The Conservation Conference will include talks from influential speakers in the field of native plant conservation. Come be inspired!

Plenary speaker abstracts are included in the Technical Presentation Abstracts PDF, which is available for download on the abstracts page »

Opening Plenary: Doug Tallamy

Restoring Nature’s Relationships
Thursday, February 1, 8:15 am

Specialized relationships between animals and plants are the norm in nature rather than the exception. Plants that evolved in concert with local animals provide for their needs better than plants that evolved elsewhere. Tallamy will explain why this is so, why specialized food relationships determine the stability and complexity of the local food webs that support animal diversity, why our yards and gardens are essential parts of the ecosystems that sustain us, how we can use our residential landscapes to connect the isolated habitat fragments around us and produce valuable ecosystem services, and what we can do to make our landscapes living ecosystems once again. Managing landscapes in this crowded world carries both moral and ecological responsibilities that we can no longer ignore.

Doug Tallamy - LepidopteraDoug Tallamy, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 87 research publications and has taught Insect Taxonomy, Behavioral Ecology, Humans and Nature, Insect Ecology, and other courses for 34 years. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. His book Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens was published by Timber Press in 2007 and was awarded the 2008 Silver Medal by the Garden Writers’ Association. The Living Landscape, co-authored with Rick Darke, was published in 2014. Doug is also a regular columnist for Garden Design magazine. Among his awards are the Garden Club of America Margaret Douglas Medal for Conservation and the Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of Excellence.

Opening Plenary Sponsored By
Gottlieb Native Garden

Banquet Speaker: Stu Weiss

Smog is Fertilizer: The Long and Winding Road from the Pages of Conservation Biology to a Habitat Conservation Plan
Friday, February 2, during the banquet

The road from scientific discovery to conservation action is rarely straight and narrow, nor is it fast. In this talk, Stu will recount how a revelation in 1993 – that nitrogen fertilization from Silicon Valley smog threatened the listed Bay checkerspot butterfly by driving annual grass invasions in serpentine grasslands, and that cattle grazing was the key to controlling the impacts – was turned into a scientific publication, and then leveraged to eventually create the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan. Publishing the paper in 1999 was only a first step; mitigation precedents for powerplant nitrogen emissions led to mitigation for freeway widening that included a commitment to a regional HCP in 2001. After more than 10 years of additional science and advocacy, including “Operation Flower Power” tours for elected officials and others and building a “Habitat Conservation Now” coalition, the Habitat Plan was adopted in 2013. The 50-year, $665,000,000 HCP/NCCP promises coordinated conservation and long-term stewardship, and the first major conservation acquisition, >1800 acres of mostly serpentine grasslands, was closed in 2015. Nitrogen deposition is a major, if underappreciated, threat to biodiversity of native plants across much of California and the Santa Clara Valley experience provides one model for addressing it.

Weiss Headshot cropped 2Stu Weiss, Ph.D. (Stanford University) is Chief Scientist of Creekside Science (, which provides scientific and conservation expertise to diverse organizations as they cope with the rapidly changing 21st Century environment. He has researched the Bay checkerspot butterfly and serpentine grasslands since 1979, and has authored numerous scientific papers concerning climate/microclimate, population dynamics, nitrogen deposition, and conservation ecology. Creekside Science executes many hands-on restoration projects, including butterfly reintroductions, propagation of endangered plants, and habitat monitoring and management. His research and advocacy were instrumental in the development of the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan, and he is Science Advisor for the Bay Area Conservation Lands Network.

Closing Plenary Talks: Best Kept Secrets!

Saturday, February 3, 3:00 pm

California plant conservation is a remarkable success story. Against all odds, we have protected almost 50% of our lands and saved 99.7% of our plant species. Key to this success is the application of cutting edge science to urgent action. However, there are remarkably important scientific discoveries which remain surprisingly little-known.

This session gives a spotlight to scientists and explorers whose innovative work will transform your understanding of California plants and places, and open your eyes to hidden “aha!” truths. You will come away with stories to share, a broadened perspective that will advance and transform your work, and inspiration from the beauty and magic of this still-mysterious land.

Carolyn Malmstrom

MalmstromCarolyn Malmstrom, Ph.D. earned her doctorate at Stanford and is now an associate professor in plant biology at Michigan State University. Her group does research in plant and landscape ecology, and currently is investigating plant – virus interactions in numerous ecosystems. Carolyn grew up in California, to which her great-great-grandparents had emigrated from Ireland and Denmark. Her grandmother, Jean Maxwell, was an ardent conservationist, and Carolyn shares her goal of preserving California’s gorgeous flora and landscapes.

Blair McLaughlin

mclaughlinBlair McLaughlin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of ecology at Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts. Her work focuses on ecological response to climate change, climate change refugia, and the role of ecology in informing conservation practice. Current and recent projects involve climate change and drought in endemic California oak ecosystems, synthesis work on ecologists’ contributions to climate change adaptation planning, and citizen science collaborations with the California Native Plant Society. She did her graduate work at University of California Santa Cruz and postdoctoral work at University of California Berkeley.

Kim Stanley Robinson

KSR Author UL 048Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the international bestselling Mars trilogy, and more recently New York 2140, Aurora, Shaman, Green Earth, and 2312, which was a New York Times bestseller nominated for all seven of the major science fiction awards—a first for any book. He was sent to the Antarctic by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers’ Program in 1995, and returned in their Antarctic media program in 2016. In 2008 he was named a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine, and he works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and UC San Diego’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. His work has been translated into 25 languages, and won a dozen awards in five countries, including the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy awards. In 2016 he was given the Heinlein Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction, and asteroid 72432 was named “Kimrobinson.”