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  • Who are these C3 leaders anyway?

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    Tags: C3, chicago conservation corps

    Created: 8/28/2013      Updated: 2/16/2017

    What do each of the following activities have in common?

    • A broken toy drive, followed by a workshop where said toys were repaired and prepared for redistribution to youth.

    Box of broken toys

    • The GrowShare program which connects local community gardeners so they can barter with their excess produce.
    • A cozy brunch where all of the food scraps were vermicomposted and each attendee received their own free worm bin.
    • A new Green Team at Truman College, making efforts to reduce the institution’s carbon footprint.
    • A training for Avondale residents to learn about stormwater management through rain barrels and native plants.
    • A hands-on introduction to Chicago’s new bike share system (Divvy) and the City’s planned active transportation routes.
    People learning about Divvy bikes



    The answer: Each of the activities listed above were coordinated by one of our Spring 2013 Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) Leaders.

    When you think of the Nature Museum, your mind might turn to our collections and exhibits or to our research and restoration efforts. However, the Museum also hosts the Chicago Conservation Corps (C3), a network of more than 500 adult Chicagoans with great passion for sustainability. Each of these “C3 Leaders” has been through at least 20 hours of training with us and led at least one community-based environmental service project like those listed above.

    Adults in classroom



    C3 Leaders learn about sustainability and conservation issues in Chicago directly from experts in the field. They also participate in community organizing and project planning training so they can take what they’ve learned and put it into action. C3 supports this action with up to $400 worth of materials per project.

    We are constantly impressed by the variety and impact of our Leaders’ projects and look forward to being inspired by the next batch of Leader projects this fall.  Our next C3 Environmental Leadership training will take place on Saturdays from September 14 – October 12. If you’d like to join us or learn more, check us out on the website at www.naturemuseum.org/c3

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  • Run for Science Volunteers

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    Tags: volunteering, volunteers, run for science

    Created: 8/13/2013      Updated: 5/27/2015

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    Run for Science without actually running!

    Like any dedicated Nature Museum supporter, you probably already know that our annual Run for Science 5K is coming up on September 21st.  But if you’re anything like me, you get winded just thinking about running five thousand kilometers. 

    I have good news for you. You don’t actually have to run in the Run for Science to show your support!  While the runners get all the glory, there are lots of folks behind the scenes who make this race possible.  They’re volunteers.

    Volunteers station themselves along the race route, cheering on runners and handing out much-needed cups of water. They keep runners’ bags safe at the gear check station. They make sure everyone is properly checked in and ready to run. And they do all this because they support the Nature Museum and our science education programs.

    These volunteers know that working behind the scenes is equally important as the actual running of the race. Each year volunteers and runners come together to raise funds for the Nature Museum’s science education programs, and they have a blast doing it.

    If you’d like to be part of the volunteer team, let me know in the comments section.  We’d love to have you!

    Jill Doub
    Manager of Volunteers and Interns

    Subscribe to the Nature Museum blog and never miss a post!

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  • Horticultural Bottom Ten - Chicago Edition Part Two

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    Tags: horticulture, genetics, flowers, plants, humor

    Created: 8/13/2013      Updated: 8/9/2016

    As predicted, Harper’s Horticultural Bottom Ten is well on its way to becoming an important, nay, essential treatise within the vast and tangled gallimaufry of gardening discourse. I am sorry for the delay in bringing you the next installment, gentle reader, but as you may well imagine, I have been wholly occupied accepting international awards, juggling requests for public appearances, and turning down marriage proposals. However, today I shall set aside these distractions, for the task at hand remains vital, and my expertise indispensable to its execution. So welcome, everyone, to the Bottom Ten Part Two: Unspeakable Lovecraftian Nightmare Edition!

    For those of you who don’t know what awesome is, H. P. Lovecraft was one of the 20th century’s most brilliant horror writers. If you’re unacquainted with his oeuvre, go read “The Thing at the Doorstep.” I’ll wait. Done? Cool. Good luck sleeping tonight. Lovecraft specializes in nurturing a crawling sense that someone or something within a story is…off. Unnatural. Distorted. Perverse. Then, in the final pages, when you’re good and creeped out, you finally encounter it: the Thing That Should Not Be.

    I am certainly no Lovecraft.  But I can recognize a hideous, forsaken monstrosity when I see it. I can tell when plant breeding has run disturbingly amok. Yes, gentle reader, I know them. I know the Plants That Should Not Be.

