More than half of the world’s people now live in cities. Cities rely on the many benefits provided by nature - food, clean air and water, recreational opportunities, beauty, and space for spiritual reflection. But nature needs cities, too. Urban landscapes provide habitat niches, efficient use of energy and materials, and concentrate creative, resilient people and cultures. So now, more than ever, conservation efforts must flourish in metropolitan areas.
The Keller Science Action Center is at the forefront of the urban conservation movement, especially in the Chicago Region, where a century of Museum collection and study underlies its efforts. An interdisciplinary team of ecologists, social scientists, educators, and geospatial analysts use museum-science to benefit both people and nature. The team works throughout the region as a lead partner in regional consortia: the Chicago Cultural Alliance, Calumet Stewardship Initiative, and Chicago Wilderness. It also works in specific conservation corridors, from the Museum Campus, south through the lakefront parks and communities of the city of Chicago, to the great swathe of industry, people and biodiversity at the south end of Lake Michigan known as the Calumet region, and then to the farms, settlements, and communities of the globally rare black-oak savannas of the Kankakee region.
• Connecting people and nature. The Center identifies entry points for connecting diverse communities with nature. Ecologists and educators join social scientists and community members to recognize cultural assets that provide a foundation for building strong relationships to urban nature. The Youth Conservation Action program is a model of best educational practices that bring children outdoors to learn about nature and inspire conservation action.
• Science-based restoration. The Center works with landowners to assist in management plans, training and recruitment of community volunteers, and monitoring of restoration results. The latest advances in geospatial technology are used to analyze plant community patterns and help to visualize a region where the 540,000 acres of protected land could grow to as much as 1.8 million connected acres of conservation land.
• Climate change programs. The Center provides leadership in implementing the Climate Action Plan for Nature to prepare the region’s land managers for coming landscape changes. In the City of Chicago, the Center also facilitates community engagement in the Chicago Climate Action Plan.