Consistent attention and funding for ecological monitoring began in the early nineties with the Prototype Monitoring Program. The Prairie Cluster Prototype was established in 1994 to design and conduct monitoring in six Midwest parks. The Heartland Network was funded in 2001 in an effort to expand monitoring from a handful of prototype programs to all parks with significant natural resources. Operations of the Heartland Network and Prairie Cluster Prototype were integrated in 2004. The network operates according to rules and procedures outlined in a Network Charter. Park Superintendents comprising the Network’s Board of Directors oversee the program, with input from the Network’s Technical Committee.
A proposal to establish The Prairie Cluster Prototype was selected in 1994 as one of eleven programs dedicated to leading the development of scientifically credible and cost-effective monitoring programs in the National Park Service. The prototype programs serve as testing grounds for long-term monitoring, emphasizing the development of sound monitoring protocols, attention to data and data quality issues, and regular reporting of results to management. The Prairie Cluster Prototype became operational in 2002 after a successful program review. For more information about Prairie Cluster Prototype read the Program Overview and Conceptual Design.
The prototype park units are Agate Fossil Beds NM (AGFO), Effigy Mounds NM (EFMO), Homestead NM of America (HOME), Pipestone NM (PIPE), Scotts Bluff NM (SCBL), Tallgrass Prairie N. Preserve (TAPR) and Wilson’s Creek NB (WICR).
ARPO: Arkansas Post National Memorial
Employees of the Heartland Network are located at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Missouri State University, and several parks throughout the network.
Heartland I&M Network
Missouri State University
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Mike DeBacker, Program Coordinator
Mike joined the park service’s I&M team in 1996 with the Prairie Cluster Prototype Monitoring Program. Over this time, Mike has served in several capacities including botanist, ecologist and most recently as network coordinator for the Heartland I&M Network. Mike’s primary research interests lie in the prairies of the Great Plains. He is currently involved in several projects examining spatial structure in species distribution, and the influence of fire and grazing regimes on plant community composition. Mike earned a BA degree in Political Science from The Colorado College and a MS degree in Biology from Missouri State University.
Michelle Lee, Administrative Assistant
In May 2008, Michelle joined NPS to provide administrative and budget support for the I&M program. Prior to coming to work for NPS, she served four years as Manager of the Christian County Soil and Water Conservation District located in Ozark,Missouri. There she developed the operating budgets, administered financial incentives to landowners, and facilitated education/outreach efforts. Michelle recieved her BS degree in Horticulture from the College of the Ozarks in 2001.
Jordan Bell, Exotic Plant Managment Team Biological Technician
In May 2010, Jordan graduated from College of the Ozarks with a B.S. in biology. Immediately following graduation, he began an 18-month stint as a Student Conservation Association intern with the Heartland I&M Network. Primary activities during this time included assisting parks in controlling invasive exotic plants. Jordan is currently a technician with the network's Exotic Plant Management Team. He is furthering his education, working towards a graduate Restoration Ecology Certificate offered through the University of Idaho.
Sonia Bingham, Wetlands Biologist
In June 2007, Sonia joined the network as a wetlands biologist to continue developing the network's wetland monitoring protocol for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Sonia will also implement invasive plant monitoring on the park. Sonia has extensive professional field experience assessing, monitoring, and restoring streams and wetlands in Northern Ohio, as well as other locations throughout the Midwestern U.S. In this work, Sonia has conducted wetland delineations, developed restoration plans, and surveyed plant, fish, macroinvertebrate, and freshwater mussel communities. Sonia received a B.A. in Biology from Hiram College, Ohio and will graduate with a M.S. in Environmental Science from The Ohio State University in 2008.
