Exploring Wetlands on Chicago’s Northwest Side

On Saturday, Nov. 10th, RU students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 220 Water and PLS 391 Natural Science classes convened at one of Chicago’s most valuable and interesting natural areas, the North Park Village Nature Center on the city’s NW Side, to learn about wetland ecology and restoration in the context of the sustainable development of urban ecosystems. This 40+ acre complex of restored natural areas includes prairie, savanna, woodland, wetland, and a pond, which though small in size support an abundant array of wildlife, including a sizable herd of white-tailed deer.

Susan Kuse leads our hike through the North Park Village Nature Center (photo: M. Bryson)

Susan Kuse leads our hike through the North Park Village Nature Center
(photo: M. Bryson)

Joining them were Susan Kuse, a volunteer naturalist at the Nature Center who led a nature walk through the various representative IL ecosystems at the Nature Center, all of which are in a perpetual state of environmental management and restoration in order to control invasive species such as European buckthorn and common reed; and Marshall Eames, adjunct professor of natural science at Roosevelt, who is an expert of wetland ecology, ecological restoration, and sustainable land use.

The wetland at North Park Village Nature Center(photo: M. Bryson)

The wetland at North Park Village Nature Center
(photo: M. Bryson)

During the tour and a subsequent visit to a constructed wetland at nearby Gompers Park, a multi-use park facility located right along the Chicago River’s North Branch, students discussed issues such as wetlands’ connection to other ecosystems, the animals that utilize wetlands (in particular) and urban nature preserves (in general),  nutrient cycles and ecological processes within wetland ecosystems, and the function and value of wetlands as open space in urban environments.

For more photographs from this urban wetlands tour, see these annotated slideshows from the North Park Village Nature Center and Gompers Park.

Restored wetland at Gompers Park, adjacent to the Chicago River's North Branch (photo: M. Bryson)

Restored wetland at Gompers Park, adjacent to the Chicago River’s North Branch
(photo: M. Bryson)

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