Common milkweed flowers (Asclepias syriaca).  Lincoln Creek Prairie (Prairie Plains Resource Institute) - Aurora, Nebraska.
Common milkweed flowers Common milkweed flowers (Asclepias syriaca). Lincoln Creek Prairie (Prairie Plains Resource Institute) - Aurora, Nebraska. © Chris Helzer/TNC

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One Square Meter, One Year, Countless Surprises

Prairies are so much more than grass, and no one knows that fact better than Chris Helzer, The Nature Conservancy’s director of science in Nebraska. In 2018, Chris marked off just one square meter of restored grassland and took photos throughout the year to capture the diversity of prairie life. “At first, I figured I’d get frustrated sitting in one place, missing photo opportunities elsewhere,” he says. “But eventually, I found myself wandering through gorgeous landscapes, feeling distracted and unsettled, wondering what was happening back in my little plot.” He ultimately photographed 113 species there. “The view changed day to day, hour to hour. The diversity and dynamic beauty within that sliver of prairie is representative of prairies in general. I hope the project changes people’s perceptions of what prairies are and inspires them to visit and support conservation.”

Below are four of Chris's favorite shots from the project, which is chronicled in a new book, Hidden Prairie: Photographing Life in One Square Meter, from the University of Iowa Press.

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Read about Chris's adventures and see more of his work at prairieecologist.com

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