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A Naturalist's Virtual Seminar 2021

Event Date(s)

The University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist Program for Bureau, LaSalle, Marshall and Putnam Counties will be hosting a week-long virtual seminar focusing on Illinois wildlife and stewardship practices. This seminar, which is open to the public, will meet daily at 2:00 p.m. via Zoom for two, one-hour sessions. The seminar kicks off on Monday, February 22nd at 2:00 p.m. with a keynote address (the only talk that day). Registrants may choose as many sessions as they are interested in if space is available.

This seminar is free to the public, but donations are greatly appreciated. Your donations help to support the mission of the Master Naturalist Program ensuring that educational outreach, stewardship activities and recruitment of future volunteers can continue locally. You may also choose to register even if you cannot make the live presentations. Each session will be recorded and made available to those who have registered but cannot attend on the time and day indicated.

Descriptions of each session are given below. 


Monday, February 22nd, 2021

2:00 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.   Welcome and Keynote Address – Conservation at Home – Abigail Garofalo, Energy & Environmental Stewardship Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

Our stewardship efforts often focus on public land or restoring large natural areas, but a majority of land in Illinois is owned privately and in small parcels. Our knowledge of environmental stewardship can be applied right to our home landscapes where you and your neighbors can make a big impact on your small patch of land. From water and soil quality, to biodiversity, to wildlife habitat, everyone has the ability to support these environmental services right at home.

Abigail provides training and education to Illinois residents so that they can better utilize the natural benefits that the environment has to offer. As an educator, she addresses environmental issues in the area and works on creating a culture of environmentalism through community building. Abigail is responsible for environmental programming in Cook County with an emphasis on conservation landscape programming and environmental education. She oversees Extension’s Conservation@Home Program and the Cook County Master Naturalist Program.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.   Watch your step! Discovering the Plant Diversity in the Understory of our Forests – Chris Evans, Extension Forester and Interim State Master Naturalist Coordinator, University of Illinois

While everyone notices the trees when hiking through the forest, the real diversity at your feet.  This presentation will focus on the plant life found in forest understories, discuss what makes these communities so diverse, and highlight many of the wonderful native plant species that can be found in Illinois forests.

3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.   Bat Conservation in the Mosaic Landscape of Illinois – Joy O’Keefe, Assistant Professor and Wildlife Extension Specialist at the University of Illinois

This talk will introduce you to the bats of Illinois and their preferred habitats, both natural and human-made. You will also learn about threats to bats of Illinois and how you can help to protect bats in your area.

 Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.   The Promise and Peril of Urban Wildlife – Negin Almassi, Naturalist, Forest Preserves of Cook County, at Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont

How and why does wildlife behave differently in residential or agricultural areas compared to natural areas? Make sense of the story behind the headlines in this talk with Forest Preserves of Cook County field naturalist Negin Almassi, focusing on two kinds of wildlife: mammals and pollinators. Learn how techniques such as radio telemetry, mark-recapture, and ecological surveys provide insight into these and other questions. Walk away with lessons on how you can model peaceful co-existence and conservation in your community using findings from this research.

3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.   Collecting Native Seeds: from a Nachusa Grasslands Volunteer – Susan Kleiman, naturalist and volunteer at Nachusa Grasslands and Educator at Byron Forest Preserve

Join Susan Kleiman, a volunteer from the Nachusa Grasslands, in learning all about how you can collect native seeds for incorporation into your home landscape or plot of land. Susan will describe the various methods, tools, and techniques for collecting native seed by hand. She will also cover the storing and planting of seeds.

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.   Introduction to Prescribed Fire – Kaleb Baker, Land Steward for the Illinois Audubon Society

Prescribed fires are an important tool that provide benefits for restoring natural plant communities to land that has been disturbed. Improved natural plant communities, in turn, help support our native wildlife populations. This talk will touch on some of the history of prescribed fire, why and how land managers burn, and some ways you can get involved.

3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.   Wildlife Rehabilitation at Oaken Acres Wildlife Center – Amilee Maher, Staff Supervisor/Educational Program Director, Oaken Acres Wildlife Center

Join us for a talk with Amilee Maher to learn what happens at the Oaken Acres Wildlife Center, the wildlife they take in for rehabilitation, the varied reasons why wildlife is brought into the center, and how the general public can help with local wildlife. Amilee will also give a brief introduction to some of their ambassador birds.

Friday, February 26th, 2021

2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.   Dayton Bluffs: Six Years of Creating a Nature Preserve – David Manigold, Volunteer Coordinator of the Dayton Bluffs Preserve

Join David Manigold as he discusses he and his many volunteer’s efforts in converting agricultural fields  into tall grass prairie, clearing woodlands choked with invasive honeysuckle, and restoring an abandoned pioneer cemetery at the Dayton Bluffs Preserve of LaSalle County. He will touch on the highlights of those and other efforts required to create a nature preserve, and let you know how you can become involved.

3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.   Getting to Know Your Native Herps! – George Klut, Naturalist with the Forest Preserves District, Cook County

Join this virtual program for an introduction to the ecology of native amphibians and reptiles, and to learn how to support conservation efforts for these amazing animals.