AOK Silent Spring
AOK Silent Spring
Audubon of Kansas will host our 1st Annual Conference to address local and global environmental issues. Speakers will focus on threats to wildlife from pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change. Come learn ideas to combat these problems in your yards, gardens and farms!
Understanding our global problems can lead to appreciation of those natural resources and the critical benefits they provide. Only then can we best address causes and take action to offset any harm.
Primary Speakers:

Ann Birney with a historical performance of Rachel Carson.
Stephen Lerner’s film: “When the Well Runs Dry” with commentary by Tom Averill of Washburn University and Matt Sanderson of KSU.
Jennifer Hopwood from the Xerces Society.
Dr. Leonard Kristalka, Director of the KU Museum of Natural History.


Register before APRIL 1st to have your name entered in a drawing for a complimentary two-night stay at our Hutton Niobrara Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary guesthouse surrounded by prairie near the scenic Niobrara River in Nebraska!

7:00 AM Set up display tables for exhibitors/sponsors
8:00 AM Registration.
9:00 AM Welcome: Lisa Stickler.
9:15 AM Opening Program:
Ann Birney with a historical performance of Rachel Carson
10:15 AM Break
11:00 AM When the Well Runs Dry – Stephen Lerner with commentary of Tom Averill and Matthew Sanderson.
12:00 PM Lunch + Pollinators in the Balance: “Pollinator Conservation at Home, on the Farm and along the Roadsides” by Jennifer Hopwood from the Xerces Society.
1:30 PM Concurrent Sessions:
Pollinator Research:
Kathy Roccaforte Denning.
Help Your Children Wonder: Sil & Ed Pembleton.
Links Among Farms, Food And Communities: Mary Fund, Paul Johnson.
2:30 PM Break
2:45 PM Plenary Session on Habitat Restoration:
Jeff Hansen.
Large Prairie: Helen Alexander & Peggy Schultz.
Large Acreage: Jim Weaver.
4:15 PM Status of Prairie Dogs, Black-footed Ferrets & “Larry Saves the Prairie” : Ron Klataske, USFWS, Matt Bergles.
5:15 PM Mixer, music, silent auction.
6:00 PM Dinner with Keynote Speaker: “Tackling the Life of the Planet: Know it or Blow it”, Dr. Leonard Krishtalka, KU Museum of Natural History Director.
Ann Birney is executive director of Kansas State Alliance of Professional Performances and will portray Rachael Carson. Carson was active in Audubon of New York, but her ability to clarify complex science for a general audience made Silent Spring a sensation in 1962 and helped ban DDT. Ms. Birney’s portrayal will entertain and inspire.

Steve Lerner is a psychologist and filmmaker. He began by producing and directing educational films for mental health professionals. Since 2009 he has focused on documentaries. His 14-minute film This Old Guitar won best director at the 15 Minutes of Fame Festival in Florida. He will discuss his most recent film, When the Well Runs Dry.

Matthew Sanderson is a Professor of Sociology at KSU and a visiting research fellow at the U. of Adelaide. His research explores the social drivers of environmental consumption. He identifies the social and cultural factors most closely identified with unsustainable resource consumption in particular places, such as the Ogallala Aquifer in the U.S. and the Murray Darling River Basin in Australia.

Tom Fox Averill is a professor of English at Washburn University, where he teaches creative writing. He has written four novels and three short story collections. He portrays William Jennings Bryan Oleander for KPR. He founded the Washburn Center for Kansas Studies and was humanities consultant for When The Well Runs Dry by Steven Lerner.

Jennifer Hopwood is an entomologist and senior pollinator conservation specialist with the Xerces Society. She has written extensively on conservation and habitat restoration. She is currently a visiting scholar with Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station.

Kathy Roccaforte Denning is pursuing a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at KU. Her dissertation links prairie restoration with the health of native pollinators. She holds a B.S. from Creighton and an M.S. in biology from U. of Nebraska, Lincoln. She will connect fundamental ecological questions to real world conservation.

