Scientific Staff

Kurt Dreisilker, MS

Head of Natural Resources and Collections Horticulture

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As Head of Natural Resources and Collections Horticulture, Kurt oversees the planning and implementation of ecological restoration projects within the Arboretum’s natural areas.

Kurt has more than 20 years of experience managing ex-situ (horticultural maintenance) and in situ (natural ecosystems) conservation programs at the Arboretum. Currently, Kurt’s research focuses on understanding the Arboretum’s natural ecosystems with the aim of improving their health, diversity, and sustainability over time.

He works closely with staff and volunteers to document and improve conditions for the flora and fauna within the landscape and then devises plans to improve their conditions by implementing tailored conservation projects.

Additionally, Kurt works with staff and volunteers to engage in maintenance operations of the Arboretum’s living collections, which includes ensuring the trees and shrubs of the Arboretum are in good condition. He also coordinates with numerous organizations on regional, national, and international scales to understand and help implement conservation and ecological restoration projects across the globe.

He believes that acting locally is instrumental to improving natural areas and has helped develop the Arboretum’s Natural Areas Conservation Training Program to train local citizens to engage in local natural area stewardship.

Kurt also serves as treasurer for the Midwest Invasive Plant Network and co-leads the initiative “Public Gardens as Sentinels against Invasive Plants”—which helps botanic gardens and arboreta throughout the US and Canada standardize how to prevent plant taxa spreading from cultivation from becoming invasive.

Thanks to Kurt’s work, in 2014 The Morton Arboretum’s natural resources program was accredited at the highest level (platinum) by its peers in Chicago Wilderness’ “Excellence in Ecological Restoration Program”—recognizing the Arboretum’s commitment to this important work.

Kurt has delivered dozens of lectures, classes, and presentations—both nationally and internationally—drawing on his expertise in restoring and managing tallgrass prairie, wetlands, and riverine ecosystems, oak woodlands, and savanna.


MS, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

University of Illinois
Urbana, Illinois

BS, Plant Biology

University of Illinois
Urbana, Illinois

  • Treasurer, Midwest Invasive Plant Network
  • Institutional liaison, BGCI’s Ecological Restoration Alliance