CPS Students Restore Dan Ryan Woods

While many Chicagoans stayed indoors on Saturday, December 10, a group of CPS students bundled up in warm layers and rolled up their sleeves to restore a natural habitat. Iyanna Hayden, a participating student from Whitney Young High School said, “This is important to me because there are a lot of things that aren’t the way they should be as far as how we treat our environment. I’m here to make a difference.”

Covan Cox, Senior at Simeon Career Academy – 12/10/2016, © Maryam Salem
Covan Cox, Senior at Simeon Career Academy. – 12/10/2016, © Maryam Salem

Students were part of a Calumet Is My Back Yard (CIMBY) Senior Service Day at Dan Ryan Woods. CIMBY is a service learning program of the Chicago Public School’s Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement which helps students reconnect with nature and learn about the local environment. Students engage in outdoor science learning activities and stewardship to benefit the Calumet region. “CIMBY’s program offers interactive activities that allow our students to learn in a unique outdoor setting about their natural environment,” explains Lauren Woods, CPS Service Learning Coordinator.

Students worked alongside Benjamin Cox and Larry Unruh, Forest Preserve District site stewards, to remove invasive plants including buckthorn and honeysuckle. Introduced from overseas and able to grow in low quality soil, these invasive plants don’t give native plants and trees an opportunity to grow, negatively impacting the health of the local ecosystem. After two hours of stewardship work, the students were guided on a nature hike with Field Museum staff. Students learned about a variety of native plant and animal species and the importance of preserving species like the White Oak tree, a keystone species of Illinois.

CPS students on a nature hike at Dan Ryan Woods during Senior Service Day. – 12/10/2016, © Maryam Salem
CPS students on a nature hike at Dan Ryan Woods during Senior Service Day. – 12/10/2016, © Maryam Salem

The conservation efforts undertaken by CIMBY promote native trees and wildflowers to grow in places like Dan Ryan Woods, one of the very few preserves left in the city of Chicago. “Cook County has 69,000 acres of forest preserve, but only about 3,000 of them are in the city of Chicago—and this is one of them,” explained Benjamin Cox.

Dan Ryan Woods is home to dense forests, old oak woodlands and colorful ephemeral wildflowers. Much of the stunning natural preserve sits on an elevation, once an island of the ancient Lake Chicago over 10,000 years ago. Volunteer groups have been working to restore this beautiful landscape for over 10 years. As they work on projects like these, we hope the preserves will continue to see an increase in bird species and native animal habitats. For more information about volunteering with the Forest Preserves of Cook County please visit:  http://fpdcc.com/volunteer/.

Maryam Salem, Stewardship Coordinator for Calumet Is My Back Yard

Editor’s note. Learn a lot more about Calumet, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and getting students outdoors at Wild Things 2017.

Stephen Constantelos

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.

Fall Migration Is Coming Fast

Downtown bird monitors are often treated to beautiful morning skies as they start their rounds. – 8/15/2016, © Stephen Constantelos
Downtown bird monitors are often treated to beautiful morning skies as they start their rounds. – 8/15/2016, © Stephen Constantelos

I previously posted about how I came to join the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) and mission they pursue—rescuing birds in trouble throughout the year. It’s a rare day the hotline (773-988-1867) doesn’t get a call about a Chicagoland bird—only one day in 2015 came and went without a call for help.

Training Sessions

And now fall is coming. Birds and their fledglings are preparing to take wing en masse, to head south to the comforts such climes offer. Now is a great time to join the CBCM as a downtown monitor, rescuer in the city or suburbs, advocate for bird-safe building practices, or transporter of rescued birds to one of CBCM’s wildlife rehabilitation center partners.  Take a look at the training session schedule and sign up today. One session and you’ll be winging your way to a multifaceted, humane experience.

Stephen Constantelos

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

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

Joining The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors

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Magnolia Warbler, Chicago, IL © Anna Braum

One morning in downtown Chicago, standing near Calder’s Flamingo sculpture waiting for the post office to open, a gray-haired woman strode up to me holding out one of her gently clenched fists. Thinking I was a bird monitor (I was carrying a bag and wearing a backpack, but had no net), she offered me the bird she held, and I replied, “That’s a Black-and-White Warbler, but I’m not a bird monitor.” We chatted for a moment and she walked away toward the lake to release the bird. I posted my package and headed toward my office. En route I found a grounded warbler, still alive, by one of the buildings. I put it in my cloth shopping bag and decided to also go to the park to release the bird. As I headed east, lo and behold, another living (oven)bird lying stunned in the middle of the sunny sidewalk. I added that one to the bag and soon released them under some trees in the relative quiet of morning.

I thought it was too early for birds to be passing through, but I knew the Loop, with its walls of glass and lights everywhere was a trap for many migratory birds. I knew the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) group existed and that I should have contacted them at their hotline number, 773-988-1867. At Wild Things, I used to walk by their table, peering sidelong with interest; I would see volunteers in the streetlight shadows as I left my train and walked to my office. I had thought I didn’t have time to be involved, but now I was seeing birds everywhere and I decided to do something.

Continue reading Joining The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors

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!