Forest Conservation in Tanzania: SUST Alum Emily Rhea Reflects on Conservation Biology Travel Course

During the spring of 2016, Roosevelt students in Prof. Nobby Cordiero’s BIOL 367 Conservation Biology class capped off their semester with a May trip to Tanzania. This guest post is by RU alum Emily Rhea, a May 2016 SUST graduate who took this course as part of her final undergraduate semester.  

Outside the entrance to the Serengeti National Park (photo: K. Wentz-Hunter)

Outside the entrance to the Serengeti National Park (photo: K. Wentz-Hunter)

In my last semester as a SUST major at Roosevelt, I took Prof. Nobby Cordiero’s BIOL 367 Conservation Biology class — one which changes the way you see the world. On May 14th, my fellow students and I set off with our two instructors, Profs. Cordiero and Kelly Wentz-Hunter, on a trip from Chicago to Tanzania which turned out to be the learning experience of a lifetime. Having been to Tanzania once before, I was one of the few in our group with an idea of what to expect in terms of the landscape and culture; but the experience was even more profound than I could have guessed. If you love biology like I do, the chance to learn in the field in such a hands-on way is incomparable to any classroom-based experience.

Matriarch and calves (photo: E. Rhea)

Matriarch and calves (photo: E. Rhea)

The first week we spent every day on safari exploring and learning about the savanna biome and the ecology of the plants and animals that live within it. The fact that merely driving on the road is like off-roading in the US just adds to the excitement. As one of our drivers, Philamon, said, “It’s like free African massage.” For me, being able to look at the animals and take pictures when we saw them as well as discuss their role in the ecosystem and their connections to other animals and plants was fascinating.

At Serengeti National Park

At Serengeti National Park

Of course, in a mere week we cannot describe and assess all of the species present; but we covered so much information about both biotic and abiotic characteristics of the savanna biome that I feel like I now have a big-picture understanding that is just as in-depth as my understanding of our Midwest prairie ecosystem, if not more. That’s rather amazing since I’ve been learning about the prairie since I was five years old and my mother would point out the flowers, birds, and trees that she recognized while on walks together. On this particular trip we were lucky enough to see all of the “big five” game animals — lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. Most exciting of our many sightings to me was the cheetah; the matriarch of elephants that passed right by our car; and the vultures feasting on a zebra.

Safari cars at Amani Nature Reserve (photo: A. Kordas)

Safari cars at Amani Nature Reserve (photo: A. Kordas)

After a long and trying trip from the lovely coffee farm we stayed at in between exploring the Serengeti, Tarangire, and the Ngorongoro Crater, we arrived at the Amani Nature Reserve in the Eastern Arc Mountains. We spent the next week exploring the rainforest, learning from the expert biologists studying at the reserve, and working on our individual research projects. Spending the week among post-doc biologists and having the opportunity to pick their brains (figuratively of course!) was fantastic. Not to mention we were in the rainforest! During both weeks the cooks made fabulous food, which we all devoured eagerly. Most of us thought we would lose weight during the trip, but the food was so good we probably all gained a few pounds.

Most of our group, but not all, at the church after planting trees; wearing our kongas (photo: M. Holstein)

Most of our group at the church after planting trees; wearing our kongas (photo: M. Holstein)

Finally, during our last day in the rainforest we planted over 2,500 tree seedlings with the Amani community and Kihime Afrika. This was an amazing experience not only because we were doing hands-on conservation work but also because we were working together to achieve a goal with the community. This common goal gave us a basis for connection with each other and our host community. Afterwards we feasted and danced at the local church. This experience showed that even though we live on different continents, in different hemispheres, with different monetary means and social norms, we can still have common goals and interests and connect over nature, food and dance!

Emily Rhea (BA ’16) graduated from RU with departmental and university honors, and was elected to the Franklin Honor Society. Emily transferred from the College of DuPage in the fall of 2014; at RU she majored in Sustainability Studies and minored in Biology. She has written frequently for the SUST Blog and remains an active leader within the Roosevelt environmental sustainability community. During her time at RU, Emily completed internships with the Microcosm marine biodiversity documentary film research team, The Plant on Chicago’s South Side, and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund in Hawaii.

