1. Published

    Have you placed mesh material in your garden or around the outside of your home? Mesh, whether made from metal or plastic, or natural fibers, can be incredibly useful because it allows air, water, and plants to penetrate while keeping out larger objects. Some folks use it to keep birds off their berry bushes, others may place a mesh fence around their garden to keep deer out. While driving in a construction zone, you may also observe that blankets of mesh are used for erosion control on steep slopes on roadsides.

  2. Published

    As the summer progressed and the news filled with increased extreme weather events came across our screens, it became even harder to ignore the impacts of climate change on our lives. Especially when those impacts hit hard at home from increased vector diseases to the flooding in Northeastern Illinois.

  3. Published

    It was early on a hot September morning that I turned into Goose Lake Prairie. I had arrived too early for a program and thought I would spend a few minutes in the picnic area listening to those sweet early morning sounds of nature. And then there it was — an unfamiliar, subtle sound — a strange flutter, repeating...almost like a heartbeat. 

  4. Published

    There's a social media meme that says, “There is no better karate instructor than a spider web in the face.”

    I don’t know about the karate skills, but nothing makes you swat, rub and dance quite like walking into a web. Just imagine how an insect feels. Growing up in the woods, I have walked through my fair share of webs and while I too, practice my karate skills when I do, I have grown to appreciate these fascinating creatures and their webs.

  5. Published

    We call anything an animal leaves behind a sign. It could be a broken branch, a footprint, a scrape on the ground or tree, a nest or other home, their own fur, or even animal parts from their last meal.

    Of all the signs scattered for our inquiry as to what or why, the scat is my favorite and a most appreciated indicator as to who has been there. You need not have anything but a firm stick from the ground to investigate it fully.

  6. Published

    As we transition to fall here in Illinois, you may see smoke in the air or see the grasslands or forests burning.  These could be signs of a prescribed fire being conducted intentionally to manage our natural ecosystems.  The use of prescribed fire is increasing throughout Illinois.  To understand why fire is being used as a management tool, let’s take a look at the role fire has played in the development of ecosystems in Illinois

  7. Published
    A view from our campground looking up.

    My family and I recently traveled o

  8. Published

    Vacuous dark eyes, scaly rat tail, 50 pointy teeth, and oh, that hiss! What is not to love about the opossum?

  9. Published

    Many nature lovers take photos while they are out in the field. But not all of them come away with quality photographs. Why do some individuals always seem to get the best shots? And what are they doing that you might not be? Read more to discover five ways to bring new life to your photographs.

  10. Published

    Of all the natural shapes, spirals are considered one of the most common in nature. We find spirals from giant galaxies down to the smallest gastropod shells. 

    Spirals shape who we are in our DNA double helix and appear in weather patterns as in hurricanes. One spiral giving us incredible potential and the other able to take it all away.

  11. Published

    Spring has sprung! What nature-lover doesn't like to engage in a friendly little competition with their friends and family each year over who sees the first robin?

    Bird lovers often keep detailed notes year to year comparing when the first robin was seen and hypothesize why they were early or late. I remember one cold, snowy New Year's Day in the concrete and limestone of downtown Joliet, I was shocked to see crabapple trees loaded with robins munching away on the frosty fruits. 

    Naturalists have a mental checklist running year-round:

  12. Published

    I am sure that most of us are familiar with the concept of invasive species - non-native organisms that are introduced into a new environment and take advantage of the lack of natural checks and balances to run amok and impact our native species and natural ecosystems.  My first introduction to invasive species was when I was a kid, growing up in the southern United States, seeing the invasive vine kudzu swallow entire trees.

  13. Published

    Feral swine are also known as feral hogs, wild boar, wild pigs, or razorbacks and are defined by IL Admin Code Part 700 as populations or individual swine that are unrestrained and have adapted to living in a wild or free-forming environment.

  14. Published

    The cicadas are coming! In May 2021, Periodical Cicada Brood X (Brood 10) also known as the Great Eastern Brood is expected to emerge in four eastern Illinois counties - Vermilion, Edgar, Clark, and Crawford.

  15. Published

    Spring is the season of new beginnings. Wildlife baby season in Illinois starts as early as February when great horned owls lay their eggs and frogs begin to call. Coyote pups are born in March and soon a flurry of animals continue courting, mating, and preparing for what will be the next generation of their species. 

  16. Published
    Vickie Hansen knew that when she retired, she didn’t want to “retire.”

    She had heard the stories. A person retired, didn’t have a plan on what to do with the time, and quickly wasted away. And she knew the science. Continued mental stimulation and problem solving are good for maintaining thinking skills. Maintaining social engagement is associated with staving off chronic disease, and staying physically active, even if it's just walking, can lead to both better health and sharper thinking skills.

  17. Published

    “Forty-two pounds of Edible Fungus
    In the Wilderness a-growin’
    Saved the Settlers from Starvation,  
    Helped the founding of this Nation.”

                    - Robert McCloskey, 1943

  18. Published

    Illinois is world famous for its snakes. This week, a road in Southern Illinois – Snake Road to be exact – closes to vehicles as it does every year so migrating reptiles and amphibians can safely cross.

  19. Published

    Garlic mustard, just two little words can bring a groan from naturalists across the Eastern United States. But garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, also known as Poor Man’s Mustard, Hedge Garlic, Garlic Root and Jack-by-the-Hedge didn’t start out in this country as a menace.

  20. Published

    By the time February rolls around, many of us are longing for springtime.  Spring brings a renewal of plant life in our forests, the arrival of the first batch of neotropical birds migrating back from their southern winter homes, and the awakening of reptiles and amphibians that have been long dormant during the frigid temperatures of winter.  Skunk cabbage’s emergence out of the soil, the first calls of spring peepers, red maple buds bursting into bloom, and woodcock displaying in the meadows at dusk are all proof that spring is on its way.  But for me, the most