Survey of Campus Wildlife with Field Cameras We are monitoring natural areas on campus to document the diversity of animals here in our suburban environment. We've captured many of the usual suspects, such as squirrels and robins, but also some that aren't so often seen, such as coyotes and black-crowned night herons. This project was initiated by Eric Los, class of 2016, and has been continued in part by Jess Boyd, Kevin Courtney, Stephanie Alvarez, and Mike Bishop. Recent work has focused on how species are using Navajo Creek, which runs through campus and along the Trinity Trail.
Aerial Survey of Ash Trees Ash trees around the Midwest are dying due to an invasive beetle, the Emerald ash borer. This project worked to assess the severity of ash die-off by monitoring our campus forests using aerial photography with our quadcopter drone. Analysis of aerial photographs was paired with field assessments of light penentration and canopy coverage in different parts of the woods to determine how these changes are affecting the forest community. Vander Velde Junior Scholar Megan Gjertson was the main researcher on this project.
Urban Waterways Science faculty and students at Trinity are launching a collaborative project to investigate the waterways in our local area, including Navajo Creek, Tinley Creek, and the Cal-Sag channel. Ecology students have sampled for macroinvertebrates, which can give us an indication of water quality, and the field camera project has contributed information on how larger animals are using Navajo Creek. Other projects include investigating microbes in the waterways and identifying chemical components in the water.
Campus Wildflower Basins Lauren Kuipers, class of 2016, conducted a survey of plant diversity in one of our native widlflower basins. She identified 23 different plant species, many of which were sown, some of which were native colonizers, and some of which were invasive species. Lauren's work was supported by the college's Vander Velde Scholarship. More recently, students Joe Hahn, Hala Alassaf, and Liz Roth have monitored the basins for milkweed plants, since these plants are important hosts for monarch butterflies.
Exploring Chicago-area prairies using GIS A variety of GIS resources are available to investigate questions related to land cover use and land cover change around Chicago's natural areas. Students in my Ecology course have assisted in data analysis for this project, and I would welcome students interested in joining me in this research outside of class as well.
Citizen Science Projects Citizen science provides ways for anyone with interest to contribute to large scientific projects. Students in my courses have gathered data for several citizen science projects including eBird, U.S. National Phenology Network, and Zooniverse.