As cofounder and coordinator of the unique regional rare plant monitoring program Plants of Concern (POC), I am actively involved with more than 300 volunteers and 91 public and private landowners, including seven forest preserve districts of northeast Illinois, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the Chicago Park District, the Nature Conservancy, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for our Wisconsin program. POC also conducts a special monitoring program at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, for which I shared the U.S. Forest Service Excellence in Botany Partnership Award in 2009. This collaborative program has worked at 275 sites to monitor 234 species of endangered, threatened, and rare plant species.
The standardized data we gather on each population of rare plants is a count or estimate of plant numbers as well as a report on the threats to the populations and a listing of invasive species affecting them. We also record the management activities being implemented to improve the populations, such as burning, brush cutting, and invasive species removal. This information is fed back to land owners so that they might take steps to solve imminent problems and thus to preserve these rare plants and their habitats. POC data, in time, can also be used to understand the impacts of climate change on rare plant populations.
On a long-term basis, after the 2010 season, we will be in a position to analyze ten years of data to understand trends for rare plants throughout the region. How they are faring — increasing, decreasing, or remaining stable? What are the major threats, including invasive species, they face? How is management helping these plants?
I am also active on the Governor's appointed Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board, where I share the knowledge gained from Plants of Concern at a statewide leve and contribute to the listing or delisting of plants as endangered or threatened in the state of Illinois. I also serve on the Plant Endangered Species Technical Advisory Committee, which is advisory to the Board.
With the support of grants, I am fortunate to have a staff of two research assistants. Our department's information manager, Bianca Rosenbaum, maintains the Plants of Concern website, plantsofconcern.org.
I am grateful to have received funding for the Plants of Concern program since 2001 to the Chicago Botanic Garden from Chicago Wilderness, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (C2000 and the Wildlife Preservation Fund), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and CorLands (Corporation for Open Lands), the U.S. Forest Service, the Donnelley Foundation, and the Nature Conservancy.
Masi, S. 2010. Plants of Concern volunteers geared up to monitor a delicate spring species — Slender Sandwort. Prairie Telegraph 14(3):5.
Fant, J.B., R.M. Holstrum, E. Sirkin, J.R. Etterson, and S. Masi. 2008. Genetic structure of
threatened native populations and propagules used for restoration, in a clonal
species, Ammophila breviligulata fern (American beachgrass). Restoration Ecology 16(4):594-603.
Masi, S. 2007. Plants of Concern: volunteers help land managers track rare plants.
Illinois Audubon Fall:22-23.
Fant, J.B., S. Masi, J.M. Keller, and R. Mann. 2007. Investigating the reproductive health of
Hill’s thistle (Cirsium hillii) populations in the Chicago region. Chicago Wilderness 5(1):29-40.
Turner, N.A., W.C. Taylor, S. Masi, and M. Stupen. 2005. Confirming dioecy in Isoetes butleri. American Fern Journal 95(2):85-87.
Masi, S. 2003. Tracking down rare plants: Plants of Concern brings together volunteers, agencies, landowners and scientists. Chicago Wilderness Journal 1(1):22-26. Online.
Masi, S. 2003. Plants of Concern: volunteers conduct standardized rare plant monitoring on a regional scale (Northeast Illinois). Ecological Restoration. 21(1):64.
Antonio, T.M., and S. Masi. 2001. The sunflower family in the Upper Midwest. Indiana Academy of Science. Indianapolis, Ind.
Masi, S. 2010. Plants of Concern. Oral presentation at BeWise (Women in Science and Engineering) Conference, USEPA, Region 5. Chicago, March 12.
Masi, S., and K. Glennemeier. 2009. Plants of Concern. What volunteer monitors have
learned. Oral presentation at Wild Things Stewardship Conference. University of Illinois at Chicago, February.
Masi, S., and A. Kelly. 2008. Ravine flora: Tracking the health of a unique plant community. Oral presentation at the symposium Reclaiming Our Ravines: Protecting Our Ecological Treasures. Chicago Botanic Garden, April 24.
Masi, S., and A. Kelly. 2008. Citizen scientists monitor rare plants in Chicago Wilderness. Oral presentation for symposium on Citizen Science in Ecology at the ESA Annual Meeting. Milwaukee, WI, August 3-8.
Masi, S., and S. Kroiss. 2007. Plants of Concern: A volunteer-based rare plant monitoring program (Northeast Illinois) poster for the Plant Biology & Botany 2007 Conference, Chicago, IL, July 7-11 and the Janet Meakin Poor Symposium, Chicago Botanic Garden, October 19.
Masi, S., and E. Kapler. 2007. Monitoring rare plants at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie 2001-2006. Oral presentation at the National Grassland Manager’s Meeting. Joliet, IL, May 15.
Masi, S., and S. Kroiss. 2006. Plants of Concern: A volunteer-based rare plant monitoring program (Northeast Illinois). Poster presented at the Janet Meakin Poor Symposium, Chicago Botanic Garden, October.
Masi, S., and E. Kapler. 2006. Long-term rare plant monioring at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (Illinois). Poster presented at North American Prairie Conference, University of Nebraska, Kearny, July, and at the 33rd Annual Natural Areas Association Conference, Flagstaff, AZ, September.
Masi, S., and E. Kapler. 2006. Rare plant monitoring at Midewin. Oral presentation at the symposium Ten Years of Progress in Restoration & Research at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. University of St. Francis, Joliet, IL, August.
Masi, S., and E. Kapler. 2006. Long-term rare plant monitoring at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (Illinois). Poster at the North American Prairie Conference at the University of Nebraska. Kearny, NE, July 23-26.
Masi, S., and R. Mann. 2005. Plants of Concern: Volunteers monitor rare species in a standardized regional program (Northeast Illinois). The World Conference on Ecological Restoration, Zaragoza, Spain, September.
Masi, S., 2005. The sunflower family in the Upper Midwest. Annual meeting of the McHenry County Defenders, Crystal Lake, IL, February.
Masi, S. and L. Reich. 2004. Plants of Concern: Volunteers monitor rare species in a standardized regional program (Northeast Illinois). 16th Annual Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration, Victoria, British Columbia, August.