This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Wild Things Conference at the University of Illinois Chicago. The event happened to fall on one of those rare winter days that fooled everyone into believing it was spring. Warm, sunny and with crystal clear air, Chicago was at it's finest. The mood of the day was friendly all around the city and at the conference.
The crowd was impressively large and movement through the UIC Forum building was a bit of a challenge but I did get to all the breakout sessions that I planned to attend. There were many interesting discussions about the health of the planet, local research projects and the role of conservation in today's political climate.
The topics I chose were ones that suited my interests in wildlife and prairies and the speakers delivered. Most notable was the first session I attended on the Chicagoland Urban Coyote Project. The speaker was the very dynamic Chris Anchor of the Forests Preserves of Cook County. This research project is a joint venture between Max MacGraw Wildlife, The Cook County Animal and Rabies Control and Ohio State University. For 16 years this study hs been going on and over 1000 coyotes have been monitored. They live right alongside their human neighbors within the city borders. Primarily the study has been focused on how disease moves through a species. However, through this study a lot of new information has been gathered about the behavior, food sources and movements of these animals as well as their interactions with humans. Many myths were dispelled in my mind after learning what was discovered in this research. That session alone was worth the trip!
Through out the day I also attended talks on the prairie. One in particular was given by Cody Considine of the Nature Conservancy about the 30 years of restoration work at Nachusa Grasslands. It was a fascinating insight into the do's and dont's they have learned over the years. I gathered very valuable insight about prairies from his discussion. It was also a pleasure to view the beautiful pictures he displayed of Nachusa.
Bill Kleiman, also of the Nature Conservancy and Nachusa gave his recommendations and assessment of burning prairies in the state of Illinois. He mentioned his regrets at not being able to be outside on such a favorable day to burn one! In his advice about timing of burns he said March and April are the standard but now we should be considering February. His talk was lively and filled with insights from his many years of experience on the job at Nachusa.
At the end of the day, I felt I got the information I was seeking out of this conference. My only regret is that there was not enough time to talk to individuals about their experiences. Perhaps we will meet again on one of our naturalist adventures in Illinois.
Rose Moore – Master Naturalist Intern