Nature Conservancy seeks docent volunteers for tallgrass

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital
A herd of roughly 2,500 American Bison is a signature feature of the Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, located in Osage County, Oklahoma. This image is titled “Bison in Autumn.” Photo courtesy of Harvey Payne

If you would enjoy sharing information about The Nature Conservancy’s tallgrass prairie ecosystem with visitors from all over the world at the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, north of Pawhuska, the training begins in February.

For specific information about this once-a-year docent training or to enroll, attend the informational meeting at 2 p.m. Jan. 12 in the Pecan Room at Hardesty Regional Library, 8316 East 93rd in Tulsa, or Jan. 16 in Conference Room A at the Bartlesville Public Library, 600 S. Johnstone, at 7 p.m.

If unable to attend either meeting, you may enroll online at the website noted below or contact Kay Krebbs, Docent Coordinator, 918-287-4803 or 918-855-7189 (email, about your interest, by no later than Jan. 19.

The volunteer program promotes The Nature Conservancy’s mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends, through tallgrass prairie ecosystem restoration at the preserve.

A primary function of the volunteers is to interact with preserve visitors, who come from all 50 states and more than 100 other countries. The Conservancy’s employees focus on activities directly related to the scientific mission; the public relations with visitors falls mainly on the volunteers’ shoulders.

Volunteers help visitors see a prairie rather than a pasture. They explain the Conservancy and preserve missions, provide information about the preserve history, status, bison herd, and tall grasses, answer visitor questions, and staff the visitor center gift shop. In order to conduct these activities effectively, volunteers receive training in preserve policies, history and visitor center procedures. Trained volunteers are called docents.

The training will take place Feb. 1 at the preserve (Feb. 8 is the inclement weather alternate date). The second training session will take place at the preserve on either Feb. 7 or Feb. 15 (choose which date you want to attend). Two days minimum internship at the visitor center will follow, with dates chosen by the prospective docent. One additional day at the visitor center will complete the minimum required three days at the visitor center to be an active docent.

Docents also have limited opportunities to participate in special, docents only, activities such as field classes on wildflower and plant identification, butterfly and bird identification, geology, and at least one annual guided hike into non-public areas of the Preserve. These experiences give docents the opportunity to provide more in-depth information about the diversity of the preserve’s grasses, flowers, wildlife, bison, terrain, etc.

Although prairie expanses are common to local residents, the vastness is unusual to people from foreign countries and from many of our coastal states. Visitors are excited when they experience the preserve, the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left on earth. Docent duties are shared with multiple docents, who volunteer daily from March 1 through Dec. 22.

More docent information may be found on the Tallgrass Prairie Volunteer website