Posted in alumni, biodiversity, conservation, courses, ecology, education, field trips, parks and public land, research, Roosevelt, science, students, wildlife

Waste Diversion for the NFL Draft and Next Steps

Roosevelt University Green Campus

This year marked the second year that Roosevelt University partnered with and hosted the National Football League (NFL) annual Draft. There were some main differences between how Roosevelt University (RU) and the NFL approached the Draft this year, compared to last year.

Currently, The Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University does not have a recycling system, the main reason being that we do not have the resources (appropriate recycling receptacles), and such resources have a hefty cost associated when stocking an entire building. The NFL approached RU in order to get acquainted with our waste and recycling procedures at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University, and we quickly realized that we did not want a repeat of last year: all the recycling getting mixed in with waste, and going to a landfill. This prompted us to implement a temporary recycling system in that area during the duration of the NFL Draft…

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Get Involved this Summer: Sustainability in/around Chicago

Vicki Gerberichby SUST adjunct professor Vicki Gerberich

During summer, sometimes university students and faculty can feel disconnected from the sustainability issues and the sense of community that they care about. In an effort to stay involved and connected this summer in the Chicago region, here are a few ideas:

Conferences and Festivals — the summer months are often filled community festivals and many of them have a “green” theme. Conferences are also a great way to stay connected and network with fellow sustainability-minded people. The People’s Summit is a conference coming up this weekend (Friday, June 17th-Sunday, June 19th at McCormick Place in Chicago).

People's Summit 2016 Chicago speakers
The Summit is a convening of organizations and individuals committed to social, racial, economic, and environmental justice. It includes plenary and workshop sessions devoted to key issues; see the schedule for more information. There’s an opportunity to gain a free entry to the summit through Food & Water Watch by volunteering with them. If you are interested, fill out this Doodle form and email Jenya Polozova ( with your information. She will then be in contact shortly to confirm your involvement and send you a link to register for the conference for free.

Political Activism and Organizational Support — Another great way to stay involved and informed is by showing your support for those issues that mean the most to you, either through showing support of specific legislation, such as the The WATER Act (Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability) which was just introduced by US Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan). The purpose of this act is to provide dedicated funding by closing corporate tax loopholes to keep our water and sewer up to date and to protect our drinking water for generations to come.

You can learn more about this proposed act on Food & Water Watch’s website. If so moved, you can sign a petition to let all of your elected officials know that you support this act here and you can also volunteer with Food & Water Watch to help push this act through Congress. There are several issues that need support and volunteers; find an organization that corresponds to your passions and get involved in whatever capacity is doable for you.

Personal Action and Community Education — Sometimes the best way to stay involved is to be the “involver.” Get your friends and family interested in a topic of concern or plan fun yet educational events and outings — plant a garden and invite your friends over to help, cook a meal with ingredients from your garden or the local farmers market for your family, take a walk in the local forest preserve, visit one of the many museums or make an effort to reduce to your reliance on your automobile.

The possibilities and your reach are endless. Don’t let the summer pass you by without taking advantage of the many ways to stay involved and have fun, too, because before you know it, you will be fully occupied by your Fall course load. (Speaking of which, it’s not too late to register for Fall 2016 SUST classes at Roosevelt!)

Posted in activities, events, policy, students

RU graduate Tiffany Mucci Publishes Essay on City Creatures Blog

The thriving environmental discourse of urban nature writing is highly varied in terms of genre — from fiction to poetry to creative nonfiction — and subject, as evidenced by the recently published volume City Creatures (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2015) and the blog by the same name sponsored by the Center for Humans and Nature in Chicago.

