Ashland University’s Environmental Lecture Series to Focus on North-Central Ohio’s Natural Heritage

Ashland University’s Environmental Lecture Series to Focus on North-Central Ohio’s Natural Heritage

3/7/16 ASHLAND, Ohio – The final event in the 2015-2016 Ashland University Environmental Lecture Series, with a theme of “In Our Own Backyard,” will be a presentation by Rick Gardner, chief botanist for the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held Thursday, March 17, at 7:30 p.m. in the Ronk Lecture Hall in the Dwight Schar College of Education. Gardner will speak on “Ohio’s natural heritage with a focus on north-central Ohio.”

When the first Europeans began settling what would become the state of Ohio in the 18th century, they saw a landscape of cathedral forests, swamps, bogs, savannas and prairies harboring an incredible abundance and diversity of plants and wildlife. Over a couple hundred years of major changes to the landscape, Ohio still has many fantastic remnants of the Ohio frontier.

Gardner will take those in attendance back in time to 18th century Ohio, travel through post settlement and the industrial revolution period of the 1800s and then tour examples of the many natural areas protected around the state, particularly north-central Ohio. Finally, he will discuss the major challenges facing society today in preserving and managing Ohio’s natural history. 

Gardner developed his interest in botany and the outdoors at a very young age. He spent hours studying nature on his grandparents farm during summer breaks. After graduating from Miami University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Botany, he started working in the Natural Heritage Program of the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

In addition to his job with ODNR, Gardner is visiting scholar at the Ohio State University Herbarium. He has been studying Ohio’s flora for over 20 years. He has spent most of his career in the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, but he also has worked for the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. 

Gardner’s research interests are the Cyperaceae (sedge family), xeric limestone prairies or cedar glades, and Ohio state-listed plants. He has authored or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed and popular articles. He also has led numerous field trips plus given lectures, workshops and programs on various subjects in botany and ecology. 

He is active in a number of non-profit organizations that are involved in protecting Ohio’s natural areas and rare species. Gardner won The Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Colleague Award in 1997, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Team Award in 2008, and partnership awards from the US Forest Service and Appalachia Ohio Alliance.

The overall theme of this year’s Environmental Lecture Series is “In Our Own Backyard.” Its goal is to explore examples of local natural history and ecology and make connections to issues, questions and plans for the future.

“Here, we define ‘local’ as Ashland and Richland counties in particular and north-central Ohio in general. This part of Ohio represents a unique intersection of geological and biological histories, so our landscape and the wildlife that live here are quite rich,” said Dr. Patricia Saunders, associate professor of biology and director of AU’s Environmental Science Program. “This year's environmental lecture series includes wetland and upland examples that offer different perspectives on what makes our own backyard so special.”

The Environmental Lecture Series was established at Ashland University after the Environmental Science program was implemented in 1991-92. The lecture series was designed to support the Environmental Science program by allowing students, faculty and members of North Central Ohio communities to interact with leaders in environmental science and policy. Over the years, the lecture series has generated significant campus and community involvement and support. Recent lectures are archived for viewing at

Current support for the lecture series is provided by a grant from the Lubrizol Foundation, additional support from Ashland University, and donations from individuals. Past series have been supported by AU and grants from the GTE Foundation and the Fran and Warren Rupp Foundation.

Updated information on the series is available at

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2016, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###