Closing Plenary


Who knows about your work?

It's the nature of many of us in natural areas conservation to quietly go about our work, making do with the resources at hand, and hoping that the next grant or budget cycle keeps it all going. Too often we lose sight of an important part of our work: letting others know what we do and why its important. How we view communication and how we incorporate it into our work is more fundamental to our success than we might expect. There is an art in crafting compelling messages and offering them to the right people at the right time, whether in state government, politics, or social media.

Our closing plenary speakers will offer insights into what it means to effectively and persuasively communicate inside and outside our institutions. Tom Smith was the longtime leader of the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, a team that has built an exemplary natural areas system in part by effectively demonstrating the value of conservation to lawmakers.  Chris Martine, a professor and biodiversity scientist, promotes botany and conservation by sharing science in ways that engage diverse audiences.  Jacqui Bonomo advocates for conservation and environmental protection with PennFuture, a leader in Pennsylvanias transition to clean energy, natural resource protection, and sustainable community development.

Please join us to hear from our panel and participate in our facilitated discussion afterwards.


Deputy Director of Land Conservation, Natural Heritage, Outdoor Recreation, and State Parks, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Virginia's Natural Area Preserves System, a 33-year success story

Tom will share how political trials and successes, partnerships, outreach, and planning for transition by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program conservation team has shaped the success of the Virginia Natural Area Preserves System since its inception.   Virginia was the 43rd state to launch a Natural Heritage Program. The 1989 Natural Area Preserves Act codified the Natural Heritage Program's responsibilities including the establishment of the Virginia Natural Area Preserves System.  The Program went from zero to 63 natural area preserves protecting 760 natural community and rare species locations on 57,276 acres, and the conservation team grew from 11 to 43 full-time staff between 1990 and today.  

read tom's bio


David Bupee Professor, Bucknell University 

Meet the People Where They Are

Inspiring a love for nature by going online!  Using case studies based on recent attempts to promote nature-related research/concepts through multiple types of media, this talk will suggest strategies that any working manager/scientists might employ when hoping to spread the word about their conservation outcomes and the places/species they are helping to protect.



President and CEO, PennFuture 

How the Natural Areas Community Must Effectively Champion Biodiversity Conservation

The combined urgencies of the climate emergency and species extinction necessitate advocacy from a set of voices not heard frequently enough.  We'll talk about the need for biodiversity conservation practitioners to increasingly engage with elected officials, funders,  the media, and other thought leaders as these influencers shape public opinion around our issues. 


Join the people who protect and manage our natural areas.