Bison to Return to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

From the Associated Press via the NY Times:

Midewin signCHICAGO — A small herd of around two dozen bison could be grazing on restored grassland south of Chicago as soon as this fall now that the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie has final approval for an experimental project that’s been years in the making.

Officials announced Friday they plan to introduce a mix of young and mature animals at the prairie 45 miles southwest of Chicago, where the U.S. Forest Service and other groups have been trying to restore grassland at a site that was for decades a U.S. Army ammunition plant. The 1,200-acre project area could eventually support a little over 100 bison.

The animals are a keystone of prairie ecosystems and their introduction will help with restoration of the site’s native grass species, the Forest Service says. That, in turn, will improve habitat for native grassland birds.

The first animals should arrive in the fall, said Greg Peters, a spokesman for the National Forest Foundation, which has helped lead the project.

“We saw an opportunity to return an iconic species back to the native tallgrass prairie where they had existed before,” Peters said.

Over the summer, workers will construct pasture fencing, corrals, hiking trails, overlooks and other facilities for an expected increased number of visitors.

Midewin is the first national tallgrass prairie in the U.S and one of the largest prairie restoration efforts east of the Mississippi River. It was established in 1996 on the site of what was once a sprawling military ammunition and explosives plant dating back to World War II. To restore the complex of wetlands that makes up the prairie, workers are dismantling hundreds of old grass-covered military bunkers, ripping up roadways and railroad lines and trying to strip out invasive weeds.

The bison are crucial to the restoration. Bison graze differently than cattle and are better suited for maintaining native plant species on restored prairie.

Organizers want to be sure they get genetically pure animals, rather than bison that have been crossbred with cattle. The largest natural, free-ranging herd is in Yellowstone, but some private ranchers also have genetically pure bison that could be sourced for the project, Peters said.

“We want to make sure that their behaviors and habits are as pure and historical as we can make them,” he said.

A small number of bison were also recently introduced to the smaller Nachusa Grasslands, near Dixon in northern Illinois.

Midewin hopes the animals will attract more visitors and volunteers.

“We thought that bringing bison in would really provide a hook for the community to come out and get to know Midewin a little bit,” Peters said.

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RU Environmental Sustainability Internship Open for Applications

RU's restored prairie and part of its urban forest at the Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

RU’s restored prairie and part of its urban forest at the Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

The RU Physical Resources Department is offering a paid student internship position to begin in Spring 2015 and run through Summer 2015. This job is an outstanding professional development opportunity and involves working directly with the RU Physical Resources Team under the direction of Paul Matthews, Associate VP for Campus Planning/Operations, and Tom Shelton, RU’s Environmental Sustainability Coordinator. The internship is based primarily at the Schaumburg Campus, though occasionally duties may involve going to the Chicago Campus. Applications are being accepted ASAP (see details below) until the position is filled.

Duties and responsibilities include:

  • Manage the Schaumburg Campus RUrbanPioneers Community Garden
  • Assist in implementing the newly adopted Sustainability Strategic Plan, approved in February 2015
  • Maintenance and updating of the RU Green Campus website, Green Campus Blog, and associated Facebook page, including articulating a mission statement, information on topics such as green construction and recycling programs, provide links to outside environmental organizations, post sustainability-related news, and provide other information which may benefit and educate the RU community about environmental sustainability.
  • Assist in maintaining contact with associations and government sponsored agencies that support the Physical Resources Environmental Sustainability Initiatives, including: Association for the Advancement for Sustainability within Higher Education (AASHE), United States Green Building Council, Second Nature, World Wildlife Federation, EPA Green Power Partnership Program, and the Illinois Governor’s Campus Sustainability Compact
  • Participate in DCEO Recycling Grant Reporting; Recycling Project for AUD, Field House, and Wabash (with 50% diversion goal); and university Compost Agreement, which provides materials for Schaumburg Garden Plots
  • Help prepare PowerPoint presentations on select ES topics to present to the RU Community when necessary.
  • Attend RU-based meetings that deal with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership thru Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification Program for the Wabash Vertical Campus, Field House, and other major construction projects. Assist in tracking the LEED credits for certification and green building construction, and in achieving USGBC LEED Silver level for Field House.
  • Work on Physical Resource plans or initiatives that center around green technologies, landscapes, hardscapes, alternate methods of transportation, and renewable energy sources.

