Multimedia Education For Local Conservationists

© The Morton Arboretum
The Woodland Stewardship Program in action. © The Morton Arboretum

As a professional ecologist and educator, I often think about the resurgence of nature in our local landscapes. Spending time in nature with the many mentors who have inspired and encouraged my involvement has always been the best learning experience in the world. Many patient hours have been spent in the field, developing detailed observation skills over many seasons. I’ve gained an invaluable education from knowledgeable ecologists such as June Keibler, Brad Semel, Bill Kleiman, and Stephen Packard who each have years of innovative field experience in ecological restoration. They have learned by trial and error to develop effective techniques for vegetation management that benefit wildlife habitat and promote whole ecosystem recovery, which is the lofty goal of ecological restoration. Other mentors in botany have taught me the local flora through many hours in the field comparing habitat and species composition in the various plant communities.

Brad Semel, heritage biologist for IDNR, leading a Restoration & Wildlife class. © The Morton Arboretum

Other ways to learn might be a college degree, an internship, or simply volunteering in the nearby nature preserve… I have done all of the above and am still learning, that’s what makes science great fun! By applying science to restoration practices we can improve the adaptive management principles which are being developed in the region. These field applications are crucial to the steward looking for insights into the how’s, what’s, and when’s—and also the dos and don’ts of ecological restoration.

The Invasive Species I course introduces the worst invasive species of the Chicago region. © The Morton Arboretum

Why not blend as many of these ways of learning into one multimedia package to help reach local conservationists? The Morton Arboretum is doing just this by creating several newly developed classes that combine online, learn-at-your-own-pace digital modules and also the indispensable expert-in-the-field instructors who can identify plants and wildlife and lead discovery hikes combined with traditional classroom activities. This dynamic style of teaching allows widespread audiences to access interactive course materials from home computers or mobile devices.

Continue reading Multimedia Education For Local Conservationists

Save the Date for Wild Things!

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Save the date for the next Wild Things Conference!

Saturday, February 18, 2017 at University of Illinois Chicago Forum.

Join us for the seventh biennial Wild Things Conference, bringing together volunteers, advocates, citizen scientists, researchers, and nature enthusiasts from across the Chicago region. We look forward to welcoming you to our new conference space at the UIC Forum for an inspiring day of presentations, workshops, and networking opportunities designed for the conservation community.

Wondering about the latest efforts to save the rusty-patched bumblebee? Curious to hear about the Kankakee mallow’s triumphant comeback on Langham Island? The Wild Things 2017 Conference is the place to be for the latest updates on these and other regional conservation issues.

Important upcoming dates:

  • August 27 – Call for presentations on our website
  • November 15 – Registration opens

Can’t wait for the conference? We encourage you to explore our new website and follow our Facebook page.

Summertime: Our Wild Things Website

Among the milkweeds and walnuts, Veterans Park, Naperville – 6/3/16, © Stephen Constantelos
Morning sky over burgeoning milkweeds and walnut trees, Veterans Park, Naperville – 6/3/16, © Stephen Constantelos

Summer is just about here, so why not spend a little of your cooling-off time with Wild Things? I encourage you to explore this website, created by and for our community. You can “Find Your Spot” for volunteering as well as learn about upcoming training classes. Wander down the growing list of resources, including local artists, advocate organizations, and books. And you can re-live the glories of past Wild Things and even download past conference materials. We hope to see a lot of traffic back and forth between here and the Wild Things Facebook page.

What’s more, you can contribute to this website, enhancing the above sections or this blog. So, if you have any tales of local volunteering, ecological success stories or restoration techniques, philosophic ruminations on what Wild Things is all about, or natural history notes from our part of IL, WI, or IN, please contact us. By the way, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog, if you’re up for an occasional email about a new post.

As we prepare for next year’s conference, I’m especially keen to hear from previous presenters or those who may be presenting for the first time. What’s new with your research? It only takes a few paragraphs and an image or two to get something posted.

—Stephen Constantelos, Wild Things Blog Editor

Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, Chicago – 5/31/16, © Stephen Constantelos
Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, Chicago – 5/31/16, © Stephen Constantelos

Moraine Valley CC Partnership Pilot

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MVCC Bird Monitoring – 3/30/2016, © Pat Hayes

A series of field study classes, honors program social media support, and year round, non-wage intern positions in several disciplines resulted when Pat Hayes, site steward from Orland Grassland, reached out to Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, President of Moraine Valley Community College and member of the Conservation and Policy Committee of the Next Century Conservation Plan Commission. The question raised was, “Is there a college partnership opportunity at Orland Grassland for students to participate in broad restoration activity for their learning enrichment and Orland Grassland’s restoration benefit?”  After a series of meetings with school staff and other key stakeholders, the answer was a resounding, enthusiastic, “Yes!”

The Moraine Valley Community College Partnership Pilot was born.

