Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Pollinator Partnership (P2)

In a joint effort between Pollinator Partnership and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), seven part-time P2 state representatives are assisting NRCS staff, agricultural producers, and other landowners with the initiation of pollinator conservation practices in select states across the U.S. to address declining pollinator populations. To improve and expand pollinator habitat on agricultural lands, our state representatives will accomplish state specific tasks aimed to increase landowner participation in high value pollinator habitat through a mix of outreach, training, and technical conservation assistance. This includes assistance regarding USDA conservation programs including EQIP, CSP, CRP, or ACEP, when appropriate.

For NRCS Resources related to a specific state we’re currently working in, see below:

  • Arkansas, click here.
  • California, click here.
  • Illinois, click here.
  • Indiana, click here.
  • Michigan, click here.
  • Ohio, click here.
  • Wisconsin, click here.

Meet Our State Representatives

Each state involved in this partnership has its own set of goals to be carried out by a P2 state representative and as such, their specific pollinator oriented objectives vary from one region to the next. But generally, these well-versed liaisons provide support to the NRCS staff who engage land managers and help them incorporate pollinator friendly practices and conservation into their lands. Furthermore, these P2 representatives help develop and disseminate useful pollinator-related information, resources, and success stories within NRCS and beyond.

Miles Dakin, NRCS Pollinator Liaison California

Miles Dakin oversees the Bee Friendly Farming for Pollinator Partnership, coordinating member outreach, engagement, and further developing the program. Miles received his Master's from UC Davis in Entomology, focusing on Navel Orangeworm management in almonds and pistachios. As a pollinator liaison, Miles will focus on grower enrollment into NRCS programs that support pollinators, as well as conducting workshops and leveraging the Bee Friendly Farming program. For further inquiries about BFF or his work with NRCS, you can reach Miles via email.

Laura Jach Smith, NRCS Pollinator Liaison Wisconsin

As an agro- and ecosystem ecologist, Laura strives to advance the conservation and ecological enhancement of our natural and agricultural resources. Laura’s current professional experience includes serving as the Wisconsin State Coordinator for Project Wingspan with the Pollinator Partnership, where she coordinates with conservation partners and volunteers in an effort to collect native seed for projects that will enhance or expand habitat for pollinators. She also works with a small ecological restoration company in southeastern Wisconsin which specializes in the restoration of oak ecosystems. She holds a degree in Natural Resources (B.S.) from Northland College and graduate degrees (Agroecology M.S. and Environment and Resources Ph.D.) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Through the NRCS-Pollinator Partnership collaboration, Laura will be assisting with the development of informational and educational materials on establishing pollinator habitat and providing support on projects related to the implementation and evaluation of pollinator practices and habitat in Wisconsin. For further inquiries about her work with NRCS, you can reach Laura via email.

Jared O’Brien, NRCS Pollinator Liaison Indiana

While originally from the Chicago area, Jared has lived in Northwest Indiana for over a decade. He is involved in a variety of conservation initiatives in the region, many of which focus on quality habitat and pollinator conservation. Jared’s professional experience working within the Indiana Conservation Partnership has often been centered around water quality, agricultural best management practices and native habitat establishment. He especially enjoys providing technical assistance to landowners as they embark on the rewarding journey of successfully establishing pollinator habitat.

Through an agreement between the Pollinator Partnership & NRCS, Jared is tasked with promoting pollinator habitat in small/beginning/urban farming operations, discussing pollinator habitat opportunities with landowners and assisting Indiana NRCS and SWCDs with the development of technical and informational resources pertaining to pollinators. Jared will provide strategic support with the Monarch Steering Committee and broader efforts to help increase pollinator habitat and conservation in Indiana. For further inquiries about his work with NRCS, you can reach Jared via email.

Pollinator Partnership and NRCS Indiana

Lara Roketenetz, NRCS Pollinator Liaison Ohio

Lara has a Master’s in Biology from John Carroll University and a Ph.D. in Integrated Bioscience from The University of Akron. In addition to being Pollinator Partnership’s Ohio NRCS Pollinator Liaison & Project Wingspan State Coordinator, Lara is also the manager for the University of Akron Field Station, the outdoor living laboratory for the UA Biology Department. Her primary duties at the Field Station include mission fulfillment of scientific research, education, and community outreach. As a result of her professional and educational background, Lara understands the importance of connecting people to nature in order to inspire stewardship and community action, experience that she’s excited to bring to this partnership with NRCS. Some of the goals Lara will be working toward as the NRCS Liaison in Ohio include promoting and developing additional pollinator habitat, conducting state-wide trainings on pollinators and habitat for both landowners and SWCD/NRCS staff, and developing new technical materials particularly for urban agriculture. For further inquiries about her work with NRCS, you can reach Lara via email.

Eleanor Schumacher, NRCS Pollinator Liaison Illinois

Eleanor began her career in agriculture and conservation in 2010, serving as an apiary inspector with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Fascinated by the correlation between pollinator habitat quality and bee health, she pursued studies in Pollination Ecology and received a Master’s Degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences from University of Illinois in 2018. She worked as Resource Conservationist for the Madison County Soil & Water Conservation District from 2017 through 2019, where she enjoyed conservation planning, engineering, event planning, and leading a prairie management collective, the Madison County Prairie Partners. With the P2-NRCS partnership, Eleanor will assist NRCS field office staff with pollinator habitat evaluation, plant identification, seed mixes, trainings, outreach and other tasks identified as the P2-NRCS relationship evolves. For further inquiries about her work with NRCS, you can reach Eleanor viaemail.

Maureen Stine, NRCS Pollinator Liaison Michigan

Maureen graduated from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and spent the years that followed serving conservation-focused non-profit organizations and agencies. Maureen recently served the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as a soil conservationist creating conservation plans outlining alternatives to manage Michigan landscapes for optimal environmental and economic benefit. Planning seed mixes for landowners interested in improving soil health and vegetative diversity was a large part of her work during the eight years with NRCS and she was recognized with the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s National Earth Team award for her volunteer projects in Michigan. Maureen’s 2021 plans include offering several field events and training opportunities with a focus on seed cocktails, suppliers and best management practices supporting conservation cover (327), wildlife habitat planting (420), and tree/shrub establishment (314) to enhance pollinator habitat across Michigan. For further inquiries about her work with NRCS, you can reach Maureen via email.

Sara Wittenberg, NRCS Pollinator Liaison Arkansas

Sara graduated with a BS in Zoology from Auburn University, then went on to obtain her MS in Biology from the University of Arkansas. Sara is the Arkansas State Coordinator for Pollinator Partnership's Project Wingspan, where she has developed partnerships with state agencies and non-profits towards the common goal of pollinator habitat expansion. Sara curates seed collection teams and coordinates efforts to collect native seed and distribute seeds/plants within Arkansas for conservation projects. Pollinator Partnership and the NRCS recently forged a partnership which placed Sara in a position to collaborate with conservation districts and extension to develop resources and training materials for pollinator conservation and habitat development. Her goal is to direct Arkansas landowners, including beekeepers, to NRCS practices that will help them establish pollinator habitat on their property. Additionally, she will seek to incorporate pollinator habitat into demonstration sites and assist in promoting NRCS programs at pollinator outreach events. For further inquiries about her work with NRCS, you can reach Sara via email.