2020 Northern California Botanists Symposium

The Diversity of Northern California Botany: Challenges and Opportunities

Northern California Botanists hosted their 10th botanical symposium on January 13-14 on the campus of California State University in Chico. Optional workshops were held on Wednesday, January 15. Sessions included: Fire in Managed Landscapes, Restoration, Pollination, Species Boundaries, Plant Biotic Interactions, New Discovers, Now the Good News, and Lightning Talks. A dedicated Poster Session was held on Tuesday morning.

Congratulations to our Student Poster Winners!

  • First Place - Lina Luu and Tuesday Weaver, California State University, Fullerton
  • Second Place - Anjum Kaur, California State University, San Jose
  • Third Place - Justin Luong, University of California, Santa Cruz

Thank You to our 2020 Symposium Sponsors!

  • Ascent Environmental, Inc.
  • California Department of Conservation, Division of Mine Reclamation
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • California Invasive Plant Council
  • California Native Grasslands Association (CNGA)
  • California Native Plant Society (CNPS) – State Office
  • California Native Plant Society (CNPS) – Dorothy King Young Chapter
  • California Native Plant Society (CNPS) – Mt. Lassen Chapter
  • California Native Plant Society (CNPS) – North Coast Chapter
  • California Native Plant Society (CNPS) – Sacramento Valley Chapter
  • California Native Plant Society (CNPS) – Shasta Chapter
  • The Chico State Herbarium
  • College of Natural Sciences, California State University, Chico
  • Friends of the Chico State Herbarium
  • Garcia and Associates (GANDA)
  • Halkard E. Mackey, Jr.
  • Hedgerow Farms, Inc.
  • H.T. Harvey and Associates
  • Lawrence Janeway
  • Linnea Hanson
  • Nomad Ecology
  • Ray Collett Trust
  • Robert A. Schlising
  • Shasta Trinity National Forest
  • Sierra Pacific Foundation
  • Stillwater Sciences
  • The University and Jepson Herbaria, UC Berkeley
  • Westervelt Ecological Services
  • WRA, Inc.

2020 Keynote Speaker: Eric Knapp

The 2020 Symposium Keynote Speaker was Eric Knapp.  His talk is titled Fire trends, causes, and consequences for the native plants we love.

Eric is a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station and studies long-term changes to forests in the absence of fire and how organisms, including plants, respond to disturbances such as fire. His path to being a botanist (in a very broad sense) has been anything but straight, but the common theme has been a focus on plants.

As an undergraduate at U.C. Santa Barbara, the experiences that probably had the biggest impact on shaping his thinking and eventual career choice were plant identification and ecology courses taught by the late Bob Haller. His legendary field trips exposed Eric to different ecosystems and why plants grow where they do and taught him the value of knowing the species or not shying away from keying them out if you don’t.

His graduate studies at U.C. Davis were in plant breeding, but as genetics became more and more a laboratory endeavor, this increasingly conflicted with a desire to spend as much time as possible outdoors. He switched to plant ecology and his current position provides a good balance office and field work. As someone who learns best through careful observation – poking, digging, measuring – whatever it takes to figure out how organisms persist, flourish, or perish in response to stressors, he makes a point of working in the field and seeing the outcome of management actions or fire with his own eyes for perhaps four to six weeks a year.

To really understand fire behavior and fire effects, there is no better way than watching it burn and prescribed fire provides great access. On a good day, fire managers conducting the burn will hand him a drip torch. In reality, four to six weeks of field time still means he spends the vast majority of his work hours in front of a computer, analyzing data, writing papers, and working on outreach through presentations.

Among the research outcomes he is most proud of are developing a better understanding of outcomes and associated mechanisms of fire in different seasons on plants and the effect of management actions on the understory plant community. Most recently, he has been marveling what can be learned about the functioning of healthy forests by attempting to restore degraded ones. It has been eye opening to see native perennial grasses establish and forbs again flower after forest thinning and prescribed fire. These and other observations provide insight about the disturbance pathways that once shaped these ecosystems and potential paths forward in an uncertain future.