenges to adjusting our standards of beauty in Florida.


Meg is the Principal Landscape Architect for Blue Leaf Landscape. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Ornamental Horticulture and Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia. Her expertise includes: Landscape Architectural design development and project management of residential, commercial, multi-family, mixed-use, government, institutional, transportation and amenity-based projects throughout the state. She specializes in: horticulture, resilience/sustainability, niche and historical design.

Meg has been a resident of Jacksonville, Florida since 2002 and always an active member of her community. She was instrumental in the founding of the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens as the Board Chair during its opening. For her work with the arboretum she received the President’s Volunteer Award for Community Service in 2005 and the 2009 Canopy Award for Civic Horticultural Leadership. She has also been a board member of Greenscape of Jacksonville, leading many volunteer urban tree planting efforts, and helped to manage local community gardens.

In her spare time she is most often with her husband, two children and dog, exploring, gardening, baking or volunteering in her community.

Anthony Rossi and Callahan McGovern

Assessing the phenotypic and genetic differences in the endangered endemic semaphore cactus, Consolea corallicola

Coauthor: Keith Stokes

The endemic semaphore cactus, Consolea corallicola, is limited to small patches on a few of the islands that make up the Florida Keys.  Approximately ten years ago, excisions from the 8-9 individuals that constitute one of the last remaining populations were collected and returned to the botanical garden at University of South Florida (USF).  Pads from these individuals were acquired from USF approximately five years ago and grown in a common soil mixture (to eliminate any maternal effects from the collection site) and ambient conditions in the greenhouse at University of North Florida (UNF).  These individuals were used to collect both phenotypic and genetic information on these remaining individuals for potential use in subsequent conservation efforts. Conservation strategies may include breeding programs and re-establishment of populations in the Keys.  Thus, detailed information on the amount and variation of plant phenotype and genotypes is essential prior to an effective conservation strategy. The purpose of this presentation is to summarize the variation of phenotypes and genotypes of this population of Consolea corallicola.

Bio - Anthony Rossi

B.A. and M.S. Biology degrees from University of Missouri – St. Louis (1983, 1986 respectively)

Ph.D. from Florida State University (1991)

At UNF since 1998; currently holds the rank of Full Professor

Teaches more than a dozen different biology lecture and lab courses at UNF

Published approximately 50 peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Bio - Callahan McGovern

Callahan is an undergraduate student at the University of North Florida in the molecular/cell biology program. Callahan's interests in plant biology and ecology stemmed from the experience of working on a vegetable and fruit farm for a year. Currently, she is curious about molecular techniques and wants to apply these in her research. In the future, Callahan would like to continue her education and focus on finding environmentally conscious methods or products for agricultural pursuits.

Kara Driscoll

Liminal Spaces: The Biogeography of Florida "Faerie" Milkweed

The endemic Florida milkweed (Asclepias feayi) is an understudied perennial species with an unusual floral morphology and delicate appearance that makes it virtually disappear when not in bloom. Little is known about its preferred habitat despite its seemingly wide distribution in peninsular Florida. Preliminary observations and data suggest that Asclepias feayi prefers a specific niche space within mesic flatwoods and scrubby flatwoods, and may require frequent, properly-timed fire for reproductive success and recruitment. I also review the complicated pollination system and reproductive ecology of other members of the genus Asclepias, discuss the implications this may have for the conservation and management of Florida milkweed, as well as present avenues for needed future research on this species.


A lifelong Florida native, Kara Driscoll currently serves as both the Chair of the Council of Chapters for the Florida Native Plant Society and as Naples Chapter Representative while pursuing their master’s degree in environmental science at Florida Gulf Coast University. Their research focuses on understanding the spatial distributions of endemic or near-endemic plants at various scales to help guide future plant conservation efforts with simple, straightforward methodology. Kara has worked extensively over the last several years with the Monarch-Milkweed Initiative at St Marks National Wildlife Refuge and to help document, propagate, and conserve Florida’s 21 species of milkweed. In their spare time, they enjoy growing various species of native plants (especially native milkweeds and orchids), roadside botanizing, swamp slogging, and painting. Kara hopes to pursue a career in plant conservation and advocacy while inspiring others to do the same.

