|INTERVIEW with Greg Schneider, Manager
Division of Natural Areas and Preserves
What do you do to preserve plants and natural areas in Ohio?
I supervise eight staff members in the division to identify and locate rare plant and animal species in Ohio's prairies and other natural areas. Prairies, such as Irwin Prairie, contain very interesting and colorful plants.
When my staff finds a rare species, we enter information about it into a database called the Ohio Natural Heritage Database, which is the cornerstone of the Ohio Natural Heritage Program. This program makes people aware of the existence and importance of rare plant and animal species in Ohio.
How many rare plants are there in Ohio?
In the past 30 years, we have entered about 600 different plant species in our database. You can view this list on our division's website.
How do you maintain the database?
When we find a plant we think is a rare species, we may take it to a botanical expert or locate it in a taxonomy reference book to make sure it is a rare species. Then, using specialized software, we'll enter the information into the Natural Heritage Database. Computers provide a quick way to identify the location of a rare plant or animal and to enter information about it into the database.
How is the database used?
We use the database to identify plants and wildlife in Ohio's nature preserves and to identify sites that may potentially meet state nature preserve criteria. Other people also use the database. Scientific researchers use it to conduct research about plants and animals in Ohio. Public agencies and developers may use it to review an area where construction companies want to build roads, parking lots or buildings. If an environmental review indicates an area contains a lot of rare plants and animals, developers might reconsider the location and choose another site for construction.
What is most challenging about your job?
I suppose it is the enormous amount of work that needs to be done with limited resources. We are often limited by the amount of time, money and staff available to the division. If we had more money and people, we could protect more rare plants and animals in Ohio and tell more people about them.