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Austin Peay’s ‘Prairie Preacher’ joins ranks of Garden Club of America’s honorary members

By: Colby Wilson January 19, 2024

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Austin Peay State University biology professor and executive director and co-founder of the Southeastern Grasslands Institute, Dr. Dwayne Estes, has been named an honorary member of the Garden Club of America.

The Garden Club of America is a nonprofit national organization that comprises 199 member garden clubs with nearly 18,000 members who devote energy and expertise to projects in their communities and across the U.S. Founded in 1913, the GCA leads in horticulture, conservation, creative arts, historic preservation and environmental protection.

“The Garden Club of America is hands down one of the most influential conservation organizations in our nation, and it is a great personal honor to be named an honorary member. In developing SGI, I have had the great pleasure of speaking to GCA chapters across the East, from San Antonio, Texas, to Long Island, New York. This has been a great platform for spreading SGI’s message of the need to conserve our vanishing southeastern grasslands.

The Garden Club of Nashville nominated and the Little Rock Garden Club seconded Estes, whose advocacy for native grassland restoration makes him an ideal member of the prestigious institution. Known as the “Prairie Preacher,” Estes raises awareness about the largely lost and forgotten historical grasslands that once stretched across 24 states from New York to Texas. In addition to grassland conservation and restoration, his other research interests include plant diversity, plant conservation, natural history and historical ecology.

No stranger to the GCA, Estes has received a club commendation and the Zone IX Conservation Commendation in 2022. In 2018 and 2023, he spoke in Washington at the GCA National Affairs & Legislation Conference to GCA members nationwide. He also has addressed various clubs and served as the keynote speaker at the 2022 Zone IX meeting.

Estes has positioned SGI as the premier grassland restoration institution in the Eastern United States. His work has united partners for on-the-ground conservation, research and education, developed approaches to curb Southeastern grasslands loss and recreate lost landscapes, trained the next generation of conservationists in biodiversity research, seed banking and restoration, and workshop solutions for lost grasslands throughout the Eastern United States.


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