Saturday Speakers  (day subject to change)

Mike Adams & Sam Carr

William Bartram's Legacy and the Florida Native Plant Society

In America’s first literary masterpiece TRAVELS William Bartram says “PERHAPS there is not any part of creation, within the reach of our observations, which exhibits a more glorious display of the Almighty hand, than the vegetable world.”  During his travels in Florida he introduces the world to over 250 native plants and was given the Indian name PUC PUGGY – the flower hunter.

His illustrations in TRAVELS of the Ixea Cælestina, Hydrangea Quercifolia. and Anona Grandiflora are iconic of the Florida native plants he discovered, named and documented.  He is America’s first naturalist.

The Florida Native Plant Society is part of Bartram’s legacy. Using Bartram’s words and illustrations, Mike Adams, as William Bartram, will offer the connection with TRAVELS and the Society’s heritage.

The Bartram Trail Conference was formed with the purpose to encourage the study, preservation and interpretation of the William Bartram heritage by establishing a Bartram Trail National Heritage Corridor – a "string of pearls" concept by highlighting significant natural areas and culturally significant locations along Bartram’s route.

Sam Carr will update the Society on the efforts to memorialize William Bartram’s TRAVELS over 2,500 miles of the southeast by establishing the Bartram Trail National Heritage Corridor.  


Mike Adams is an ecologist, researcher, educator and author.  He holds a BS in Biology, with studies in Anthropology and a MS in Environmental Management.  He has lived and worked in Northeast Florida for 40 years. His professional career has spanned state government, private firm & sole proprietorship consulting, educational, nonprofit and volunteer organizations.  In semi-retirement, he manages Saturiwa Private Conservation Area, writes a nature column for a local newspaper, serves as St. Johns River Center docent, volunteers for the Bartram Trail Society of Florida, Marineland Right Whale Project, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and Florida Forest Service. He brings natural history to life with his colorful portrayals of colonial naturalist William Bartram.

Sam Carr lives on the St. Johns River in San Mateo, FL.   He is a retired District Manager for Ford Motor Company and now spends his time enjoying and promoting the St. Johns River. He was recently recognized by the St. Johns Riverkeeper as the St. Johns River Advocate of the Year.   He enjoys fishing from his kayak and doing outdoors stuff with his grandchildren with the support of his wife of 37 years Lorraine.  His passion for the river led him to chair a Putnam County committee to establish the Bartram Trail in Putnam County which became a National Recreation Trail.  He served two terms as a governor’s appointment to the Florida Greenways & Trails Council.

Sam is the President of the Bartram Trail Conference and the Bartram Trail Society of Florida. He is pursuing the establishment of the Bartram Trail National Heritage Corridor covering all 2,500 miles of Bartram’s TRAVELS over southeastern US.  Sam’s experiences with establishing trails and collaborations with groups has led him to working with agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Park Service, the Florida Humanities Council and the Department of the Interior.

Marc Godts

Why all FNPS members should love their local retail native nursery


Marc is an experienced manager, grower, and designer, with installation and maintenance experience. Marc’s philosophy is to use native plants as the foundation of all landscapes and to garden with appropriate non-invasive exotics. His favorite work is planting and maintaining natural areas for wildlife. His favorite fun is enjoying natural areas and photographing wildlife, both in Florida and elsewhere. Green Isle Gardens specializes in native plant cultivation, landscape design, installation, and maintenance, and provides service to both wholesale and retail customers. He received FNPS “Green Palmetto” awards for public service in 2009 and 2015, and was awarded the 2016 FNPS Landscape Design Award for Excellence for his concept in residential landscape design for the Turnipseed home in The Villages.