To Apply:

Contact Tom Shelton, Environmental Sustainability Coordinator, Department of Physical Resources, Roosevelt University, at 312-341-3763 (office), 630-768-8762 (cell), or (email).

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SUST Program at RU Featured in New Book about College Majors

Morkes - They Teach That in College? 3rd edThe Sustainability Studies undergraduate program at Roosevelt is prominently featured in a new book by Andrew Morkes entitled They Teach That in College!? A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors (3rd edition, College & Career Press). Included in this wide-ranging list of majors are four sustainability-related degrees:

  • Sustainability and the Built Environment
  • Sustainability Studies (that’s us, along with 12 other universities in the US, many of which are highly prestigious)
  • Sustainable Agriculture / Organic Farming
  • Sustainable Business

The chapter on Sustainability Studies features a three-page Q/A interview with RU professor Mike Bryson, Director and Co-founder of the SUST Program, which began in 2010 and is now in its 5th year, with 38 graduates since Fall 2011 and 49 current majors. In it, Bryson defines the field, provides an overview of Roosevelt’s SUST program, describes the students and their varying career aspirations, and discusses the employment outlook for sustainability-related majors. Besides being excellent PR for Roosevelt, the book’s substantial profiling of the above sustainability-related degrees further illustrates the emergence of sustainability as a multifaceted academic discipline (or perhaps, interdiscipline) in higher education today.

What Reviewers Are Saying:

Library Bookwatch, February 2015
“They Teach That in College!? showcases more than 100 intriguing, unorthodox, and lesser-known college majors, such as Culinology, Expeditionary Studies, Music Therapy, Renewable Energy, and Zoo Science. Each major is spotlighted with an overview, contact information of colleges and universities that offer these majors, lists of typical classes and employers, and more. Over 60 interviews with college professors round out this exceptional and inspirational guide for surveying the possibilities of one’s future.

Voice of Youth Advocates
They Teach That in College?! was selected as A Perfect Ten by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA). The book, along with 10 other winners, was chosen from a total of 1,223 books reviewed by VOYA as earning the highest ratings for literary quality and teen appeal.

Midwest Book Review, Small Press Bookwatch
“They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 95 Interesting College Majors is just what the title says–an introspective on interesting, strange, and fully legitimate college majors that could lead readers into brand-new and interesting careers. The second edition of this title adds 40 new majors, including course listings, potential employer information, interviews, and so much more. They Teach That in College!? is highly recommended for community library collections on careers, and for anyone who is looking for a new job and wants something outside the usual.”

Independent Publisher Online
They Teach That in College!? was selected as a Highlighted Title, for “exhibiting a superior level of creativity, originality, and a high standard of design and production quality.”

The Futurist
They Teach That in College!? was listed as a New and Noteworthy Title in the magazine’s Bookshelf section. It was also referenced as source material in an article in the magazine titled, “Majoring in the Unusual: Out of the Box College Programs for Generation X.”

Career Opportunities News
“A fascinating book which describes colleges with interesting majors, most attuned to a career field. …Reviewing the list of college programs and their career implications could suggest some interesting options for students who are not sure of their goals in life.”

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SUST Alumni Guest Post: Cheryl Green (BPS ’14) Reflects on Her RU Experience and New Position at GE

Cheryl Green (BPS '14)

Cheryl Green (BPS ’14)

This alumni guest post is by Ms. Cheryl Green, a Sustainability Studies major and returning adult student who graduated in 2014 and now works at General Electric. Here Cheryl reflects on her undergrad education at Roosevelt and discusses her current job responsibilities with GE Energy Management.

