by Carl Strang
In this blog I will focus on natural history investigations in northeastern Illinois (especially DuPage County) and the surrounding region. My greatest attention will be given to insects (especially singing insects, damselflies and dragonflies), birds, mammals and geology. By “investigations” I mean a broad range of studies, from general or anecdotal observations to more focused scientific studies. The purpose is not only to share information but also to encourage others to go from general nature appreciation to more focused attention with a scientific approach. In particular I hope that this will encourage children and teachers to learn about science from the inside by conducting their own inquiries in the outdoors. I will make occasional reference to the scientific literature and to technical points and theory, but I intend to do so in a manner readily digestible (and, I hope, enjoyable) for those who lack a formal background but have an interest in natural history.
Though I work as a naturalist for a county park system, this is a personal blog and does not in any way represent my employer. Inevitably, however, much of what I report will be observations within the properties of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. I also may use this space from time to time to promote opportunities related to its subject matter within the District.
My background is a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology, in which the thesis work was a study of glaucous gulls in western Alaska in the early 1970’s. After a 5-year stint of college teaching during which I studied wood and eastern box turtles, I retread myself as an interpretive naturalist. Though I no longer need to publish (and don’t have funds to pay journals’ page fees!), my interest in doing science remains. Since moving to Illinois I have been studying leaf eating insects in the forest understory (especially leaf miners of sugar/black maples, and interactions between an ermine moth and a trailing woody plant), and more recently singing insects (general survey work has not been done in Illinois since the 1930’s; also I did a focused study of periodical cicadas during their 2007 emergence). I have been a dragonfly monitor since the inception of that program in the Chicago Wilderness consortium. Smaller studies have indulged my curiosity about the social structure and movement patterns of whitetail deer; the route followed by the local lobe of the most recent continental glacier; and I soon will attempt an inventory of Canada goose winter flock roosting and foraging geography within the county. In addition I make broader observations that allow me to follow the natural history of the properties where I spend the most time (my home neighborhood, and the preserve where my office is located). This is science in the old fashioned sense of satisfying general curiosity, which academics no longer have the luxury of indulging. Their pressure to focus on narrow theoretical or applied subjects has its costs, and I hope that this blog will compensate in a small way.
If you wish to contact me outside the blog, you may use the e-mail address Wildlifer@aol.com