    Example 1:  Here is a normal coneflower…

    Purple coneflower

    …here is a ‘Greenline’ coneflower…

    Greenline coneflower with distinctive green coloring

    Eyeballs on stalks.  Watching you.  Forever.

    …and a ‘Green Wizard’ coneflower

    Green Wizard coneflower

    Kill it. With fire.

    Why? Just why? What disturbed compulsion forced otherwise well-intentioned plantsmen and women to create these botanical perversities? Are they pretty? Are they an improvement on the standard form?  The answer to both questions is a clear and resounding “no”.  Yet there they are. Living. Growing.

    Example 2:  Here is your standard daylily…

    Orange daylily

    Pretty!

    …and here is the cultivar ‘Sanford Double Doozy’.

    Sanford Double Doozy daylily

    (Not pretty.)

    Who did this? Who saw a daylily flower and thought it would look better disguised as a mutated, scum-crawling, deep-sea nudibranch? There is only one explanation. This must be the work of some ancient, cosmic horror lurking beyond the veil, pulling the strings on an unwitting, puppet horticulturist.     

    Example 3:  A typical daffodil…

    Daffodil

    …and a cultivar called ‘Delnashaugh’.

    Delnashaugh daffodil

    On quiet mornings, you can just make out the sound of its constant, pitiful weeping.

    Clearly, this daffodil is the product of a diseased mind. How else can one explain its nauseating jumble of contorted, flesh-colored protuberances? No one of sound faculties could ever conceive of creating something so unspeakable from a beloved harbinger of spring. Speaking of which…

    Example 4: Here is a tulip called ‘Rococo’.

    Rococo tulip

    Is it…bleeding?

    No.  No, no, no.  That is not a flower.  That is an incubus spawned from the unholy union of a cabbage and a stygian cacodemon.  Without doubt, its insatiable roots twist downward, downward, ever downward, though the inky, sulfurous miasmas of Tartarus, into the very gates of Gahenna, past the Well of Souls, finally plunging into the black, putrid soil of the Abyss. Any second now, its blood-caked petals will yawn open, revealing a hideous maw of toothy destruction. And it will scream. 

    My god, it will scream.

    Oh no.  I think it saw me!  I’ve got to get…blog…must finish…must warn…….

    Seth Harper, Horticulturist

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  • Woo, hoo, hoo: Hooray for Quails!

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    Tags: butterfly haven, button quail, public programs

    Created: 8/6/2013      Updated: 8/9/2016

    A few years ago, before I was employed in the Public Programs department, I was a volunteer here at the Nature Museum. I remember my orientation day with a group of five other new volunteers. We were introduced to various staff members and given a tour of the Museum. When the group was led to the Butterfly Haven, someone asked, “Will we see the Button Quails?”, and I thought to myself, “What is a button quail?” We went inside and I soon laid eyes on the adorable little birds. They looked and walked like little chickens and they vocalized with a hearty “Woo, hoo, hoo”. I was smitten! I wanted to know everything about them, especially- why are there Button Quails in Butterfly Haven?

    Female Button Quail (light brown plumage)

    Button Quails are small birds- about 5” in size. The males are usually dark grey with a white bib under their chin; females are usually light brown with black ticking. They are ground dwellers that can fly slightly – they take off and fly in a straight line for a very short distance- so they are not a threat to the butterfly population. They do eat small insects, such as aphids, making them quite the help for our plant life. The last two points would answer my original question in short, but over the years, I have found more value to those little creatures than I ever would have thought.

    Male Button Quail (Blue and brown plumage)

    First, let’s think about the fact that the Button Quails are at the eye level of many of our visitors. Running around the plant beds, the little birds are often the first thing that our young visitors spot in Butterfly Haven. Many interpretive opportunities have arisen as a result. Discussions about eggs, social species of animals and life cycle are all regular parts of public programming days when we are around the quails. We have written a few programs centered around our feathered friends such as “Bird Talk”, “Father of the Year”, and “Who’s Hiding in the Haven” to name a few. The Button Quails are a great resource for public programs.

    Tiny, striped button quail chick

    The next time you are visiting Butterfly Haven, keep an eye out for our covey of Button Quails. I hope they delight you, as much as they have me.

    Laura Saletta
    Public Programs Educator

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