The Sustainability Studies program was new to me in 2010, when I started back at Roosevelt with the intention of finishing my bachelor’s degree. With a long career as an operations manager and various administrative roles in corporate finance and investment banking, I initially wanted to pursue studies in finance. But after hearing about the SUST program, and given my personal interest in energy consumption and environmental management, I decided to change my major.

After graduating in May of 2014 with a BPS in Sustainability Studies, I pursued opportunities in the “green” field. Three months later, I was hired as a Project Specialist at GE Energy Management’s Digital Energy Division, within their Power Delivery group. In my role at GE, I am responsible for managing the office operations for engineers, project managers, and designers who design and manage smart grids that provide sustainable technology solutions that modernize and optimize how we generate, move, and consume energy. My primary responsibility is to work with project management teams and systems engineers to manage these complex engineering systems and develop processes that measure the efficiency and coordination of internal controls.

Obtaining a degree in sustainability at Roosevelt and using my previous experience in operations management have played an essential role in my career development. My current job is an amazing opportunity to work with people who provide sustainable solutions in energy consumption. This spring, I will be visiting a wind farm in order to understand how we provide smart grid solutions to integrate renewables and optimize power generation.

Opportunities are wide-ranging in the field of sustainability and I am very happy to have been a student in the SUST program at Roosevelt. The classes offered were very challenging and the learning experience was gratifying. I encourage current students to continue on this path and prospective students to become a part of this program, where you learn about the sustainable future and how to become a part of an environmentally changing world, one where you can make a difference.

Posted in alumni, degrees, education, energy, green jobs, Roosevelt, science, students | Leave a comment

Making Wine at the Volkening Heritage Farm: Melanie Blume Reports on Her SUST Internship Experience this Semester

Blume, MelanieThis is the 3rd guest post by RU senior Melanie Blume, a SUST major who is interning with conservation and education staff at the Spring Valley Nature Center and the Volkening Heritage Farm near Roosevelt’s campus in Schaumburg IL. These excellent facilities are part of the 135-acre Spring Valley Conservation Area, the largest and most ecologically significant green space with the Village of Schaumburg limits, and are managed by the Schaumburg Park District. 

During the Spring 2015 semester, Melanie reflects on her work at Spring Valley on prairie conservation, seed propagation, invasive species identification and removal at the Nature Center; as well as on garden preparation, planting of their extensive vegetable garden, and contributing to Farm to Table programs with a focus on local food production at the Volkening Farm.

Last Tuesday at the Volkening Heritage Farm, Monique Inglot (Program Assistant at the Farm) and I began the wine making process from their grape harvest two seasons ago. These grapes were frozen and put into three huge garbage bags, well preserved for future squashing, fermenting, and straining.

Wine 1 Wine 2

First, we separated the stems from the grapes. Not because of taste, but just so the big stems wouldn’t get in the way of getting the juices out. Grapes, especially the Concord variety we used, naturally have yeast in their skins and stems. Because they were frozen for two years, much of the yeast probably died, so we added some yeast packets to make up for that. The grapes were frozen and after ten minutes of picking them my hands were icy.

We had a nice intermission and made some hot cocoa that hit the spot. The grapes needed to thaw out for a few hours before juicing them. Monique used metal strainers to work out the juices and eventually the pulp and skins all floated to the top. That luscious mixture sat for almost a week for its first fermentation.

Wine 4 Wine 3

When I came in the farmhouse on the following Tuesday I was overwhelmed by the distinct smell of red wine. I followed it around to the room where the grapes were fermenting. The two bins of purple mush looked beautiful! We strained out the liquid from the remaining pulp and put the resulting pinkish liquid through a sheet of cheesecloth. This part took surprisingly long as the cheesecloth got clogged and we had to work the liquid through it with ladles. Quality crafts take time.

