Chris Barnhart honored for conservation work at Nature Center

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Dr. Chris Barnhart takes extra time to make sure young visitors to the annual Butterfly Festival get some hands-on science about butterflies and moths. The event includes a caterpillar petting zoo as well as free tours of the house in the background.

The doctors are in at the Roston Native Butterfly House, where Dr. Chris Barnhart showed Dr. Peter Raven some Ozarks Hospitality in 2015. Raven was in Springfield for the Missouri Prairie Foundation annual meeting and state conference.

Chris and Deb Barnhart at the annual Butterfly Festival, educating young visitors about the importance of pollinators to the world we live in.

Chris Barnhart lays a new brick floor at the butterfly house. More than 30,000 visitors come through that door each season, including students, teachers and gardeners from all over the Ozarks and the nation. The all-native house is the only one of its kind in Missouri.

One of our favorite scientists, professors and lepidopterists is also one of our favorite people on the plant. With Chris and Debra Barnhart, the sum of their combined efforts is exponentially remarkable.

This time of year you might see them delivering butterfly chrysalis to the Friends of the Garden Office and later to the Roston Native Butterfly House where Chris is the curator and chief caretaker of more than two dozen native Missouri butterflies and moths.

A distinguished professor of biology at Missouri State University, Dr. Chris Barnhart the Missouri Department of Conservation Outreach and Education 2016 External Partnership Award for his work at the Springfield Nature Center.

At the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, Chis provides lectures and other resources for interpretive programs about insect and pollination biology, endangered species and invasive species.

“I’m very grateful to be part of a community that values wildlife and conservation,” says Chris. “The Department of Conservation provides great opportunities for collaboration in research and education.”

“As curator, I provide training for docents, raise butterflies and moths for display, and develop interpretive materials and infrastructure,” Barnhart explains. “I work with a group of about 40 docents. We display the entire life cycle of native species, complete with host plants, predators and parasites, and use these to teach ecological lessons and the importance of native wildlife. The Butterfly House is a great resource for teachers, and we distribute hundreds of caterpillars to classrooms each year. RBH receives over 30,000 visitors annually.”

Butterflies aren’t even his research speciality:
“My research interests include the physiological ecology of animals, particularly in freshwater,” writes Barnhart. “Current projects focus on the conservation biology and captive propagation of freshwater bivalves, and the effects of hypoxia on aquatic organisms.”

This isn’t the only award Barnhart has received for his conservation efforts.

In 2010 Barnhart received the Collaborator of the Year award from the Department of Conservation, Resource Science Division “for outstanding collaboration with the Missouri Department of Conservation to further the conservation of freshwater mussels and other natural resources in Missouri.”

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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