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Instructor Information & Event Descriptions

Instructor/speaker biographical information & the events they will be facilitating are listed alphabetically by last name. Please click on links to individual & organization websites for more information about our facilitators & their missions.

Workshop Descriptions & Instructor Information: Text

Connie Betts is Harrison County Conservation’s Naturalist. Whooo’s There? What is that sound in the night? What owls are flying around and what are they eating? Bring the kids to learn all about Iowa owls, listen to their calls, and find out their adaptations to live at night. We’ll also dissect owl pellets to see what they have been eating and everyone gets to take the bones home! All materials supplied.

Join Bill Blackburn, president, Friends of Blackburn State Park; former chair, Loess Hills & Heritage Week; former chair,  the China-US Exchange on Loess Landforms, for his speech on Friday night - From Private Rec Area to State Park: How We Did It - where he will discuss how he worked with various governmental and nonprofit organizations over the last 20 years to develop his 150-acre parcel in the Loess Hills of Fremont County into a state park and wildlife management area, now anchoring approximately 1000 acres of DNR preserved lands at that location.

Jeanne Bockholt is a member of the Northwest Iowa Group of the Sierra ClubNorthwest Iowa Group Sierra Club will be leading My Patchwork Prairie on Friday night and Saturday night.

Butch Bowman is an instructor of the 4-H S.E.S.S. (Safety Education Shooting Sports) program. During Introduction to Archery, participants will learn how to handle a bow and arrows in a safe manner. You will also be able to practice target shooting.

Lance Brisbois of the Golden Hills RC&D will lead a Bike Tour of the Loess Hills on gravel roads through the Loess Hills around Turin. Bring your own gravel-friendly bike, a helmet, and water. The route will be 10-15 miles and include some hills but also flatter sections.


Mark, Ed, & Lee Brogie are a family of naturalists that have a passion for sharing their knowledge about birds at the seminar. They will be leading early Birding Walks for All Ages. Each will be offered in the early morning hours to ensure a variety of birds can be seen both Saturday and Sunday morning. Some binoculars will be provided. The Brogies will also provide a Bird Tour by Auto. Car caravan to several different habitat stops in the Loess Hills. You can choose to leave to be back by the 10:15AM session.

Cheryl Buntsma is a certified prevention specialist at Compass Pointe Behavioural Health. She has a love for the outdoors and an interest in geocaching. Cheryl has past experience with Archery and will be assisting Butch Bowman on the archery range in addition to running her Friday night program, Geocaching After Dark. Test your skills and knowledge of geocaching by attending this geocaching program in the dark. (Note: Parents, please accompany your young children for this program.)

Ron Butler grew up in the Loess Hills and has attended the seminar for many years. Retired teacher and world traveler, join Ron and a member of the Johnston family on the Turin Man Discovery Tour. In this session, you will hike up the Turin Man hill and listen to the history and view the Loess Hills from the top. The hike will take an hour. Ron will be offering a children’s session during the Saturday night adult session at the Onawa community center, Prehistoric Animals of the Loess Hills. He will have models of animals and talk about their lives on earth.

Doug Chafa works as the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist for the Missouri River Wildlife Management Unit, which totals seven counties. He and his team are based out of Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, IA and manage such areas as the Loess Hills Wildlife area, the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve, and organize the annual pre-LHPS, G.R.A.S.S. event. Anna Buckardt Thomas is an Avian Ecologist and works for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources with the Wildlife Diversity Program. The Wildlife Diversity Program has shifted its focus to landscape and ecosystem management, statewide inventory and monitoring of all wildlife species, and training volunteer wildlife surveyors, while still continuing public outreach functions and a reduced species reintroduction program. The program also currently oversees implementation of the Iowa Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy that will help guide DNR's fish and wildlife management activities over the next 25 years. Loess Hills Habitats & Birds - Hike with avian ecologist and wildlife biologist viewing birds and land stewardship practices. We will explore a variety of Loess hills habitats, from Grassland, to Savanna, to forest, and look for and identify the birds that use them. We will discuss and see on-the-ground implementation of habitat management strategies and learn about how management impacts birds. (Note: Some binoculars will be provided, but if you can supply your own, this will help ensure we have enough for everyone.)

Judy Ehlers, Chair of Monona County’s Historic Preservation Commission and retired school teacher will be leading a session on The Hidden Past of the South Jordan Cemetery. Judy will be discussing the history and importance of preserving this historic site, located north of Moorhead, IA.

