Lab alumnus and Graduate Fellow, Ashley Block (C’13) has been working tirelessly over the past several months to help launch a program that will assist in protecting threatened and endangered plant species near and dear to Tennessee hearts. This program is called the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance (TNPCA) and is aimed at connecting plant conservation initiatives across the state. The TNPCA links conservationists from a wide range of organizations including state agencies, nonprofits, NGOs, volunteers, and private companies, to accomplish projects to improve and protect populations of rare plants. These individuals can work together in their respective conservation projects, making them more effective at preserving species than any one organization could do alone. Ashley’s work on the TNPCA project also serves to complete part of her PhD program at the University of Georgia in Integrative Conservation and Anthropology which requires her to intern in conservation practice and explore communication and coordination within these groups.
Ashley became interested in helping with development of the TNPCA when she connected with the Georgia PCA (GPCA) through Dr. Evans and the Sewanee Herbarium. The Georgia PCA has been operating for over 20 years and has been extremely successful in helping protect threatened and endangered species across the state. Discussions for the development of an analogous Tennessee organization were already in the works when Sewanee alumnus Mincy Moffett (C’83), a botanist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and important leader in the GPCA, visited Sewanee in the fall and met with Mary Priestley and Dr. Jon Evans. Dr. Evans invited Ashley to get involved with the GPCA in February, which led to Ashley shadowing several key players in the GPCA including its director, Jennifer Ceska. She is now working with Tennessee’s Natural Heritage Program Manager, David Lincicome, who shares an interest in starting a PCA in Tennessee.
While the program is still in the beginning stages of organization, Ashley has been contacting individuals from organizations that may also be interested in joining the alliance. Partners of the alliance are hoping to meet at the SEPPCON (Southeastern Partners in Plant Conservation) conference at Atlanta Botanical Garden this November as a cohesive organization to discuss next steps for the Tennessee PCA. One of the first goals of the PCA is to host a symposium in early 2017 (Spring) to get people together and involved. “I have been really impressed with the level of enthusiasm and commitment to plants everyone has shown,” Ashley says. “There are already some impressive projects already underway involving multiple partners, so we’re off to a great start.”