You can contact Sonia at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Andrew Bishop, Exotic Plant Management Team Crew Leader (CUVA)
Andrew Bishop serves as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park-based field crew leader for the Heartland Network Exotic Plant Management Team (EPMT). The park and the EPMT jointly support this position. Andrew started with the National Park Service as a Student Conservation Association intern with the resource management division at CUVA where he worked three seasons on the CUVA exotic plant crew. He also worked four seasons for Grand Teton National Park on the re-vegetation crew where he was responsible for collecting native seeds, plant care, as well as planning and implementation of planting plans. Now, back at CUVA, he is responsible for exotic plant management and operation of the park’s native plant nursery. Andrew completed a B.A. in Biology from the College of Wooster in 2005 and is pursuing a graduate certificate in Restoration Ecology from the University of Idaho.
David E Bowles, Aquatics Resources Monitor Leader
David is the Aquatic Program Leader for the Network. Prior to his present position, he worked 11 years as an aquatic biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He serves as a member of the recovery teams of several endangered species including the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow, Barton Springs Salamander, and the Southern Edwards Aquifer Recovery Team. In addition to his civilian position, David serves in the U.S. Air Force Reserve at the rank of Lt Colonel, and he presently is the assistant to the Director, National Center for Medical Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency. He also serves on the adjunct faculty of the Department of Biology, Missouri State University. David has published extensively on a variety of topics including taxonomy and ecology of aquatic insects and Crustacea, aquatic plants, fisheries biology, and medical entomology. His education includes a B.S. in Biology and Natural Resources from Ball State University, an M.S. in Aquatic Biology from Southwest Texas State University, and a Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
You can contact David at Missouri State University.
Tyler Cribbs, Aquatics Ecologist
Tyler is an aquatic ecologist for the Heartland I&M Network. His work involves assisting with research on fish assemblages and invertebrate communities of Ozark river systems and prairie streams. He was first employed by NPS in 2002 with the Prairie Cluster Long-term Ecological Monitoring Program. He received a M.S. in Natural and Applied Sciences and a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation & Management from Missouri State University.
Hope Dodd, Fisheries Biologist
Hope is the fisheries biologist for the Heartland I&M and Prairie Cluster Prototype Programs of the National Park Service. She coordinates long-term monitoring of fish assemblages and physical habitat in prairie streams and Ozark river systems. Her research interests focus on anthropogenic disturbances in lotic systems and assessment of these long-term effects on water quality, habitat, and biota. Previously, Hope worked as a stream ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey conducting research on the assessment of restoration practices on stream fish and invertebrate communities and the effects of dam removal on a mid-size river system. She received her M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University and her B.S. from Ball State University in Aquatic Biology and Fisheries.
You can contact Hope at Missouri State University.
Jennifer Haack, GIS Specialist
Jennifer has received a BS degree in Wildlife Conservation and Management and a MS degree in Geospatial Sciences from Missouri State University. Besides working for the NPS, she has also been employed by the NRCS NRI from 2000 to 2002 performing image interpretation for land change analysis. Work responsibilities focus on using remote sensing for land use/land cover analysis and GIS/GPS support for various inventory and monitoring projects.
Jennifer can be contacted at Missouri State University, but please send mail items for Jennifer to the main HTLN address at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield.
Jan Hinsey, Aquatics Ecologist
Jan is an aquatic ecologist for the Heartland I&M Network with primary responsibility for the sampling and identification of invertebrates at the Buffalo National River. She was first employed by NPS in 2003 at the Buffalo National River to help conduct aquatic invertebrate bioassessments and sample water and air quality within the park. Prior experience includes land conservation, cave ecology, and GIS while working with conservation organizations and government agencies in Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas. She received a M.S. in biology from Missouri State University and a B.S. in biology from the University of Arkansas.
Chad Gross, Cartographic Technician
Chad graduated from Radford University in 2009 and received a B.S. in Geography with a concentration in Environmental Studies. In 2010 he completed a yearlong Student Conservation Association internship with the Heartland I&M Network. During this time he assisted with various monitoring projects. Chad is currently a Cartographic Technician for Heartland and is furthering his education with courses through Penn State University.
