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

Hazelnut and Plum: Shrub Restoration at Orland Grassland

Shrub Day volunteer group shot, Orland Grassland – 5/6/2016 © Pat Hayes
Shrub Propagation Day volunteer group shot, Orland Grassland – 5/6/2016 © Pat Hayes

It’s the first time this has been done and a lot of eyes are watching.

A unique collaborative effort by Victor J. Andrew High School (VJA) AP Environmental Science students, Illinois Master Naturalists (ILMNs), Orland Grassland Volunteers (OGVs), and the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) launched a pilot project to set up a shrub nursery at Orland Grassland from shrubs propagated on site.

With expansive prairie views, hilly, open Orland Grassland is a 960-acre wild destination for nature lovers. The area was once farmland, but since 2002 has been undergoing loving restoration as a grassland complex with prairie, wetlands, open ponds, oak savannas, shrublands, and woodlands.

The shrub project began when Laura Kirby, an AP Environmental Science teacher at VJA, contacted Pat Hayes, Orland Grassland Site Steward, asking if there was a project her students could do. Almost at the same time, Annette Pletcher, OGV and ILMN, came to Pat and asked if there was a project the ILMNs could do at Orland Grassland. Hmmm. Shrub propagation?

Enter Brigit Anne Holt, the Extension Program Coordinator, Master Naturalist, University of Illinois Extension. The question was posed: “Is it possible to take cuttings of our native American plum and hazelnut shrubs, and possibly others when timely, so that the VJA students can plant them?”  The answer: “Yes, what a great project.”

After much preparation and help from many parties, “Propagation Day” was May 5, 2016.

Continue reading Hazelnut and Plum: Shrub Restoration at Orland Grassland

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

Joining The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors

Braum Magnolia Warbler
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

Remembering Margo Milde

Margo Milde, Allegheny River, PA, © Donna Yates
Margo Milde, Allegheny River, PA, © Donna Yates

In Memoriam

Margo Milde

4/10/1956 – 9/26/2015

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

Many botanists and birders in the Chicago region have seen Margo Milde in the field. She was generous in sharing her knowledge of natural areas with others. Margo was particularly gifted in recognizing bird song and sounds, a skill she attributed to the many years of arduous classical piano lessons she was forced to endure as a child. Musical training gave her ability to appreciate the subtle nuances of tone, pitch, timbre, and rhythm, just as important in identifying bird songs as they are in appreciating and performing classical works of music.

In addition to the study of piano, Margo dedicated herself to studying the plant and bird life of the Chicago region, and its interrelated human history as well. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Northeastern Illinois University (Chicago) in Biology-Environmental Studies in 1993.

In 1994 she had obtained her first professional survey contract for an updated plant inventory of Pistakee Bog Nature Preserve (Ingleside, IL). In an article she authored of her bog adventures for the Friends of Volo Bog, Bog Log in 1995, she wrote that her small stature—being less likely to sink in treacherous areas of the bog, and affording her ease of crawling through thick brush—as well as owning a functional washer and drier at home were essential attributes to her success in bog field surveys. Her work at Pistakee Bog led to numerous other botanical and bird surveys professionally for both various governmental and private agencies until her move to Pennsylvania in 2014. Continue reading Remembering Margo Milde