Wine 5 Wine 6

After that process we funneled the juice into two glass carboys. It looked so alive with its bubbling surface. This was the second fermenting process, and the plugs we put on top of the carboys have tiny holes and a water compartment where the gas is released. Monique told me of a time when she was making beer and bottled it before it was done releasing the gases and ended up exploding in their glass containers. So once the contraptions on top stop bubbling, we can safely bottle the wine. We dumped the seeds, skins, and stems into the woods and buried it a bit with the snow and branches. It will be a sweet treat for the wild animals.

After one week in the glass carboys, the wine is still bubbling ever so slightly.

Wine 8 Wine 7

Melanie Blume, submitted 17 March 2015

Posted in biodiversity, conservation, ecology, education, food, history, Illinois, internships, parks and public land, restoration, Roosevelt, science, service, students, suburbs | Leave a comment

Lights Out for Earth Hour 2015 on March 28th

On Saturday, March 28 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Roosevelt University will be participating in “Lights out for Earth Hour 2015” in conjunction with millions of people across the globe! The movement, originally started in 2007, has grown tremendously because a set of individuals came together and wanted to help encourage our global community to share in the opportunity, and challenge, of making our world a more sustainable place to live.

As such, Roosevelt University is encouraging everyone on campus, and even at home, to turn off their lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tell your family and friends about this event as well! This isn’t just about turning lights off for an hour, but about becoming more aware of how we depend on and react with everyday essentials that also impact our environment in potentially negative ways.

For more information, visit:
Questions or comments? Please contact Rebecca Quesnell at 

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Mice, Lions, and The Doors: Adventures in Paris with Julian Kerbis Peterhans

Julian Kerbis Peterhans working in the mammals lab at the Field Museum in Chicago

Julian Kerbis Peterhans working in the mammals lab at the Field Museum in Chicago

RU Professor of Natural Science and Sustainability Studies Julian Kerbis Peterhans recently returned to Chicago after 10 days at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MHNH) in Paris where he gave a talk on his work on African lions. Most of the trip, however, was spent with colleagues Josef Bryja (Laboratory of Zoology and Ecology at the Masarykova University, Brno, Czech Republic) and Christiane Denys (Head of Mammalogy at the MNHN). As Dr. Kerbis Peterhans relates in his own reflections:

Grand Gallery of Evolution, Museum of Natural History, Paris  (photograph by L Bessol  © Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle)

Grand Gallery of Evolution, Museum of Natural History, Paris
(photograph by L Bessol
© Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle)

Our goal was to tackle the taxonomy (number and diversity of species) of the enigmatic African mouse genus Dendromus. To do so, we used a template based on a “molecular phylogeny” of several hundred genetically coded individuals generated by colleague Gary Voelker from Texas A & M University. Our work will double the number of currently recognized species (from 15 to ca. 30) bringing the numbers more in line with the taxonomy of 1938 when G. M.  Allen recognized 29 species. This ancient group is remarkable for having opposable 1st and 5th toes on the feet, enabling these tiny mice to climb slender stalks of grass.

On my last day in Paris, I received about 300 small mammal specimens collected by German colleague, Gerhard Nikolaus, who led the recently completed Imatong Mountains Expedition to South Sudan, which fills an important biogeographic gap in Field Museum’s holdings of small mammals. The Imatongs were the first base of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, and parts of these highlands remain laden with land mines. These collections are the first modern vertebrate collections from the Imatongs since the start of the Sudanese Civil War some 40 years ago.

GreyClimbing Mouse, Dendromus melanotis (photo:

GreyClimbing Mouse, Dendromus melanotis (photo:

Of course the trip’s highlight was a visit to the grave of Georges Cuvier, the first scientist to demonstrate that some species became extinct. It was at Cuvier’s grave in the cemetery Pere Lachaisse that I traced a familiar aroma to the nearby grave of Jim Morrison, where some 20 young Parisians were smoking up a storm while playing The Doors on their iPods.

Georges Cuvier, detail of a portrait by Mathieu Ignace Van Brée, 1798 (photo:

Georges Cuvier, detail of a portrait by Mathieu Ignace Van Brée, 1798 (photo:

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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