Kevin James, Plant Ecologist
Kevin joined the Heartland I&M Network in 2006 as the plant ecologist. He oversees the vegetation monitoring effort of the Network by tracking spatial and temporal changes of plant communities. Previously, he was a botanist for the USDA Pacific Northwest Research Station studying ecosystem level disturbance regimes as part of the Eastside Forest Health Restoration Team at the Wenatchee Forestry Sciences Lab. He graduated from Boise State University with a B.S. in Biology and from the University of Kansas with a M.S. in Botany.
Theresa Johnson, Education Coordinator
Theresa Johnson works as the HTLN education coordinator. Theresa worked with the HTLN as a partner for several years prior to becoming an official part of the team through a Missouri State University agreement. She leads our outreach program for teachers and students as well as informal education efforts. Theresa is instrumental in our program to meet the goals of Director Jarvis’s Call to Action.
Theresa’s background includes a twenty year career of teaching science to middle and high school students. Her experience in connecting state education standards to both classroom and field is an asset to building these same links within park programs. Opportunities as a science teacher-leader and mentor have given Theresa an appreciation of the need to develop quality place-based science education that promotes resource conservation and a love of the natural world.
Christopher Kopek, Lead Fire Effects Monitor
Chris is the Lead Fire Effects Monitor for the HTLN Fire Ecology Team. Prior to joining the heartland team Chris was a seasonal field botanist for the Missouri Department of Conservation and the National Park Service. He has interests in natural community monitoring and ecological restoration. He has a passion for understanding the role of historical and ecological disturbances like fire on natural communities. Outside of work Chris can usually be found floating down an ozark stream, camping, cutting cedars on his glade rehabilitation, or scheming up another project, always with his faithful aussie by his side. A native Ozarker, he has a B.A. in Natural History and Ecology from Prescott College in Arizona.
You can contact Chris at Missouri State University.
Sherry Leis, Fire Ecologist
Sherry is the Fire Ecologist for the Heartland I&M Network and Prairie Cluster Prototype Monitoring Program at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. In this position, Sherry provides expertise in understanding the effects of fire on plant communities. Her interests lie in the investigation of disturbances such as fire, grazing, and off road vehicle use on grassland communities of the Great Plains and Midwest. Previously, Sherry worked as a Plant Ecologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation investigating grassland management questions such as the applicability of patch burn grazing, control of invasive plants, and appropriate grassland restoration techniques. Sherry earned Bachelor Degrees in Anthropology and Environmental Biology from Beloit College, WI and a MS in Rangeland Ecology and Management from Oklahoma State University.
You can contact Sherry at Missouri State University.
Jessica Luraas, Research Specialist
Jessica Luraas is a research specialist with Missouri State University. Her primary responsibility is the identification of aquatic invertebrates from parks in the Heartland I&M Network. She was first employed with the National Park Service in 2001 at Buffalo National River where she collected water quality and air quality samples, conducted a spring inventory, assisted with fish monitoring, and co-authored the parks water resource management plan. Jessica then worked at Ozark National Scenic Riverways until 2006 as an Aquatic Ecologist where she helped design and implement the river invertebrate monitoring program for the Heartland Network. She has a M.S. in environmental science from Indiana University and a B.S. in biology from Missouri State University.
Sherry Middlemis-Brown, Biologist
Sherry works part time with Heartland I&M Network staff, facilitating the development of an Environmental Assessment for the Exotic Plant Management Plan. She also continues efforts in communicating monitoring results to parks and science in parks to the public. Sherry joined NPS after a varied career serving in three federal natural resource stewardship agencies, state agencies, universities, and her own consulting firm. Sherry’s educational degrees in natural resources, secondary education, fisheries biology, and statistics allow her to apply a broad understanding of population, community, and habitat monitoring to her work. She has worked with ecological systems from the California-Nevada border to eastern New York State. Sherry’s primary interest lies in ecological relationships and human impact on those delicate ties.
You can contact Sherry through the Heartland I&M Network main contact information.