Lisa Rineman

St. Johns River Track - St. Johns Riverkeeper History and Advocacy


As a former senior staff member for Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, Lisa Rinaman has extensive experience building consensus around issues and helped implement numerous environmental initiatives and policies. Lisa was instrumental in leading the effort to develop and implement irrigation, fertilizer and Florida Friendly landscaping ordinances to better protect the St. Johns and local waterways. She also played a key role in securing state funding for water quality improvements, organizing the city’s successful Manatee Protection Plan, and pushing for programs necessary to fulfill the River Accord restoration plan for the Lower St. Johns River.

Before being named the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Lisa served as a valuable member of the St. Johns Riverkeeper Water Policy Group (WPG), a group that advocates for water conservation and reuse and policies that are more protective of our water resources.

Erin Largo-Wight, PhD

Incorporating Nature into the Build Environment

There is a growing recognition that built environments with contact with nature impact stress and well-being. Past findings suggest that access to and opportunities for nature contact reduce the perception of stress and related stress-related physiological consequences. Findings suggest that greater exposure to nature in the workplace, school, healthcare setting, and home environments have been associated with better health outcomes. This relationship appears to be strongest with the more “direct” forms of nature contact, such as outdoor exposures. This presentation will highlight my research on the impact of nature contact and stress and health outcomes. Adding nature contact to indoor spaces and or cultivating outdoor spaces with restoration in mind is an innovative and simple approach to promote well-being.


I grew up on the "nature coast" of Florida, earned degrees from University of South Florida (BS), University of Delaware (MS), and University of Florida (PhD) and joined the faculty at the University of North Florida, Department of Public Health in 2007. Currently, I'm an associate professor and program director at UNF in the Department of Public Health. I serve on the Executive Board of the UNF Environmental Center, Timucuan Parks Foundation Therapeutic Park Advisory Board, and other boards and committees aimed to promote well-being and facilitate community-based and active learning. I enjoy playing and being active with my family outdoors, especially at Florida's beaches, parks, and springs.

My research focuses on health by design and nature contact. Most of my current work is focused on controlling stress through community design. We are actively exploring the impact of nature contact on stress and well-being in the workplace, K-12 schools, clinical settings, and the home.

My second line of research explores sustainability-related health behaviors to learn how to best protect health-promoting nature and environmental resources.  Past studies explored, for example, the impact of increased access to recycling receptacles on recycling behavior and the impact of a ‘road diet’ on transportation behavior and population-based health outcomes.

I enjoy discussing my research and broader topics with the public. Feel free to contact me at largo.wight@unf.edu to learn more.

Jordan Huntley

What's the Deal with Florida's Sustainable Forests


As a native Floridian, N. Jordan Huntley offers a unique and valuable perspective on sustainable forest management in the state, in general, it is not just an internal motivation and love for the industry but one that he now displays outwardly. Born into a logging family, where his father and grandfather before him where members of the industry, he offers a rare first-hand knowledge of the trade from varying topics surrounding sustainability to the physical geography of the land itself. The education of present and future generations is something he is very passionate about, and not just for his own personal family but for yours and mine alike, the proverbial Lorax if you will; “I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongue”.  As a whole-hearted outdoors man, wondering the flatwoods of Florida, Jordan has gained an unsurmountable and non-duplicated wealth of knowledge in regards to varying aspects of the forest and the forest products industry.

Being raised in a family where the father was the owner and operator of a logging business Jordan felt the drive and desire to do more, to go further, to speak up, and that drive took him to Gainesville and The University of Florida. While studying at The University of Florida, he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Forest Resources Management and Conservation. Upon completion of his Bachelor’s Degree, he decided to further his education at The University of Florida and went on to receive a Master’s Degree in AgriBusiness. Jordan has been working as a professional forester in the Southeastern region of the United States for over 10 years and loves to share his passion with others. Jordan wants to excite others the way he is excited, he wants to spread the passion of his world to our world; just by simply asking What’s the Deal with Florida’s Sustainable Forests?