Tiffany Mucci head shotToday, recent RU graduate and SUST alum Tiffany Mucci (BPS, May 2016) published her first essay, entitled “The Soul on the Road,” on the City Creatures blog. We can safely say that this powerful essay is not your garden variety piece of nature writing. Here is its first paragraph:

My grandmother was supposed to die in February, but she hung on until March. Her soul idled stubbornly in a liminal realm, delaying entrance to the hereafter. In those last weeks of her life, she resembled something of a suffering animal, who wants only to disappear into a secluded corner of the woods, where she can take her last breaths in peace.

To read the rest of Tiffany’s essay, please check out the City Creatures blog here. She served as the Assistant Editor for and a regular contributor to this blog throughout the 2015-16 academic year, and is the co-editor of the Writing Urban Nature online project here at Roosevelt.

Posted in alumni, arts, cities, ethics, humanities, publications, Roosevelt, suburbs, wildlife

Planning for Conservation and Quality of Life in the Kankakee Sands

Some fascinating regional sustainability news from one of the SUST Program’s great partners, the Field Museum: the Chicago Region conservation team in the Museum’s Keller Science Action Center drew on the Quality of Life planning process used in South America by their Andes-Amazon counterparts to bring together disparate and sometimes contentious stakeholders around conservation land use in the globally rare black-oak savannas of the Kankakee Sands.

Kankakee-sands-bi-state-map TNCA team of Action Center scientists has been working since March on a process that will ensure that the community’s voice will be reflected in local conservation land use decisions. After sustained negotiations, representatives from the Museum, the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, Kankakee County Regional Planning Commission, Kankakee Country Farm Bureau, Pembroke Township, Pembroke Consolidated School District #259, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Village of Hopkins Park signed a resolution to work together to develop a “Sustainability Plan” for Hopkins Park and Pembroke Township. The resolution was announced at a press conference on May 19, 2016.

The plan “provides the ways and means to preserve and sustain the community history, culture, and natural environments in addition to land preservation for current residents and future generations.” The stakes heightened when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans for a Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, which the service intends to be a local community asset and a conservation area of national importance: USFWS announced that it will not purchase land in Pembroke Township until the Quality of Life plan is completed.

Read more here from the Kankakee Daily-Journal:

Posted in community, conservation, Illinois, museums, news, planning

Join RU’s Team for the Bike Commuter Challenge!

Roosevelt University Green Campus

RU is gearing up to participate in and win this year’s 25th annual Bike Commuter Challenge, hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance!  Please join the group ‘Roosevelt U. Bikes’ to help us accrue mileage!  Anyone who will be riding even a single bike commute trip during the week of the challenge is encouraged to participate.  Whether you’ve been bike commuting for years, or are a complete novice, you can join the ‘Roosevelt U. Bikes’ team.  A trip can even include biking to/from the bus, train, or alternative transportation that is taking you to/from RU.

Why?  Biking is a great way to stay healthy, and reduce your carbon footprint.  Plus, it feels great!  For those of you who’ve thought about bike commuting, this is the right time to start.  Active Transportation Alliance has arranged morning pit stops throughout the city to help you on your way.  They’ve also compiled…

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Social Sustainability Conference (INSS 2016) in Chicago This Week, June 8-10

This week, the national Integrated Network for Social Sustainability Conference will be hosted here in Chicago by the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the Uptown neighborhood. SUST professor Mike Bryson, SUST alum Troy Withers (BPS ’13), and environmental educator and community activist Michael Howard will be discussing community/youth development, sustainability education, and social justice on Thursday 6/9 at 2:45pm in the Education & Culture session.

Mr. Withers works as a counselor and mentor in the BAM Program for African-American boys here in Chicago through the Youth Guidance organization. He’s also a leader with the Gahn Institute for Sustainable Solutions and a longtime mainstay at Soul Vegan. Mr. Howard is the executive director and co-founder of the Eden Place Nature Center located in the Fuller Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

To see an interactive agenda, register, and attend the conference, check out this link. Hope to see you there! An overview is also available here (pdf) and registration fee waivers are available for students and those with limited means. The ICA’s Greenrise building is readily accessible by public transit (Red Line, 3 blocks east of the Lawrence stop).

Education and Culture INSS logo

Posted in activities, alumni, cities, community, conferences, education, faculty, social justice