Spotlight on: Zach Irick, "the Botanist in the Attic"

April 22nd, 2020

We’ve decided to spotlight a Reflection Riding team member of the week so that our community can know more about the people who keep things moving forward in these crazy times. This week, we’re grateful for Zach Irick, our botanist.

About a year ago Zach was looking for a research and work space in the middle of the southern Appalachian region, where he focuses his work for the Southeast Grasslands Initiative. Zach works on a number of rare plant inventory and monitoring projects across eight states and 14 national parks in the Southeast. Someone mentioned to him that Reflection Riding would be a great home base; nice people, a beautiful spot, and right in the heart of the rich biodiversity hotspots of the Southeast. Since then, Zach has been a fun part of our team. 

We affectionately refer to him as “the botanist in the attic,” as he has set up shop in the loft space above the main Welcome Center entrance.

Zach grew up in Chattanooga, but hadn’t been to Reflection Riding in many years until his work brought him back. “Reflection Riding is a really great place to be a botanist,” Zach said. “Whenever I need a break or get tired of writing, I can just take a walk and see all the incredible native plants on the property.” 

When asked about his work, Zach tells stories about the endangered, carnivorous green pitcher plant he’s studying in Little River Canyon National Preserve and his plant conservation work in Cumberland Gap National Historic ParkRussell Cave National Monument, and Chickamauga National Military Park. Zach's excitement is palpable and contagious when he talks about developing conservation plans to care for and preserve rare plants for future generations.

Zach has been a valuable source of botanical knowledge and advice to the team as we manage the property with an eye toward increasing biodiversity and removing harmful invasive species. Reflection Riding is excited to work with Zach on more specific projects in the future, including educational programs and field trips to help our members and supporters see unique habitats and the wonders of natural environments in the Southeast. In the meantime, when Reflection Riding welcomes you back to the property, stop by and meet Zach. And be sure to ask him about that carnivorous green pitcher plant... he'll have a story to share.

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Planting native helps restore the natural habitat required for beautiful birds, butterflies and other insects to thrive. Plus, native plants are supposed to be here, so they're often more tolerant of neglect, poor soil, and draught.

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