Kelly Smith, PhD and Nicole Llinas

Use of Spartina alterniflora in floating wetlands and shoreline restoration: Same plants performing two functions.

Spartina alterniflora is a dominant member of salt marshes along the East Coast of the United States.  It is frequently used in coastal restoration projects, in an attempt to restore wetland function to degraded coastline.  One of the challenges is the source of plants for restoration activities, since growth from seed is sometimes problematic.  In addition, best practices for coastal restoration should use Spartina populations for restoration that are adapted to the system in which they will be deployed. We took harvested Spartina culms (from the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve) with reduced root stock and grew them in the greenhouse in waters from relatively eutrophic freshwater retention ponds to look at nutrient uptake and root regeneration.  In addition we created floating wetlands where we deployed the plants in ponds to look at their growth under field conditions. Plants were then taken to field sites for deployment in a shoreline restoration demonstration.  Results indicate that plants with minimal root stock did grow extensive healthy roots in mesocosms, and took up available nitrate readily but were less effective with phosphorus.  These plants were able to be acclimated to salt water for restoration activities.  Other plants deployed in floating wetlands experienced environmental damage due to wind, human alteration, and grazing.  Plants deployed in the demonstration shoreline restoration were destroyed during a major storm event.  Lessons learned and expectations for further research will be discussed.  Research was conducted from 2017 through 2018.

I have always had a strong interest in human impacts on ecological systems, and have been involved in ecological restoration projects multiple estuarine systems such as Delaware Bay and the Hackensack Meadowlands near New York City.
My current research interests focus on juvenile fish ecology in estuarine environments. I am especially interested in the interaction between the role different living habitats such as oyster reef, salt marsh, and mangrove systems have on fish and benthic macro-faunal assemblages. I am currently investigating the effects of different methods of shoreline restoration on fish habitat use and abundance. Much of my research has direct implications for management and conservation of estuarine habitats and resources.

Art Levy

Native Plants and Journalism in the Sunshine State



Gabrielle 'Gabbie' Milch

St. Johns River Track - St. Johns Riverkeeper Education


Gabbie’s focus in the St. Johns Middle Basin is to assist the community to engage and learn about the quality of the River from Orange County to Lake George. She believes that the St. Johns River should be safe for kayaking, as well as swimmable and fishable. She wants to engage volunteers, members, and the community to participate in activities such as clean ups, River-Friendly Landscapes projects and riparian habitat restorations, riverfront hikes and other social learning activities. She spends time at the DeLand Office at 117 W Howry Ave, offering activities to expand the knowledge base about the middle basin’s issues and beauty. She was an UF IFAS Horticulture Agent / Master Gardener Coordinator, Florida-Friendly Landscaping Agent. She worked in the past for the St. Johns River Water Management District as a Watershed Action Volunteer Coordinator (WAV) in the middle basin and is familiar with water quality and quantity issues of the St. Johns. She graduated from Rollins College with a BA in Environmental Studies and has completed MS work at UF in Agricultural Education and Communications program. She loves to kayak, identify plants and animals, hike and photograph the beauty of nature.

Ben Williams

St. Johns River Track - Protecting Native Plants - A Landowner's Perspective


Ben and Louann Williams own and manage Wetlands Preserve, a 3,725 acre property adjacent to the Rice Creek Conservation Area in the North Florida Land Trust's O2O Corridor. They were recently awarded Landowners of the Year by FWC and placed a conservation easement on the whole property in September 2019.

