Blogs & Videos: Environment & Conservation

Group of people posing next to river

Hitting the Pavement to Save Endangered Plants

What if a rare plant is living right in your backyard? Well, it just might be. But how do you find out it’s there, and what can you do with that information? Right now, some local endangered plant species are making a surprise comeback. They grow in the Calumet region, which includes the southern part of Chicago and northern Indiana. Two kinds of sedge, a grass-like flowering plant, recently set down roots on a field of slag. This hard material comes from making steel and is usually seen as toxic to nature.  

Saving a River from Poison

The Putumayo River is home to some of the purest water in the Amazon basin—but maybe not for long. The huge Amazon tributary forms the border between Colombia and Peru, draining from giant Amazonian forests, orchid-covered peatlands, and, most presciently, soil bearing traces of gold. But mining that gold has the unfortunate side-effect of poisoning the water with mercury.

With an emphasis on culture, a new kind of nature trail emerges along Chicago’s south lakefront

North of the Margaret Burroughs Beach, a Caracol-inspired gathering space with a Mesoamerican hop scotch game will be part of a new trail in the Burnham Wildlife Corridor. This will be one of five sites installed in spring of 2016 by teams of artists and community-based organizations whose designs are inspired both by local ecology, as well as the heritage of communities adjacent to the south lakefront.

A Monarch’s View of the City

The iconic monarch butterfly and other pollinators are in trouble.  Monarch butterfly habitat— including milkweed host plants and nectar food sources—has declined drastically throughout most of the United States. Population levels have also exhibited a long-term downward trend, suggesting that loss of habitat is a major factor in monarch declines. Fortunately we can reverse this decline! By adding the plants monarchs need to survive, primarily native milkweed and other native flowers, to home gardens, schools, offices, and farms we can bring back the monarch.

Fifth grade students begin their nature exploration hike during their Mighty Acorns field trip to Eggers Grove.

Spiders, Leaves, and Self: What Children Find Through Nature Exploration

“Millipedes! Look - Spiders! Roly Pollies! Eww! Cool! What is this!?” Almost out of breath, a group of nine fourth graders excitedly gather around a fallen tree, relentlessly exploring every aspect of it with magnifying glasses and their increasingly dirt-covered little hands. Barely a month into my AmeriCorps internship at the Field Museum and I was suddenly in charge of making sure that hundreds of elementary students were having meaningful and educational experiences in nature—something I had never been tasked with before.

From Alaska to Argentina: ReCycling through the Americas

Cyclists Yana Melamed and Vyacheslav (Slav) Stoyanov, who hail from Bulgaria, will call North and South America home for the next two years as they make an exceptional journey from Alaska to Argentina. Slav originally conceptualized their campaign, Cycle 4 Recycle, to highlight the impact humans have on the Earth. The pair will travel 60,000-kilometers (38,000 miles) by bicycle through 26 countries in (they hope) 731 days. On their way, they will experience climates ranging from the bitter cold of the mountains to the damp heat of the rainforests.

Born from the Ashes

You know that part in Game of Thrones where the dragon eggs hatch when they’re put in fire? This is like that, but with a super-endangered flower. Illinois’s only native wildflower, the Kankakee mallow, has been missing from this state for years—it was presumed extinct in its native habitat. But this year, Field Museum scientists and volunteers from the Friends of Langham Island group were able to bring it back. Their secret? Setting fire to the ground where the plants once lived.

Peregrine Falcons Removed from IL Endangered List

Peregrine Falcons have their share of claims to fame—with a diving speed of over 200 miles per hour, they’re the fastest animals in the world, and they’ve adapted from living on rocky cliffs to a different kind of “mountain”: Chicago’s skyscrapers.  But in 1951, there were none left in Illinois, and it looked as if the species would be wiped out of North America entirely. Today, thanks largely to the Chicago Peregrine Program headed by The Field Museum’s Mary Hennen, Peregrines are flourishing to the point that they’re no longer in immediate danger.

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