Category: Blog


Published: February 14, 2011

The RESTORE project

Alaka Wali, Curator of North American Anthropology, Negaunee Integrative Research Center



The RESTORE project (Rethinking Ecological and Social Theories of Restoration Ecology) is co-led by the Science Action Center, the Chicago Wilderness science team, and research partners at UIC, DePaul University, USDA Forest Service, and UIUC.

The RESTORE explores how perceptions of nature, types of knowledge, and collective decision making strategies affect ecological restoration practices in Chicago Wilderness, and how these different practices influence biodiversity outcomes. We selected 11 research sites in Cook, DuPage, and Lake Counties that represent a variety of organizations and ways of conducting restoration in oak woodland/savannas. RESTORE explores the following questions:

- Are there differences in decision-making processes involved in ecological restoration?

- Do they lead to differences in biodiversity outcomes?

- Do these outcomes influence the extent to which the public supports restoration decisions?



Research Activities

  • Our social science team interviewed more than 60 land managers, researchers, and volunteers and observed restoration activities. We gathered information on the ecological history of each site and how and why different land management decisions were made. Now in our final year, our team is working together to synthesize the social and ecological data (including biodiversity indicators measured by our ecology team members). 
  • We used the Institutional Analysis and Development framework to analyze the social structure, processes, and institutions (rules, norms, and strategies) of the restoration organizations.  This work is now under review for publication in two journals.
  • Agent-based models were developed to simulate different interaction processes used in the restoration organizations. The results of this work can be found in a pdf article, and another article is under review for journal publication.
  • Our social science team also conducted surveys on public attitudes and knowledge of restoration activities with onsite natural area visitors and surrounding neighbors. These data are currently being analyzed.

The end goal of RESTORE is to recommend models for restoration that result in the desired outcomes for the people and natural areas of the Chicago Wilderness region.

RESTORE is funded by the National Science Foundation


Alaka Wali
Curator of North American Anthropology, Negaunee Integrative Research Center

Alaka Wali is a curator of North American Anthropology in the Science and Education Division.  She was the founding director of the Center for Cultural Understanding and Change from 1995- 2010.  She currently curates the sizeable North American collection which includes a contemporary urban collection.  She also works closely with colleagues in the Science Action Center.