A group of 17 Bosnian high school students recently took part in an aquatic ecology program at the Forest Preserve District’s Urban Stream Research Center at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. They were visiting the United States for three weeks on a tour that emphasized leadership, American government and culture.
The students toured the USRC lab and investigated the science and engineering process that goes into aquatic species recovery. District environmental interpreters explained the importance of freshwater mussels and why we propagate them, went through the process of propagation, and explored some of the different rearing systems in the lab.
District environmental interpreter Glenn Perricone discusses aquatic ecology with a Bosnian student during a recent visit to the Urban Stream Research Center.
We also looked at the Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae in the lab and discussed why those dragonflies are endangered. Additionally, we briefly discussed the importance of intergovernmental partnerships and collaboration in the context of conservation and highlighted some regional conservation initiatives that the Forest Preserve District is leading.
Stream Monitoring Experience
The students then went to Spring Brook Creek for some hands-on stream monitoring experience. Students learned how propagation is only part of the process to recover aquatic species populations, and that we must also restore native habitats so they're healthy enough to support animals raised in the lab. The students conducted a stream survey to assess and index aquatic organisms and determine the health of Spring Brook Creek.
Bosnian students try their hand at stream monitoring on Spring Brook Creek at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville.
They enjoyed capturing crayfish, johnny darters and numerous macroinvertebrates. The students drew connections to the streams back in their homeland, and many were interested in replicating the same activity at home to assess ecosystem quality.
Bosnian high school students look at the aquatic wildlife they collected from Spring Brook Creek during a recent visit.
Squirrel! Wait, What?
In addition to their interest in the morning’s proceedings, many students also had a great interest in urban squirrels. They found it particularly fascinating that our native furry tree dwellers have free range in our cities.
The students were traveling with STEM Study Tours, a tour company based out of Dayton, Ohio. The group started their trip in Dayton, then traveled to Chicago. In addition to visiting the Urban Stream Research Center at Blackwell, they visited the Consulate General of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Chicago, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago and Willis Tower. They also took an evening boat tour of the Chicago shoreline, attended a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and dined at Medieval Times.
District environmental interpreter Keriann Dubina talks to Bosnian high school students before they begin stream monitoring at Spring Brook Creek at Blackwell Forest Preserve.
Fun Experience for All
District staff really enjoyed the program and felt that the students had fun and learned a lot! “It was neat for us to see how the students connected and related our natural resources to their own back home,” District environmental interpreter Jennifer Rydzewski said.
District environmental interpreter Jenny Kamm said, “The students were becoming invested in the stream monitoring process and really had fun capturing crayfish.”
Added District environmental interpreter Glenn Perricone: “The students had such a busy week visiting some major Chicago landmarks, and we were just thrilled that the Forest Preserve District got to be a part of it!”
Public Invited to Tour
The public is invited to tour the Urban Stream Research Center during an Oct. 16 open house from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the Forest Preserve District’s efforts to raise freshwater mussels, federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonflies, and state-endangered Blanding’s turtles. Then, meet some of the crayfish, insects and fish that call the county’s waterways home. Tours leave every 30 minutes 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. All ages; 18 and under with an adult. $5 per person. Register online or at 630-933-7248.