Karola Mlekush, Botanist
Karola graduated from MSU in 1993 with a BS degree in wildlife management and conservation, and a MS degree in botany in 1999. Before joining the Park Service, Karola was involved with the Army National Guard, establishing plant community monitoring baselines at 3 National Guard camps in Missouri. Karola joined the Park Service´s I&M team in 1999 with the Prairie Cluster Prototype Monitoring Program. In the past Karola has participated in plant community monitoring, rare plants monitoring, woodland inventories, invasive plant inventories, bird surveys, deer surveys, fish surveys and prairie dog surveys.
Lloyd Morrison, Quantitative Ecologist
Lloyd has a B.S. degree in Biology from Baylor University, and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California at Davis. He conducted his dissertation research on the island biogeography and metapopulation dynamics of ants in the Bahamas and South Pacific. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, where he conducted research on the effects of invasive ants on native arthropod communities, and biological control by the use of natural enemies. He extended this work as a Research Fellow at the University of Florida at Gainesville/USDA Agricultural Research Service. Throughout his postdoctoral years he has continued to study the long-term metapopulation dynamics of Bahamian ants and plants. He joined the Network in September 2004.
You can contact Lloyd at Missouri State University.
David G. Peitz, Wildlife Ecologist
David graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology and from Oklahoma State University with a MS in Wildlife and Fisheries Ecology. David came to the National Park Services in 2000 after spending 6 ½ years as a wildlife research biologist with the University of Arkansas Agriculture Experiment Station. David has had management responsibilities for a range of long-term monitoring projects within Midwestern parks, involving both terrestrial and aquatic organisms and systems. Currently his efforts are focused on terrestrial mammals and birds.
Gareth Rowell, Data Manager
Gareth joined the Heartland I&M Network in 2003 as biologist / data manager. He develops databases and data analysis tools for the monitoring projects at the Heartland Network. From 1993 to 2002, Gareth served as GIS data manager for the Endangered Resources Program at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He graduated from Kansas State University with a BS in Agriculture and from University of Kansas with an MA and PhD in Biology. His professional interests include spatial ecology, biological information systems and learning new programming languages.
Adam Throckmorton, Exotic Plant Management Team Crew Leader (WICR)
Adam Throckmorton serves as the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield-based field crew leader for the Heartland Network Exotic Plant Management Team (EPMT). His invasive plant experience started winter of 2006-07 with Lake Mead EPMT, where he spent four and a half seasons traveling around the southwest, treating mostly tamarisk and Russian olive. Adam was known as “lead chainsaw mechanic” by the time he left. Adam has been with the NPS six years. He started as SCA Conservation Intern with Southeast Utah Group Trail Crew and worked trail crews at Olympic, Grand Canyon, Point Reyes, Rocky Mountain and Bryce Canyon. The summers of 2009 and 2010, he was crew leader for the Vegetation crew at Bryce Canyon, supervising several employees, youth workers, and EPMT members treating common invasive plants of the western U.S. To fit with park-inspired nomadic way of life, Adam acquired a motorhome in 2007, which allowed him to live a little too close to work for the next three years. Adam now lives in an apartment in Springfield and plans on using the motorhome to travel to local music festivals. Adam has a B.S. in Environmental Science from Norwich University, Northfield, Vermont (2001) and M.S. in Communications (Science Journalism) from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2004).
Craig Young, Biologist and Invasive Plant Program Leader
Craig serves as a biologist and invasive plant program leader for the Heartland I&M Network. In this capacity, Craig manages projects to monitor invasive plants in all network parks, wetlands at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the Missouri bladderpod, a rare plant, at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Craig also oversees the Heartland Exotic Plant Management Team, which is dedicated to managing invasive plants across all network parks. Prior to beginning work with the National Park Service in November 2003, Craig worked with Virginia´s Natural Heritage Program as a natural areas manager and with The Nature Conservancy of Georgia as an ecologist. Craig received a B.S. in Biology from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and an M.S. in Environmental Forest Biology with a concentration in Plant Ecology from the State University of New York´s College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York.