Marlene Ehresman has served many volunteer organizations, supervised a teen center, co-founded two nonprofits, raised a family, finished her undergraduate degree, worked for a leading prairie restorationist, and worked for a leading conservation organization. She is the founder of the Iowa Wildlife Center in Ames, IA. Bats of Iowa: Not Rats, Not Birds - This program will cover some of the interesting natural history of our 9 native bat species, how you can help bats, and some special stories about those we have helped. Iowa Wildlife Center's live education bats will be present for a close-up look at these unique and helpful mammals.

Tyler Flammang works for Woodbury County Conservation as GIS Resource Technician at Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center and Shayne Bennett is currently a Wayne State College student and is an enthusiast who enjoys learning about and practicing primitive skills. Join them for their program - Primitive Hunting Tools: Atlatl - Come learn about early hunting tools, hunting tool construction, and test your aim by learning how to use a real atlatl and getting to launch real atlatl darts.  Program is family friendly, all ages and abilities are welcome.  Program supplies provided by the Woodbury County Conservation’s Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center.

Dan Fogell is a herpetologist as well as a Life and Human Sciences Instructor at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, NE. Dan’s goals are to get students interested in the natural sciences...even if science is not their major...and to allow them opportunities to be involved in actual scientific research and studies. Dan’s current research interests are centered on the distributions of Great Plains herpetofauna as well as the various factors that affect those distributions, such as habitat availability, alterations in land use, and global climate change. Dan has a particular interest in those species that reach their distributional boundaries within the Great Plains. In 2010, he published “A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Nebraska” which provides species accounts, photographs, and distribution maps for all 62 amphibian and reptile species native to Nebraska. Dan is an active member of both the Nebraska and Kansas Herpetological Societies and is also on the Board of Directors for the Center for North American Herpetology (CNAH). Dan is also the Editor for the Journal of North American Herpetology and the Associate Editor for Herpetology for the Prairie Naturalist. Amphibians & Reptiles of the Loess Hills - A discussion and presentation of the herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) of the Loess Hills will include a display of live animals for visitors to see.      

Larry Grill & Glenn Pollock have both attended the seminar year to year. Larry has a passion for history and archaeology. Glenn is known as a prairie enthusiast and a primary activist with the Iowa Prairie Network, as well as having interests in history, ecology, restoration, advocacy, and much more. They will be presenting a session on The 1820 Route of Stephen Watts Kearny through Iowa - a descriptive review of the 1820 military expedition across western Iowa as it existed before there were any settlements.

Brian Hazlett is a professor at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City. He is leading a session on Woody Plants for Beginners. This session is designed for those who wish to gain a greater familiarity with our local trees, shrubs, and vines. Participants should expect a medium walk on level ground. “On Common Ground”: A Multidisciplinary Convergence in Iowa’s Northern Loess Hills. By convening artists, writers, and naturalists to share space and stories, “On Common Ground” intends to promote the stewardship of Iowa’s Loess Hills by fostering greater awareness of and appreciation for this exceptional natural landscape through print and digital media while exemplifying how place-based experience invigorates collaboration among the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences.

Chuck Hopp has gained his skill through the Wilderness Awareness School in Washington. Nature Awareness & the Art of Mentoring - We will learn new ways to move and interact with nature. Through natural movement, sense meditation, storytelling, discussions and nature games. May also include bird language and animal tracking. 

Erica Larson is a teacher from St. Mary’s High School in Storm Lake, IA. The Nature of Loess Soil - Have you ever heard of the special soil that makes up the beautiful Loess Hills of western Iowa? In this session, you will learn about the special characteristics of loess as a soil type, how the loess formed in this area of Iowa during past glacial events, and why the loess soil can maintain a vertical face (cut bank) for so long. We will take a short hike to collect loess soil and then bring it back to do some investigations of the properties of loess soil using water and other tools. To conclude we will use the loess soil to create something fun for you to take home as a keepsake.

Dennis Leonard is a member of the Sergeant Floyd Tri-state Chapter of the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. Sterling Fichter will assist Dennis with their program The Lewis & Clark Expedition: Pioneer Naturalists in Western Iowa - We will be setting up an 1804 living-history camp featuring period-correct clothing, accoutrements, and activities. Discussions will cover the Expedition soldiers’ daily life and the captains’ scientific observations and discoveries made while traversing the west of edge of the future state of Iowa.