All agreed to go slow with hopes of expansion over time. Better to go slow, acquire successes upon which to build, and identify that which can be improved. As a result, a multi-faceted plan emerged…

Continue reading Moraine Valley CC Partnership Pilot

A Symposium/Benefit for Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

Fall at Ryerson Woods, © Brushwood Center
Fall at Ryerson Woods, Riverside, IL © Brushwood Center

Lake County Forest Preserves’ Ryerson Woods is home to Brushwood Center, an environmental education and arts center, “a center for discourse about nature and culture.” Brushwood features an ongoing variety of programs bringing nature lovers together to paint, watch birds, practice yoga, or simply enjoy a concert against a backdrop of wood, field, and farm.

On May 14th, Brushwood Center will host the Smith Nature Symposium, a benefit dinner with a keynote by Clemson University’s Dr. J. Drew Lanham, a self-described “a man of color in love with the natural world.” Dr. Lanham is a nationally-respected voice on the deep connection between ethnicity, land, and conservation and he will be addressing the link between minority communities and critical bird habitat. Click here to register for the benefit dinner.

Sketching outside Brushwood Center, © Brushwood Center
Sketching outside Brushwood Center, © Brushwood Center

Ryerson Woods is an amazing place with its pre-settlement flora and fauna, a place, thankfully, where we can enjoy the beauties of spring unencumbered by garlic mustard…

Continue reading A Symposium/Benefit for Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

Upcoming Training Workshops

Tracks in the snow, 1/20/16, DuPage County © Stacy Constantelos
Tracks in the snow, 1/20/16, DuPage County © Stacy Constantelos

Want to monitor frogs, butterflies, dragonflies or plants?  Want to learn about herbicides, brush cutting or burns? Need certification to do what you love? Late winter/early spring is a great time to consider what you’ll be up to in 2016’s warmer days! You can track down upcoming training workshops on our classes page.

Observing Odonates

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White-Faced Meadowhawk, DuPage County, IL © Linda Padera

Are you an insect fan looking for a monitoring opportunity? A frequenter of a local wetland? Maybe a birder looking for creatures to track between migration seasons? Just want to level up your binocular and observation skills? Monitoring Odonates (Order Odonata, encompassing dragonflies and damselflies) may be just the thing for you.

The Illinois Odonate Survey has six workshops scheduled for 2016.  They are listed below.  Please RSVP for your selected workshop by email.  Cook and Will County volunteers should also be able to RSVP via their Volunteer Resources page.

Will County Forest Preserve
Sugar Creek Administration Center February 27th 8am – 10am
17540 W. Laraway Road, west of Route 52, Joliet, IL 60433
Sandra McNicholas

Notebaert Nature Museum March 12th 10am – Noon
2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614
Melissa Drozd

DuPage County Forest Preserve
Blackwell Forest Preserve March 15th 6pm – 8pm
29 W 220 Mack Road, West Chicago, IL 60185
Gareth Blakesley

Cook County Forest Preserve
Volunteer Resource Center March 19th 9am – Noon
6100 N. Central Avenue, Chicago, IL 60646
James Philips

Little Red Schoolhouse March 20th 9am – Noon
9800 Willow Springs Road, Willow Springs, IL 60480
James Philips

Lake County Forest Preserve
Ryerson Woods March 26th 10am – Noon
21950 N. Riverwoods Road, Deerfield, IL 60015

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Azure Bluet, DuPage County, IL © Linda Padera

Learn more about these amazing insects!
—Stephen Constantelos

Welcome to the Wild Things Community

Welcome to our community of inspiring souls who live and breathe nature in the greater Chicago region called the Chicago Wilderness!

Lake Herrick Forest Preserve - 4/19/2008, © Marilyn L. Schweitzer
Lake Herrick Forest Preserve – 4/19/2008, © Marilyn L. Schweitzer

Wasn’t the 2015 Wild Things Conference terrific? (Read about it and some of the other the past  Wild Things conferences.)  The volunteers who brought you the 2015 conference, plus new volunteers are creating this community website and blog to keep you abreast on the latest happenings—we  invite you to join the conversation.

Readers of our blog will find feature articles on a wide range of topics:

  • Arthropods, Birds, Fish, Herps, Mammals, Reptiles, Plants
  • Dunes, Lakes/Ponds, Prairies, Rivers/Streams, Savannas, Wetlands, Woodlands
  • Backyards/Gardens, Neighborhoods, Urban Environment
  • Advocacy,  Citizen Science, Monitoring, Restoration, Stewardship, Volunteering
  • Climate Change, Conservation, Ecology, Invasive Species, Native Species, Rare Species, Research, Rewilding, Sustainability
  • Arts, Culture, Heritage, Tools for Educators, Youth

Individuals really can make a difference, as the 2015 conference presentation “Wild Things – People make the difference”  iconpdf 17mb, prepared by Pat Hayes and Karen Tharp beautifully illustrates.

Through citizen science, volunteers monitor wildlife such as birds, frogs and plants, working with best practices developed and supported by professionals from a wide range of institutions.

Similarly, volunteers also work to restore wildlands habitat  in conjunction with organized volunteer groups and agencies. Please join and support them.

To also help you on your way, we have a long list of conservation-minded resources.

And, oh, the 2017 Wild Things Conference is already on our minds!