Botanist and Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner

Hi! 👋 I am a field botanist and Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner working in the Chicago region. At Northwestern University, I studied environmental sciences with a focus on plant biology and conservation. After that, I worked for 8 years at an ecological consulting firm with projects for government agencies, non-profits, and private clients located throughout the Midwest. I have…

  • designed and monitored habitat restoration projects, from wetlands that stretch hundreds of acres to urban backyards,
  • conducted hundreds of floristic inventories and surveyed thousands of quadrats,
  • led plant identification and iNaturalist workshops for a variety of audiences,
  • delineated wetlands, assessed T&E species habitat, collected and mapped geospatial data, written technical specifications,
  • directed clients toward achieving permit sign-off, whipped up cost estimates, put together successful project proposals, managed project schedules and budgets, and
  • done all the other tasks that come with working for small organizations: researched and purchased equipment, planned events, created a website, designed graphics, staffed a booth at conferences, and managed social media.

My interest in natural areas and volunteering have led me to sit on the state and local chapter boards of the Illinois Native Plant Society, cut buckthorn and honeysuckle with numerous habitat restoration groups, help identify plants for the public on iNaturalist, organize bioblitzes, participate in citizen science projects like Plants of Concern, assist with the Wild Things conference, launch the Illinois Botanists Big Year contest (now in its 5th year), manage the City Nature Challenge for the Chicago Wilderness Region, and assist with lichen herbarium curation at the Morton Arboretum.

As a curator on the citizen science website iNaturalist, I help manage the taxonomic database, provide guidance to new users, and improve the quality of the data, which are publicly available and bolster numerous conservation and research programs worldwide.

Aside from studying and restoring natural areas, one of the things I most enjoy is helping the average person realize that natural spaces, even in urban areas, are diverse, beautiful, and worthy of our protection and care.

If you’ve got ideas or opportunities, check out my resume, and shoot me an email!

—cassi

Kankakee mallow Iliamna remota
cassi saari Palmisano Park Chicago Park District Natural Areas
Elymus canadensis Rainbow Beach

“You are an excellent writer and editor. Your suggestions are absolutely spot on. Very few science/ecology types are.”

“Thank you cassi for the breadth of your knowledge and your desire to share it with others.”

“Thanks again for your kindness in every single interaction I’ve had with you. In a world with too much hostility, it really stands out and has a profound impact.”


Looking for a speaker?

I’m happy to speak about or teach workshops on the following topics. Get in touch!

  • habitat restoration → planning, implementing, and monitoring prairie, wetland, savanna, and woodland restoration projects in the Midwest United States; performance standards for ecosystem restoration assessment; seed and plant mix design
  • plant identification → intro to botany; Midwest US flowering plants including native and non-native species, invasive species, tree and shrubs; tools for plant ID; taxonomy; botanical terminology
  • iNaturalist → intro to iNaturalist, all-day indoor/outdoor iNaturalist workshops, using iNaturalist for citizen science projects, advanced iNaturalist tools