Public Release: 

Scientists invade Chicago

In Chicago's first BioBlitz, scientists will race against the clock to identify as many plants & animals as possible in 24 hours

Field Museum

A swan on Wolf Lake, headquarters for Chicago's first BioBlitz. Hundreds of plant and animal species will be identified, and the inventory will serve as a baseline for restoration of an area known more for industry and waste dumps than biodiversity.
Photo by John Weinstein, Courtesy of the Field Museum

Full size image available through contact

CHICAGO - Calumet is better known for industry, dumps and abandoned steel mills than for biodiversity. Nevertheless, precious prairies, lakes, woodlands and wetlands are tucked away on Chicago's southeast side.

From 2:00 p.m. Aug. 23 until 2:00 p.m. Aug. 24, some 130 scientists will descend on the Calumet region to survey the amazingly rich biodiversity of three natural areas: Wolf Lake, Eggers Woods and Powderhorn Lake. Their inventory will serve as a baseline for restoration and preservation efforts.

Open to the public, the intensive, rapid biological survey will bring together a host of people - from world-class scientists to curious kids - interested in restoring and preserving some of Chicago's best natural treasures. It will occur, rain or shine.

"The Field Museum has conducted rapid biological inventories around the world, and we are now excited to participate in one in our own backyard," says John McCarter, president and CEO of The Museum. "The natural areas in Calumet - as well as the vital communities surrounding them - must be recognized as valuable resources to preserve and strengthen."

The Biodiversity Blitz will launch Phase II of the Calumet Stewardship Initiative, a comprehensive education and outreach program aimed at fostering long-term participation by local residents in efforts rehabilitate and protect the region's natural resources.

The Calumet Initiative is led jointly by the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, and implemented with more than 17 government agencies; 9 local resident organizations; museums, universities and environmental organizations; industrial groups; and foundations. One goal of the Initiative is to assemble 4,800 acres into the Calumet Open Space Reserve.

"The information we gather from BioBlitz will help us be better stewards of nature as we implement Mayor Daley's and Governor Ryan's vision for an ecologically and economically renewed Calumet," said Chicago's Environment Commissioner Marcia Jimenez.

Brent Manning, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, says, "We are delighted to participate and serve as hosts for the BioBlitz. The information to be gathered will be vital as we develop and implement programs and strategies for protecting, preserving and enhancing the natural resources of the Calumet region."

McCarter, Jimenez and other dignitaries will speak at the BioBlitz kickoff event 3:00 p.m., Friday Aug. 23 at the William W. Powers State Recreation Area, 12949 S. Avenue O (see directions below). As the BioBlitz headquarters, this site on Wolf Lake site will be transformed into an outdoor lab, with microscopes to examine specimens, computers to log finds, and display areas to show participants samples of what has been found.

At the Wolf Lake headquarters, the public will be able to participate for free in many activities, including: tours, hikes, demonstrations, observing scientists at work, helping to control invasive plants, and gathering seeds of native plants for later planting (see schedule below).

"This will be a wonderful hands-on learning experience for anyone who joins us," says Carol Fialkowski, conservation education director at The Field Museum. "We want people, especially those from nearby communities, to go home with a better understanding of Calumet's diverse ecosystems - and what they could do to help revive and save these unique natural assets."

BioBlitz partners include: Chicago Department of the Environment; Illinois Department of Natural Resources - Conservation 2000 Ecosystems Program; Illinois Natural History Survey, Forest Preserve District of Cook County; Chicago Park District; The Field Museum; and Chicago Wilderness, an unprecedented alliance of more than 140 public and private organizations working to protect, restore, study and manage Chicago's natural ecosystems.

All activities are based at William W. Powers State Recreation Area (on Wolf Lake)
Friday, Aug. 23
4 pm Local turtles; Nature hike to Eggers Woods
5 pm Live birds-of-prey demonstration
6 pm Insects; Plants and history hike to Powderhorn Lake
7 pm Bats
8 pm Sonic bat counting
9 pm Capture and observe nocturnal insects with black lights
Saturday, Aug. 24
8 am Mammals (setting traps); Historical tour of culture, industry & ecology
9 am Live red-tailed hawk
10 am Hands-on control of invasive species
11 am Butterflies
12 noon Native landscaping; Field trip to secret birding spots
1 pm Live birds-of-prey

On going activities Friday 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 1 p.m: Press plants; analyze water samples; work with botanists; release beetles that eat invasive plants; find where the zebra mussel hides; check out The Field Museum's Soil Adventure Mobile; watch nature artist paint; make crafts/toys using plants; learn about wetlands; take a tree walk; learn to identify cool science in your backyard with Urban Watch; and join biodiversity treasure hunt.

Directions to Chicago's first BioBlitz:
1. Go south on Interstate 94. Exit at 103rd St.
2. Go east on 103rd St. to Torrence Ave.
3. Go south on Torrence Ave. to 106th St.
4. Go east on 106 St. across the Calumet River to Avenue O.
5. Go south on Avenue O to Veterans Dr. (approx 123rd St.).
6. Go east on Veterans Dr. into the William Powers Conservation Area


Additional media contacts:
The Field Museum
Cell phone during event (312) 307-2756

Chicago Dept. of the Environment
Mark Farina (312) 744-5903

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