Martha Pessaro, CIG

Saving the Bromeliads Program


Martha Pessaro works as the Central Region Education Coordinator for the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program at the Sams House at Pine Island Conservation Area in Brevard County, Florida. Her passion for the conservation and preservation of Native Florida, Tillandsia utriculata in particular, has been one focus of her volunteer time. As a founding member of the Friends of the Enchanted Forest (circa 1989) she worked with a small group of dedicated volunteers to save the important habitat of these special plants. The 393 acre Sanctuary was purchased and placed in the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program in 1991 and 1993. Her career at Kennedy Space Center program management for the Space Shuttle Solid Rockets spanned the life of the Shuttle program (35 years) and her volunteer work with the Friends of the Enchanted Forest paralleled that career and partnered with the current project working with Dr. Teresa Marie Cooper and a team of dedicated volunteers who have formed the Save Florida's Bromeliads Project. Love for the land and all living systems keeps her learning and directly working on projects to protect and preserve biological diversity through responsible stewardship and volunteer efforts.

Willy The Losen

The Warea Area - Putnam Land Conserancy's properties and their management


Willy the Losen is the Conservation Director for the Putnam Land Conservancy (PLC). Willy has a lifelong interest in land conservation and is passionate about its importance to a healthy planet and all its inhabitants including humans. PLC focuses on acquiring properties in undeveloped and sparsely developed subdivisions that have rare species and intact native plant communities. One such project PLC is working on is a partnership with the Florida Native Plant Society to conserve the largest population of the endangered plant Warea amplexifolia south of Ocala.

Rachel Mallinger, PhD

Florida's Native Bees


Dr. Rachel Mallinger leads research on plant-pollinator interactions and pollinator community ecology with an emphasis on native bees. She conducts research in natural, agricultural, and urban ecosystems to inform pollinator conservation and improve pollination to crops and wild plants. She runs the Mallinger Lab at the University of Florida Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Houston Snead

Rare Plant Conservation in Florida with the Florida Plant Conservation Alliance (FPCA)

The FPCA was formed in 2016 and seeks to prevent plant extinctions in the state of Florida. Working together in a network will help us fill gaps in the conservation of plant species, maximize our resources and prevent redundancies in conservation action. Since the formation of the FPCA a list of close to 100 species has been identified that may need attention from conservation groups. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (JZG) has recently created a full time plant conservation position, filled by Houston Snead FPCA Coordinator and now JZG Plant Conservation Officer. Houston is looking to the conservation community, native plant groups, and other stakeholders for information on the status of rare plants in the wild so that the best conservation actions and prioritization can come together. This talk will deliver a brief history of the FPCA, how the JZG Conservation team is helping threatened and endangered plants in Florida, and if there is time run through a list of plants we are currently looking for information on.


Houston Snead is a Jacksonville native who grew up in the San Marco area where his parents have always had an interesting collection of plants. These early experiences, learning from his parents about the diversity of their home garden, inspired Houston’s passion for plants. In 2001 at the age of 15 he started his first job at a local plant nursery. This experience gave him the foundation he needed to pursue a career in horticulture. After years of working in local plant nurseries Houston started a custom gardening business with a friend and mentor. This transition out of plant retail was a welcomed change where he could use his artistic inclination to design and maintain unique home gardens all over Jacksonville. In 2011 Houston accepted a position with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Horticulture Department. Since his employment Houston has worked in several areas of the zoo and continued with garden design and plant selection. Working in zoo horticulture has further transitioned Houston’s career with experience in public gardening, exhibit maintenance, identification of browse and toxic plants, and now rare plant conservation. In 2015 the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens asked its Horticulture Department to seek more involvement in plant conservation projects.  He has since worked on rare plant projects involving some of Florida’s native orchids, and secured funding from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for conservation projects he has found and championed. After the 2016 Southeastern Partners in Plant Conservation meeting at Atlanta Botanical Garden, Houston emerged as the coordinator of a new group in Florida aimed at developing a rare plant conservation network focused on project implementation. Currently known as the Florida Plant Conservation Alliance, this group includes zoological gardens, universities, botanical gardens, governing agencies, state parks, preserves and more. Moving forward Houston hopes to use zoo power to further rare plant conservation and education in Florida, the southeastern United States, and the world.

Workshop Leaders