Seliesa Pembleton teaches science as an exciting process, whether at Manhattan High School or the Smithsonian. She has taught environmental education in Japan and authored two natural history books for children. While president of Flint Hills Audubon, she was active in saving Cheyenne Bottoms.

Ed Pembleton with his wife, Sil, trains educators on how to present the wonders of the natural world. He has taught from the sandbars of the Platte River to the corridors of Congress as a biologist and director for Audubon’s water resources program. His teaching has drawn inspiration from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. Since 2008 he has returned to photography and consulting.

Mary Fund has worked at the Kansas Rural Center, KRC, for over 30 years and is currently the Executive Director. She has written extensively on Kansas water issues and edits Policy Watch, KRC’s weekly update on the KS legislature. She and her husband own and operate a certified organic crop and livestock farm.

Paul Johnson lobbies for Kansas Rural Center on issues of local food, environment and corporate agriculture. He reports weekly to the League of Women Voters on budget and tax issues. He helped found the Rolling Prairie Farmer’s Alliance in 1994. Today the alliance provides organic produce weekly to 300 households in Lawrence and Kansas City from May through October.

Jeff Hansen is a citizen scientist and lover of the natural world. After converting his yard to native plants, he has observed over 100 bird species in his Topeka backyard. He evaluates landscapes as the owner of Kansas Native Plants and has served on the boards of Topeka Audubon, Grassland Heritage Society and the Kansas Native Plant Society. His passion for native plants is infectious.

Helen Alexander and Peggy Schultz
Ms. Alexander helped to found “Free State Prairie” restoration, in which native plants were sown into an abandoned Lawrence high school football field. Students have experienced the scientific method by frequenting the site and seeing outcomes with several types of vegetation. This year, Peggy Schultz, an experienced teacher of environmental education, will expand the program to elementary school students.

Jim Weaver and his wife, Colleen, live on a 60-acre Douglas County farm composed primarily of native grasses and forbs. After 30 years with the Topeka Fire Department, he retired in 2005. Since then he has held several positions focused on soil and water conservation, most recently with the Upper Wakarusa Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy.

John Hughes is a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Black footed Ferret Conservation in Wellington, CO. He has worked for the Service for 15 years and takes interest in endangered species conservation, rangeland ecology and wildlife conservation on private lands. He holds biology degrees from the U. of Montana and KSU and is a lifelong hunter, birder and hiker.

Randy Rathbun, a trial lawyer, is a partner in the law firm of Depew Gillen Rathbun and McInteer, L. C., where he specializes in environmental and employment law. As U.S. Attorney for Kansas, he chaired Janet Reno’s environmental crime advisory committee. His earned his J.D. from Washburn University, where he served on the board of the Law Journal and contributed to the Environmental Law Handbook.

Matt Bergles, a Colorado native, is an independent researcher and advocate for wildlife conservation and prairie habitat. His Ph.D. dissertation at the U. of Denver focused on the impact of agricultural practices and exurban sprawl on wildlife. He currently teaches at a K-8 school in Denver, where his students’ curiosity inspired him to write Larry Save The Prairie.

Ron Klataske helped found Audubon of Kansas and has led numerous efforts to preserve wildlife habitat in the Great Plains. He holds a degree in wildlife biology from KSU and a Master’s from U. of Maine. He led the effort to defeat damming of the Platte River in central Nebraska, established the Platte River Crane Festival and helped win national scenic river designation for the Niobrara. He also played a critical role in creating the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas. Ranchers who protect prairie dogs and associated wildlife benefit daily from his passionate advocacy at the Kansas Capitol.

Leonard Krishtalka has served as Director of the Biodiversity Institute and a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at KU for more than 20 years. He studied biology, anthropology and paleontology at universities in Canada and the U.S. and received his doctoral degree from Texas Tech University. His research has focused on the last 100 million years of mammalian evolution. He is working to make dioramas in natural history museums relevant for 21st century audiences. He uses computational technology to model the future of animals, plants and ecosystems. He has published extensively and writes periodic op-eds to promote scientific literacy.