Speaking Engagements

Lecture Topics

If you're interested in having Doug talk for your organization, please email us and include:

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A Case for Native Plants

Specialized relationships between animals and plants are the norm in nature rather than the exception. Plants that evolved in concert with local animals provide for their needs better than plants that evolved elsewhere. Tallamy will explain why this is so, why specialized food relationships determine the stability and complexity of the local food webs that support animal diversity, why it is important to restore biodiversity to our residential properties, and what we need to do to make our landscapes functioning ecosystems once again.

Building Pollinator Populations at Home

Because our yards and gardens are essential parts of the terrestrial ecosystems that sustain humans and the life around us, it is essential that we keep them in working order. An important component of productive ecosystems is a diverse and abundant community of pollinators. Much has been written about native bees but we have ignored the thousands of species of moth and butterfly pollinators in our landscapes. Tallamy will discuss the important ecological roles of these species, and discuss the plants required to support their populations in our landscapes. Managing landscapes in this crowded world carries both moral and ecological responsibilities that we can no longer ignore.

Bringing Nature Home

Because our yards and gardens are essential parts of the terrestrial ecosystems that sustain humans and the life around us, it is essential that we keep them in working order. Tallamy will discuss the important ecological roles of the plants in our landscapes, emphasize the ecological, educational, physical, and emotional benefits of designing landscapes with these roles in mind, and explore the consequences of failing to do so. Managing landscapes in this crowded world carries both moral and ecological responsibilities that we can no longer ignore.

Networks for Life: Your Role in Stitching the Natural World Together

Our natural areas are too small, fragmented, and isolated to sustain the plants and animals that run our ecosystems. By using native plants in our neighborhoods and corporate landscapes we can restore ecosystem function where we live and work.

Stitching the world together for Migrating Birds

Biodiversity is essential to sustaining human societies because it is other living things that run our ecosystems. Birds play a large role in ecosystem function, yet, throughout the U.S., we have fragmented the habitats that support our resident and migrant birds by the way we have landscaped our cities, suburbs, and farmland. We can reconnect viable habitats by expanding existing greenways, building riparian corridors, and by changing the landscaping paradigm that dominates our yards and corporate landscapes. Replacing half the area that is now in barren lawn with plants that are best at supporting the insects that sustain spring and fall migrants as well as resident birds while they are breeding would create over 20 million acres of connectivity and go a long way toward sustaining bird populations in the future.

It’s for the birds

Many bird populations in the U.S. are in steep decline, in part because our gardens and managed landscapes occupy more space than natural areas and we have not designed them with birds in mind. To do that we can no longer view plants only as ornaments but must consider all of their roles when selecting them for our landscapes. Tallamy will discuss what birds need form our landscapes to breed successfully, the important roles native plants play in maintaining food webs vital to birds, emphasize the benefits of designing landscapes with these roles in mind, and explore the consequences of failing to do so. Landscaping in this crowded world carries both moral and ecological responsibilities that we can no longer ignore.

Creating Living Landscapes

We will not keep our ecosystems running if we do not save the creatures that run them. To save local biodiversity, we must increase the amount and diversity productive of native plants in our neighborhood and corporate landscapes. But how can we create socially acceptable landscapes using native plants? Many people are concerned that natives are more prone to insect damage, are messy and not attractive, will attract vermin, and cannot be used formally. Tallamy will dispel these misconceptions and suggest ways to make your property a showpiece without losing its ecological function in the local ecosystem.

Treasures Among our Natives

A growing number of people are landscaping with productive native plants to help conserve local biodiversity, but many know little about the animals they are helping. Tallamy will describe some of the fascinating ways animals interact with the native plants they depend on and describe some of the most productive plants homeowners can use in their landscape to nurture these animals. Anticipating, observing, and understanding these relationships will enrich our lives and further justify the use of natives in our yards.

Nature’s Final Mandate

Our adversarial relationship with nature originated as a necessary strategy of survival when humans were hunter-gatherers. It worked in the past without causing ecosystem collapse because our population numbers were small and our technology was primitive. That is no longer the case, yet we continue to segregate humans from the natural world at the cost of the destruction of the natural capital that supports us. Tallamy will discuss why and how this approach to nature will soon change to a new strategy in which humans coexist with the natural world that supports them.

Let It Be an Oak

Once we have decided to restore the ecological integrity of our suburban neighborhoods we need to decide what plants to add to our properties. Oaks are superior trees for suburban restoration projects because of their many ecological and aesthetic attributes. Tallamy will compare oak species to other popular shade trees in terms of their ability to support animal diversity, protect watersheds, sequester carbon dioxide, and restore lost plant communities.

Are Introduced Plants "Bad"?

The expense of fighting alien plant invasions, and the unpopularity of restricting the sale of ornamental invasives, have motivated several public figures to question the wisdom of continuing to battle invasive plants. After all, they argue, if an alien plant helps a particular butterfly, bird, or bee, why not embrace it? Using data from several studies, Tallamy answers this and related questions, showing that we can determine the overall impact of alien plants on our ecosystems only by comparing what is gained from their use with what is lost when they replace native plant communities. Alien plants are not the ecological equivalents of the native plants they displace because they do not support the diverse and stable food webs that run our ecosystems. Exchanging plants that support all of our animal diversity for plants that support only a few species is ecologically indefensible.

The Case Against Novel Ecosystems

Novel ecosystems are created when humans replace native plant communities and the animals they support with non-native plants from around the world that have no prior evolutionary history with each other or local animals. Unfortunately, the plants that comprise novel ecosystems cannot be used by native insects, the most important component of terrestrial food webs. Because dietary specialization among insects is the rule rather the exception, novel ecosystems typically cause the collapse of local food webs. Tallamy shows why retaining the specialized relationships that are nature is reason enough to minimize the spread novel ecosystems.

The Importance of Native Plants in Maintaining Trophic Interactions

Much has been written recently about the inevitability of creating novel ecosystems in today’s human dominated landscapes. Several voices claim that novel ecosystems, one comprised of species with no evolutionary history together, can be productive and functional despite their lack of prior interactions. Missing from these arguments, however, are food web analyses comparing the productivity and interaction diversity of food webs based on native plants vs those generated by unnatural collections of nonnative plants. Tallamy will revisit classic plant /insect interaction theory and discuss several recent experiments from his lab to demonstrate that evolutionarily novel plants are not the ecological equivalents of the native plant communities they replace. Novel ecosystems are impoverished in terms of species richness and ecosystem function.

Building a Better Butterfly Garden

Successful butterfly gardens provide both nectar sources for adult butterflies and host plants for the larval stages of butterflies. It often comes as a surprise that many butterfly host plants are native woody plant species not typically used in butterfly gardens. But to have butterflies we must make butterflies. Properly designed butterfly gardens also support a variety of beautiful moth species, including several giant silk moths. Tallamy will discuss these principles as well as the fascinating Lepidoptera behavior you will enjoy if you provide the proper host plants in your garden.

Landscaping with Productive Native Plants

Not all natives are equal in their ability to support food webs. Tallamy will highlight the ecological importance of the most productive woody plant genera and discuss ways to incorporate them tastefully into residential landscapes.