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Emily Yates, M.S., GISP

Emily Yates
Seed Bank Coordinator, Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank
Manager, Conservation GIS Lab
(847) 835-6861
Curriculum Vitae: 
Teaching and Research Affiliations: 

Instructor, Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden

Adjunct Lecturer, Program in Biological Sciences, Northwestern University

Selected Professional Associations: 
  • Society for Conservation GIS
  • Association of American Geographers
  • Illinois Native Plant Society
  • Illinois GIS Association
  • Illinois Geographical Society
  • URISA, Association for GIS Professionals
Research Interests: 
  • Seed banking and ex-situ plant conservation
  • Applications of Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology for illuminating patterns and providing solutions for the conservation of plants and ecosystems
  • Prairie conservation and restoration in the Midwest and Great Plains
  • Biogeography of plants

Coordinating the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank  This includes collection of native seed, herbarium and DNA vouchers, data, and photos at field sites across the Midwest and Great Plains by staff, volunteers, and more than 30 contract seed collectors. The Seed Bank Coordinator serves to support the partnership between the Chicago Botanic Garden, the national Seeds of Success (SOS) program, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSBP). SOS is an interagency program supporting seed collection of native plant populations to increase the amount of native seed available for use in stabilizing, rehabilitating, and restoring land in the United States. The MSBP partnership saves plants worldwide with a focus on plants most at risk and most useful for the future. The Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank at the Chicago Botanic Garden collects and banks native plant species from the tallgrass prairie region for long-term conservation and use in restoration projects and research.

Development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping and decision-support tools for targeted seed banking
We use GIS for prioritization of seed-collecting schemes to conserve the broadest possible range of genetic diversity within and among populations of plant species important for restoration. A widespread geographic area, numerous target species and sites, and limited resources demand effective prioritization of seed collection efforts. Spatially explicit decision-support systems using GIS provide a framework to integrate a variety of spatial data, evaluate potential sites and species, and prioritize collecting efforts across a regional scale. GIS can optimize collecting strategies for multiple populations across a species range and aid in conservation decision-making and planning.

Mapping and quantifying shifts in geographic distributions of rare plants in response to climate change
Knowledge of species’ distributions is fundamental for conservation planning. Species distribution modeling using Diva-GIS and Maxent software and future climate-change scenarios are integrated in a GIS environment to explore how species distributions may change with a changing climate. Given that range shifts occur with changing climate and rare plants are likely to have difficulty migrating under climate change, ex situ conservation efforts, such as seed banking, may provide the propagules necessary for restoration of habitats in the future.

Selected Publications: 

Fant, J.B., K. Havens, J.M. Keller, A.Radosavljevic & E. D. Yates. 2014. The influence of contemporary and historic landscape features on the genetic structure of the sand dune endemic, Cirsium pitcheri (Asteraceae). Heredity 8 January 2014:1-12. doi:10.1038/hdy.2013.134

Croat, T. B., E. D. Yates, and A. Swart. 2010. Araceae. In: R. Vásques Martínez, R. R. Gonzáles, and H. van der Werff (eds.), Flora del Río Cenepa, Amazonas, Perú, Volume 1. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, MO.

Vitt, P., K. Havens, A. T. Kramer, D. Sollenberger, and E. D. Yates. 2010. Assisted migration of plants: changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes. Biological Conservation 143:18-27.

Yates, E. D. 2009. The Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank: ex-situ conservation of native plant species. Missouri Prairie Journal 30(1):22-27.

Croat, T. B., D. Bay, and E. D. Yates. 2008. New species of Philodendron (Araceae) from Bajo Calima, Valle Department, Colombia. Novon 18(4):429-452.

Croat, T. B., D. Bay, and E. D. Yates. 2007. New species of Stenospermation and Xanthosoma (Araceae) from Bajo Calima, Valle Department, Colombia. Novon 17(3):298-305.

Croat, T. B., D. Bay, and E. D. Yates. 2006. New taxa of Anthurium (Araceae) from the Bajo Calima Region (Valle, Chocó), Colombia and Ecuador. Novon 16(1):25-50.

