Plants of Concern

Citizen Science Rare Plant Monitoring Program


Bee on flower

Plants of Concern volunteers are an essential part of a team that includes scientists and researchers. The research team includes a wide range of specialists, including a molecular ecologist at the Chicago Botanic Garden and a doctoral candidate who studies rare plant conservation.

Holly Bernardo

Holly Bernardo is a Ph.D. student at Washington University in St. Louis. She studies rare plant conservation from multiple angles. In her collaboration with Plants of Concern, she is conducting viability analyses on a range of rare plants in Illinois. She has three goals for this project:

  1. To compare the viability of state protected (endangered and threatened) versus nonprotected rare species;
  2. To determine what characteristics of a rare species make it more or less likely to receive protection status (e.g. restricted geographic range, habitat specific);
  3. To determine if the characteristics that make a rare species more likely to receive protection status accurately predict the species most in need of protection status (i.e. those with the greatest risk of extinction).

This work will result in detailed population viability assessments of many rare Ilinois plants that can be used to further the conservation efforts of those species and their habitats.

Jeremie Fant, Ph.D.

Jeremie Fant is a molecular ecologist at the Chicago Botanic Garden who is interested in the genetic diversity of rare species. Even though we tend to think of them as a collective group, every rare species has very different reasons for its rarity. So although Dr. Fant’s work focuses on genetic data, he believes that field data is an invaluable component of all his studies, helping to ensure that the biology and ecology of the species inform the outcomes of the genetic analysis. He has worked with Plants of Concern on a number of species including Cirsium hillii, Asclepias lanugunosa, Castilleja sessiliflora, and Ammophila breviligulata. Visit his research webpage.

The following is a list of his publications that includes Plants of Concern data:
Kim, E.S., D.N. Zaya, J.B. Fant and M.V. Ashley (2015) Genetic factors accelerate demographic decline in rare Asclepias species. Conservation Genetics 16(2) pp. 359-369.

Fant, J.B., R.M.Holmstrom, E. Sirkin, J.R. Etterson, and S. Masi (2008) Genetic structure of threatened native populations and propagules used for restoration, in a clonal species, Ammophila breviligulata (American beachgrass). Restoration Ecology 16 (4) pp. 594-603.

Fant, J.B., Susanne Masi, J.M. Keller, and R. Mann (2007) Investigating the reproductive health of Hill’s thistle (Cirsium hillii) populations in the Chicago region. Chicago Wilderness Journal 5(1).

Dan Fink

Dan Fink has been a Plants of Concern monitor since 2010. He has a master’s degree in geography and environmental studies from Northeastern Illinois University. Bogs and their associated plant communities, particularly carnivorous plants, fascinate him. These interests led him to become a monitor for Plants of Concern. Monitoring northern pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) for Plants of Concern influenced his master’s thesis topic selection. In 2012, with the support of POC, he completed his thesis “The Geographic Distribution of Sarracenina purpurea in Illinois and its Associated Species.” His research culminated in a census of all of the known sub-populations of the northern pitcher plant in Illinois and survey of the plant species sharing its habitat. This research now serves as a historic documentation of pitcher plants in Illinois, and also illustrates the importance of protection and management of the few sites where the plants are found.