Deb Lewis is the herbarium curator at Iowa State University and a board member and the newsletter editor for the Iowa Native Plant Society. Who’s Your Neighbor? A Plant’s-Eye View of the Prairie - A hands-on, non-technical introduction to prairie plant interactions with their living and non-living environment. We’ll begin with a walk, then sit in the prairie (an old towel or cushion might make it more comfortable). Rich Pope is the chair of the Loess Hills Alliance. He returned to western Iowa after a career with ISU Extension. Join Rich and Deb as they discuss Collecting, Documenting, & Pressing Plants - plant specimens (samples) document the occurrence of a plant population in a particular place. The session will introduce collecting “ethics”, the tools and techniques for collecting, pressing and drying plant specimens and the information needed for labeling them.

Kelly Madigan is a property owner and Airbnb host, who walked the entire length of the Loess Hills in Iowa in the fall of 2020. More on that here: Patrick Swanson is a private landowner and author who has been working to restore a native prairie remnant in Harrison County.  You can read more about his project here: The LoHi Trail: A Vision of Connectivity & Safe Passage through the Loess Hills - What if there was a continuous safe route for creatures of all kinds throughout the Loess Hills? What would it take to connect the existing blocks of wild land? We’ll discuss the conservation benefits, why the Loess Hills are uniquely suited for this, and what a long-distance walking route would look like. We will also identify significant obstacles, and invite participants to brainstorm about overcoming them.

Debra Marquart, Iowa State University Professor and current Poet Laureate, will be giving Saturday night’s keynote address “Healing the Wild”: A Celebration of the Preservation Work of Marlene Ehresman, Iowa Wildlife Center - For over three decades, Marlene Ehresman has worked in prairie restoration and in conservation in the state of Iowa with organizations such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Iowa Wildlife Center, which she now runs as the sole staff member, overseeing the work of dozens of volunteers to fulfill the IWC’s mission of rescue, care, and education. Join us for this profile of Ms. Ehresman’s work and celebration of her years of commitment to conservation and preservation. Don’t miss her Sunday session, Sounding Our Place, a generative writing session to encourage conference participants to reflect on, record, and document some of the insights and experiences gleaned during the conference. Using a word hoarding technique, Marquart will lead participants through a series of creative prompts to encourage documentation of remembrances and storytelling.

Graham McGaffin works for The Nature Conservancy in Sioux City, IA. Loess Hills Conservation 101 - Session will deliver a presentation on past and present land conservation efforts in the Loess Hills.

Join Stennie Nelson for a Tuuli Farm Pasture Walk around the Loess Hills acreage where she raises a flock of fiber/meat sheep. Through rotational grazing, her aim is to encourage the thriving biodiversity of the land and local wildlife while also providing for the nutritional needs of her sheep to produce high quality sheep-to-skein yarn and grass-fed lamb meat. Now in her second growing season here, she’ll show the different approaches she’s exploring to knock back the smooth brome and increase biodiversity. Come meet the flock and discuss the benefits of thoughtful grazing on the landscape. You can read more about Tuuli Farm here: or follow along at

Kay Neumann is the Director of S.O.A.R - Saving Our Avian Resources. This is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1999 dedicated to “saving our avian resources” through raptor rehabilitation, education, and research. Join Kay at the S.O.A.R. Raptor Program and meet her birds, learn bird-of-prey behavior, and learn about some of the raptors that call the Loess Hills home. Hopefully, Kay will have a raptor ready for release!

Sarah Nizzi is a member of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and a Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner and NRCS Partner Biologist. Currently, Sarah covers all of Iowa, providing technical and financial assistance to farmers and landowners interested in pollinator conservation, as well as training NRCS and partner staff on pollinators and pollinator habitat. Sarah is originally from central Iowa and is a graduate from Drake University with a bachelor's of science in environmental science. Please join us Friday night for Sarah’s Keynote Address: Breaking Dormancy: Pollinators of the Loess Hills to learn about the pollinators of the Loess Hills ecoregion. Sarah, will give an overview of the status of pollinators, introduce pollinators of the Loess Hills we can all be on the lookout for during the LHPS, and how each of us can do our part to support these important organisms.

Michael O’Connor - Tribal member of the Ihanktonwan Nakota (Yankton Sioux). Plants are a part of Native American Culture. Join Michael in his program, Growing Your Relationship with Creation, to understand just how deeply connected they are to plants.

