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ECCo Newsletter - November 2012

Translating museum knowledge into lasting results for conservation and cultural understanding—
in the midst of a great urban center and in the wildest, most remote places on Earth.

Econmiohyla tuberculata
Photo: Federico Pardo

ECCo by the Numbers

  • 25 Rapid Inventories have been conducted by ECCo in the past 13 years. The latest, in October 2012, was in the vast forests of the Ere-Campuya watersheds along the Putumayo River in northern Peru.
  • 11 species registered are new to science: 4 fish and 7 plant species. As we look at the museum specimens, we may discover more.
  • 316 species of birds were observed in the inventory, a bit below our average in lowland forests. The extremely nutrient-poor soils and small habitat diversity limited the species numbers but harbored rare specialists.
  • 68 species of frogs were found in the inventory, including the tree frog Econmiohyla tuberculata (photo). Although our local workers attributed the loud, descending call to the bushmaster, the world’s largest poisonous snake, herpetologists finally found the calling frog in a tree hole and made the first-ever recording of the species.
  • 10 species of monkeys were registered in the forests including: the brawny woolly monkey, raucous howler monkey, night monkey, 2 species of capuchin (organ-grinder monkeys), the smaller titi, saki, and squirrel monkeys, the little black-collared tamarin, and the diminutive pygmy marmoset, the tiniest monkey in South America.
  • 13 scientists from 5 countries participated in the biological team surveying 3 sites, while 7 experts in the social team surveyed 4 communities along the Putumayo River.

Overflight of Ere-Campuya
Photo: Alvaro del Campo

Andes/Amazon News: 
a Window into Unexplored Forests

What happens when you drop 12 biologists, 7 social scientists, and a geologist into the most diverse corner of the Amazon basin? You open a window into one of the remaining unknown places on Earth.

Our team spent three weeks exploring the Ere, Campuya, and Algodón river basins, tributaries of the Putumayo River, which forms the border between Peru and Colombia. We discovered an area with 2-million-year-old (Plio-Pleistocene) soils, extremely poor in nutrients and drained by the purest waters in the Amazon basin, supporting a diverse flora and fauna. The team recorded 1,500 plants, 210 fishes, 68 frogs, 59 snakes and lizards, 316 birds, and 41 mammals during the inventory—that is about 150 different species a day. Eleven or more species may be new to science.

Our social team visited four of the 16 communities living along this stretch of the Putumayo River (total population approximately 1,100 people). The local residents—mostly Kichwa and Murui—expressed their strong desire to create a conservation area that would protect the natural resources fundamental to their culture and traditions. Together with local leaders, we are proposing a conservation area of 2.2 million acres to protect the three watersheds and sustain the quality of life of its residents.

Augie Carlino and ECCo’s Mark Bouman discuss steel heritage
Photo: Laurel Ross

Chicago Region News: the Calumet Heritage Corridor, a Bold Idea

“Be bold, not ambivalent,” advised August “Augie” Carlino, President of Pittsburgh’s Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Speaking at the 13th Annual Calumet Heritage Conference on October 20, to an audience interested in the local application of the heritage-area concept, Carlino conveyed lessons he learned in building one of the nation’s premier heritage areas.  Fifteen years after a National Park Service study suggested that the Calumet region could become a heritage area, ECCo’s support for the conference brought a new measure of boldness to the idea.    

The bi-state Calumet region is indeed an eye-filling landscape.  It mixes extraordinary natural areas with scenes of technological wonder. Behind what the eye sees are equally compelling human stories of settlement, construction, study, struggle, and renewal. Heritage areas present one way of binding stories together into a coherent whole.

ECCo’s strengths in building on cultural and natural assets brought new momentum to the effort. A narrated tour, both by bus and rail, took in the extent and complexity of the Calumet region. For more information on the conference and its host—the Calumet Heritage Partnership—visit

Get the new oaks guide here.

ECCo Uncovered: Oaks, the Making of a Color Guide

ECCo’s newest rapid color guide, Common Oaks of the Chicago Region, is a beautiful field companion for some of the region’s most commonly occurring trees. Drawing on The Field Museum’s collection and samples from the field, the guide shows a range of images that will intrigue even veteran botanists. The striking differences among leaf shapes and acorn types underscore the rich diversity in this singular and common group of trees—a core element of our Chicago region landscape.

A rapid guide sprouts from an acorn of an idea like “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a guide to…?” The first shoots of thought begin to reach for light. Is it feasible? Do we have the images we need or do we go out and capture more? Then the team structures those images, clustering species into natural groupings and clarifying distinctions among them. The team writes the text and tweaks the final product based on advice from experts. One final run-through and the guide is ready for posting! 

Interested in making your own guide?  Here's a link to how we do it:
All the Chicago region rapid guides:

The Kankakee Sands prairie restoration was one site of the fall excursion
Photo: Diane Banta

ECCo Location: Environmental Wonders Close to Home

Nearly 50 conservation-minded “tourists” explored the environmental wonders of the Kankakee region on a gorgeous October day in an excursion organized by ECCo and cosponsored by the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County and Chicago Wilderness. The trip had two purposes: to inspire increased collaborative action among conservation leaders in the region, and to raise awareness about Kankakee as a spectacular destination for outdoor recreation in the Chicago region.

Expert local guides, including Marianne Hahn of the Friends of the Kankakee, Stephanie Frischie of The Nature Conservancy, and Jim Sweeney of the Izaak Walton League, led the group on an all-day adventure featuring wetlands along the Kankakee River, globally significant black-oak sand savannas, and an 8,000-acre prairie restoration. The tour ended with a reception at the magnificent Bradley House, a Frank Lloyd Wright landmark building in the City of Kankakee, where local public officials greeted the group with smiles. A lively discussion ensued about the potential for increased tourism from Chicagoans to the region and the possibility of revisiting the idea of a National Wildlife Refuge there.

A family digs up clumps of little bluestem grass for their home prairie 
Photo: Laurel Ross

Get Involved: Northerly Island Plant Rescue

The call went out and more than two hundred people responded, mounting a remarkable plant rescue mission recently at Northerly Island, southeast of the Museum Campus. The Army Corps of Engineers will begin a Habitat Development project here to create a higher-quality, more diverse natural area for flora, fauna, and campers. But what could have been lost in the reconstruction were native grasses and flowers that instead were adopted.

Families, schools, neighborhood associations, and garden clubs arrived at the island with shovels and bags to dig and remove a dozen species that they loaded into cars and took home to replant and care for in their own communities. Among the prizes distributed were little bluestem (Andropogon scoparius), sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), new england aster (Aster novae-angliae), gray-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida), and hoary vervain (Verbena stricta).

Co-sponsored by the Chicago Park District, ECCo, Openlands, and Audubon, this high-spirited event introduced many Chicagoans to Northerly Island for the first time. 

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