Chicago Botanic GardenPHOTO

PHOTO: new growth on the prairie after a burn

Adult Education Classes

Research-based Answers to Burning Questions about the Ecology of Prescribed Fires: When, Where, Why?

A Janet Meakin Poor Research Symposium

Friday, October 26, 2012
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Registration fee: $99 nonmember; members receive 20% discount


Intentionally burning fire-prone habitats, such as forest, savannah, and grassland, is a critically important tool for land managers to improve habitat, control weeds, promote ecosystem health, and reduce risks of catastrophic fires. In this symposium, international experts in fire ecology will examine the history of natural fires, current fire research, and future trends in fire-maintained ecosystems as diverse as Wisconsin sand plains, Minnesota grasslands, boreal and western forests, and Florida sand pine scrubs. We will synthesize these diverse perspectives to gain insight into improving local and regional prescribed burning practices.

TIME TOPICS AND SPEAKERS (Will be updated as details are confirmed)

9 a.m.

Kayri Havens, Ph. D., Medard and Elizabeth Welch Director, Plant Science and Conservation, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL

9:10 a.m.

Catch a fire: Combining long-term data and new models to understand pyrogenic ecosystems and inform land management.

Eric Menges, Ph.D. senior research biologist, Archbold Biological Station, Venus, Florida

Dr. Menges' research includes long-term (up to 24 years) demographic data on 18 plant species found in upland Florida ecosystems, collected in relation to a fire regime with variation in time-since-fire, heterogeneity, seasonality, and intensity. These data are integrated with demographic models incorporating fire, with recent collaborations including Bayesian modeling and integral projection models. These demographic analyses complement metapopulation data, field experiments on plant communities, and assessments of fire effects at several levels. One goal is to inform land management about fire regimes that promote biodiversity, resilience, and population viability.

10 a.m.


10:20 a.m.








11:10 a.m.

Northwestern Wisconsin sand plains

Sara Hotchkiss, Ph.D., Department of Botany and Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

Dr. Hotchkiss's work uses paleoecological techniques and historical land survey records to examine how vegetation communities and fire regimes in the northwestern Wisconsin sand plain have responded to changes in climate over the past 4000 years.


PHOTO: Michael StambaughMissouri tree ring laboratory

Michael Stambaugh, Ph.D., research assistant professor, Department of Forestry University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri

Dr. Stambaugh supervises research conducted by the Missouri Tree-Ring Laboratory documenting past changes in forests as a means for understanding potential future scenarios.



1 p.m.

Sociology of fire

Eric Toman, Ph.D., assistant professor, School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University

Dr. Toman will be speaking on the social dynamics of fire management.

1:50 p.m.

Stretch Break

2 p.m.

Fire in a changing climate: quantifying and managing carbon trade-offs

Matthew Hurteau, Ph.D., assistant professor of forest resources, Penn State, University Park, Pennsylvania

Dr. Hurteau's research uses both field studies and modeling to address a range of topics including: forest carbon, wildfire, species diversity, and productivity. Determining how climate change will influence disturbance patterns and species distribution is paramount for informing land management that will help ensure the continued existence of intact, fully functioning forest systems.


2:50 p.m.

Northern Tallgrass Prairie vs. Central Tallgrass Prairie Discussion

We are at an intermediate latitude of the Great Plains. How do findings to our north and south agree or contrast? To what extent are lessons transferable across space? What is general to the region as a whole vs. what is specific to place?

PHOTO: Peter Reich


Speaker from the North

Peter Reich, Ph.D., professor, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota

PHOTO: Scott Collins


Speaker from the South

Scott Collins, Ph.D., regent's professor of biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Study includes the effects of fire frequency, climate variability and resource availability on Flint Hills tallgrass prairie.

3:50 p.m.

Wrap-up Session

4 p.m.

Symposium Concludes

Keep checking back for program updates!


The Janet Meakin Poor Research Symposium is partially endowed by the friends of Janet Meakin Poor, a Chicago-area conservationist and landscape designer dedicated to preserving natural habitats. This symposium is developed in a long-standing partnership between the Plant Science and Conservation department and the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden Adult Education department at the Chicago Botanic Garden.


Symposium Location

The symposium will be held in the Grainger Gallery of the Plant Conservation Science Center at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. Directions to the Garden can be found here.



The Regenstein School of the Chicago Botanic Garden recommends the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel for accommodations.