Croat, T. B., E. D. Yates, and D. Hayworth. 2005. New taxa of Anthurium and Philodendron (Araceae) from western Amazonia. Willdenowia 35(2):345-358.

Croat, T. B., A. Swart, and E. D. Yates. 2005. New species of Araceae from the Río Cenepa region, Amazonas Department, Perú. Rodriguézia 56(88):65-126.

Yates, E. D. and K. E. Kordecki. 2005. Pistia stratiotes L. (Araceae) — ubiquitous Aroid invader. International Aroid Society Newsletter 27(3):12-15.

Yates, E. D., ed. 2005. International Aroid Society Newsletter. 27(1,2,3,4).

Yates, E. D., D. F. Levia, and C. L. Williams. 2004. Recruitment of three non-native invasive plants into a fragmented forest in southern Illinois. Forest Ecology and Management 190:119-130.

Yates, E. D., T. R. Rosburg, and K. R. Swanson. 1998. An assessment of the efficacy of using GPS for biological monitoring of the effects of deer herbivory on forest vegetation. Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Iowa Space Grant Conference University of Iowa: Iowa City, IA.


E. D. Yates, B. Barak, R. Goad, L. Umek. Maps for Plants - GIS Enhances Plant Conservation at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 4 case study projects.Association of American Geographers (AAG) annual meeting, Chicago, IL, April 21-24, 2015.

M. K. Johnston, L. Westphal,E. D. Yates. Advances in Remote Sensing and GIS: Mapping Land Cover and its Many Applications such as Characterizing Suitable Habitat for a Gravel Hill Prairie Plant. Greening Infrastructure Track, Chicago Wilderness Congress,University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Forum, April 3, 2014.

Wright, C., E. D. Yates, R. Goad, J. Fant, S. Still. GIS-based Spatial Analysis of Rare Plant Populations on Gravel Hill Prairies: Habitat Suitability Modeling. Illinois GIS Association (ILGISA) Fall Conference, Lisle, IL, October 21-22, 2013.

Goad, R., J. Fant, S. Still, C. Wright, E. D. Yates, S. Masi.A Spatial Assessment of Rare Plant Locations across Chicago Wilderness: Putting Citizen Science Data to Work. Natural Areas Association Conference, Chicago, IL, October 1-2, 2013.

Undercover Science: Painting with Numbers. CBG Blog written by Julianne Beck covering E. Yates’ work in the CBG GIS Lab & Seed Bank, September 3, 2013:

E. D. Yates. Using spatial analysis and GIS to investigate patterns in rare plants monitored by the Chicago Botanic Garden's Plants of Concern Program. 2013 ESRI International User Conference (UC), San Diego, CA, July 8-12, 2013.



Seeds of Success National Program Image Gallery
Discover galleries of images taken by collecting teams across the United States involved in the national Seeds of Success Program! The Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank at the Chicago Botanic Garden has a gallery that includes photos of many seed-collecting field trips across the Midwest and Great Plains, beautiful high-resolution microscope photos of individual seeds captured by our seed bank volunteers, and gorgeous images of plants and other natural creatures we’ve encountered during our adventures.

Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank, Chicago Botanic Garden

National Seeds of Success Program

Millennium Seed Bank Project, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom

Chicago Botanic Garden’s Research Collections online database
Collection data for the Dixon Seed Bank, as well as herbarium, DNA, and image collections from the research department can be viewed online at the Garden’s Research Collections online database. As part of a National Science Foundation-funded Conservation GIS Laboratory in the Plant Conservation Science Center, we are partnering with Seiler Instruments, Trimble GPS, and CartoPac Field Solutions to automate and streamline our field data collection procedure for the Seed Bank. This helps us manage, and visually map within a GIS environment, the data-intensive information associated with our 300-plus yearly seed collections. Data is collected in the field with Trimble Juno GPS devices and directly uploaded to the database online.

Society for Conservation GIS
The Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS) is a nonprofit organization that builds community, provides knowledge, and supports individuals using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and science for the conservation of natural resources and cultural heritage.