Amy Plettner works for the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center and is a caretaker and outdoor educator. Insects: The Art & Science of Observation - Explore the extraordinary world of these tiny creatures using sweep nets, magi scopes, & one's own keen sense of wonder.

Don Poggensee is a very talented photographer who enjoys every chance he can to live out his passion. He has been coming to the seminar year after year offering programs and using his talent by photographing this event. Don will offer two programs: Prairie Photography and Digital Images. His sessions will include an introduction in how to capture the best photo in the field, setting up a photo shoot, selecting a subject, lighting, and best composition. Checking exposure and knowing your camera settings will help you capture that great image! (Note: Please bring your own camera to this session.)

Andrea Porter is a former Monona County Conservation Naturalist and currently works for The Nature Conservancy. Katie Hoeppner is an Iowa Department of Natural Resources Park Ranger at Lewis and Clark State Park. Josh Schaben is the current Monona County Conservation Deputy-Director and Park Ranger. Tyler Ruge is the current Monona County Conservation Naturalist and Event Coordinator for the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar. Kayaking & Fishing in the Loess Hills - Do you have the desire to learn the fundamentals of fishing and kayaking? Join us to gain some life skills in these two great recreational activities. There will be a short drive to a local pond. Please be ready to be near and or on the water. Also, be prepared with the possibility of getting wet. Water shoes may be desired as well as sunscreen, hat, water, and camera.    

Dr. Tom Rosburg is an expert in the field of biology and professor at Drake University. Nature Scavenger Hunt for Kids - This is a hands-on, fun-filled activity for kids ages 5 to 12. We will take nets and bottles to nearby areas to look for natural treasures and collect or observe items on a nature checklist. Parents are welcome to join us. Prairie Flora of the Loess Hills - This session will explore the prairie ridges and slopes in the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve to find and identify plants, provide identification tips, and discuss their biology and ecology. At least 125 plant species in the Preserve are native to the prairie communities on the Preserve. We’ll make an effort to find 100 of those prairie species. It will be a moderate to long hike, but we go pretty slow.   

Kari Sandage is a Woodbury County Conservation Naturalist at the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Sioux City, IA. Insect Safari - During this interactive family program, we will learn all about bugs and why they are important. We will also go on an “Insect Safari” where we will walk and look for bugs. Nets and bug carriers will be provided so that kids can catch, study, and release the critters we find.

Tom Schoening is a member of the Sioux City Camera Club, which has a Youtube channel “Siouxland Videos.” Let’s Make a Loess Hills Prairie Seminar Video I - Photographers, YouTubers, fledgling actors and wannabe bloggers/newscasters are invited to join a video production team to help make a video documentary about this year's Prairie Seminar. Using smartphones and tablets, we will photograph and interview participants during a variety of activities, to be compiled into a video for display Saturday evening. Let’s Make a Loess Hills Prairie Seminar Video Part II - The video production team will discuss photos and videos gathered and any last minute shots needed. Then we will head for the Onawa Community Center to edit and design a video using a popular smartphone/tablet app. Our video documentary about this year's Prairie Seminar must be completed by 6:30 p.m. for projecting to the audience at the evening session. Let’s Make a Loess Hills Prairie Seminar Video Part III - photos and videos of the Sunday morning activities, including the raptor release, will be captured. Tom will use the additional footage and photos to produce an extended version of the video for the Prairie Seminar Facebook page and website post seminar.

Larry Stone is a semi-retired freelance writer/photographer/lecturer. Karen Grimes has had a long career as an environmental writer and editor. Persuasive Writing on Behalf of Natural Resources - Learn to communicate your passion for environmental issues in an informal discussion and workshop with Larry Stone and Karen Grimes. They will share writing samples and critiques.

Bill Zales is very active in the conservation community within the greater Siouxland area. Bill is a retired professor from Joliet Illinois Junior College. Bryophytes (Mosses & Liverworts) of the Loess Hills - Meet the most overlooked members of the prairie ecosystem. Observe their interesting structures and learn their role in the Loess Hills. Learn to identify a few species. Loess Hills Mammals - Specimens of almost all of the mammals occurring in the Hills will be displayed and their biology discussed. Some are very common, some are rarely seen and some threatened with extinction.

Workshop Descriptions & Instructor Information: Text
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