Each fall students taking Forest Ecology are introduced to Beverly James, Preserve Manager at Floracliff Nature Sanctuary, during one of their weekly field trips. Floracliff is a 287-acre non-profit, privately run nature preserve located in southern Fayette County. During their visit, Forest Ecology students are privileged to have a private tour from Beverly as she masterfully describes the ecological relationships amongst the preserve’s diverse flora and fauna, touching on subjects like invasive species ecology and management, biodiversity, and old-growth trees.

Beverly graduated from the NRCM program in 2004 with an emphasis area in conservation biology. As Floracliff’s only full-time employee, she has what seems from the outside to be an overwhelming amount of responsibility. The most time-consuming aspect of her job is managing the preserve’s invasive species, which requires an enormous, year-round effort. To do this, Beverly makes seasonal removal plans, prioritizes areas that need attention, and coordinates employee and volunteer removal efforts. The fall and winter seasons are dedicated to removing Amur honeysuckle and other non-native invasive species like privet, burning bush, Japanese honeysuckle, and wintercreeper. When spring rolls around, Beverly switches her attention to garlic mustard and Star-of-Bethlehem, followed by Chinese yam in the summer. Currently, Beverly is coordinating with other preserve managers around the state to develop a strategy to mitigate the effects of the recently arrived emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that attacks and kills ash trees. Beverly said she enjoys this work because, “it comes with immediate gratification and I often come upon new observations in the field while working on honeysuckle.”  

In addition to addressing invasive species, Beverly also leads, plans, and facilitates environmental education programs that highlight Floracliff’s biodiversity. This is one of her favorite aspects of the job. She said, “I have come to really enjoy leading and planning educational programs, particularly the Floracliff Field Studies Workshops. I enjoy the creativity that comes with programming and I like interacting with visitors.” Floracliff Field Studies Workshops are hands-on workshops that educate visitors about a specific topic in depth (http://www.floracliff.org/fieldstudies.html). Workshops to date have focused on wildflowers, trees, stream macroinvertebrates, mushrooms, birds, and insects, among other topics. To add to her workload, Beverly is also in charge of stream monitoring, fundraising, managing Floracliff’s web presence, and maintaining the buildings, trails, and tools on site.

Beverly attributes her success as Floracliff’s manager to a number of prior experiences, and her experiences in the NRCM program. For example, she still employs concepts taught in courses like Forest Ecology, Dendrology, and Ornithology in her daily routines. Beverly also credits her prior work experience with providing opportunities to apply her knowledge to real-life situations in professional settings. In particular, working for the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission provided valuable experience removing invasive species, conducting prescribed burns, and reading survey maps to determine property boundaries, all of which are skills that are relevant to her position today.

From her experience managing Floracliff, Beverly recommends current students “get involved and network. Find organizations and groups that work in areas you’re interested in. Attend their meetings or programs and volunteer your time. Many environmental non-profits need younger people to get involved or be on their board; it can be a great way to gain experience and find out about more opportunities.”


To learn more about volunteer, internship, or educational opportunities, visit Floracliff’s website at: http://www.floracliff.org/index.html