08 February 2009

Wild Things 2009

Lindsay and I attended the 2009 Wild Things conference yesterday in Chicago, along with over 1000 other nature lovers from in and around one of our largest metropolitan areas. This conference is held every other year and is hosted by Chicago Wilderness. We had a great time, and saw some wonderful presentations. Below are a few of the highlights. I've added a few relevant photos that I've taken in the past to keep you from getting too bored.

Doug Ladd started off the conference with an inspiring keynote address about sustaining our natural heritage. Doug emphasized 10 points that are imperative if we want to keep our natural areas as part of our environment.
  1. Understand our ignorance - we know relatively very little about our surroundings.
  2. Don't get caught up with the big picture problems; protect the organisms (and to do this, we need to really know the organisms).
  3. People are part of our biological systems.
  4. Know our past (including biological, geological, and human).
  5. Know the enemy (the threats to our biological resources), including historical, ongoing, and future threats. Also, we need to determine the source of the threat and treat that, not just the threat itself.
  6. Know the value of nature (ecosystem services) - $$ can convince even those who don't necessarily care about the environment.
  7. Be vigilent about protecting what we have. These places are irreplaceable and essential.
  8. Avoid soundbytes of universal greenery. Examples include wind turbines (1/4 mile radius around turbines have been shown to be dead zones for grassland nesting birds due to noise), and that planting trees will solve climate change problems.
  9. Invest in permanent stewardship networks. Know that there is no endpoint for restoration and vegetation community maintenance.
  10. Grow beyond our borders - share successes and failures with the rest of the world.

We also saw a talk by Robert Brodman and Allison Sacerdote about restoring habitat for amphibians. Results of the presenters' research showed that wetland/upland complexes that include clusters of wetlands separated by less than 400 meters are the most productive in terms of total amphibian species and abundance. Also important for number and abundance of amphibian species is having a number of different hydroperiods (including ephemeral wetlands, semi-permanently inundated wetlands, and permanently inundated wetlands). Building a complex of systems incorporating all of these aspects leads to an exponential increase in amphibians. This presentation also showed that spring burns that take place after the temperature is above 50 degrees Farenheit can be detrimental to amphibian populations, and that herbicides (even those approved for use in wetlands) can affect amphibian hormones or cause amphibian mortality. A research project was also shared in which several amphibian species (including wood frogs, pictured to the right) were successfully reintroduced to a site where they were historically present but had since become extirpated.

Finally, we went to a presentation by Carl Strang about singing insects. It was amazing how many of the insect songs we recognized from mild August nights by the bonfire, even though we admittedly had no idea what they were at the time. If you actually listen, really listen, on a summer night, there is a great diversity insect song in the air. The presentation dealt with a variety of species, including Protean Shieldback, Linne's Cicada, Broad-winged Tree Cricket, Black-legged Meadow Katydid, Texas Bush Katydid, Allard's Ground Cricket, and periodical cicadas. We are looking forward to trying to identify a variety of these singing insects this summer at our property to add them to our always increasing yard list.

We were very impressed with the conference and are looking forward to attending again in 2011.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Sounds like a great conference. I'm going to have to copy Doug's Commandents down for future reference.