This week offered good reminders that conservation takes place at every scale, from global to local. The big picture was highlighted in a Monday visit from Congressman Mike Quigley, who met with zoo experts as part of a “Chicago Climate” tour of local environmental organizations.
Congressman Mike Quigley meets with zoo scientists Mason Fidino, Liza Watson Lehrer, Lisa Faust and Seth Magle at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.
It was a wide-ranging discussion, as befits a big issue. Vice President of Conservation & Science Lisa Faust, Ph.D., shared how climate change could affect zoo conservation sites in the wild. She also highlighted how zoo scientists are helping peers across the country get ready for “stormy weather” with disaster-preparedness efforts from our Zoo Animal Health Network.
At the same time, Urban Wildlife Institute Director Seth Magle, Ph.D., shared how zoo wildlife monitoring can help define the local impact of climate change. Seth and his staff spend day after day in the field, tallying the species that make their home in the Chicago region. We need this kind of baseline to authoritatively measure how this global issue impacts Chicago-area animals.
Also on the local front, Seth and his team have just shared how one invasive plant—European buckthorn—has an outsized impact on the region’s wildlife. In a pair of scientific papers, the researchers share how the shrub both attracts carnivores and releases a chemical that’s toxic to developing amphibians. The net outcome is negative for a range of native animals, spurring calls to do more to remove the invasive plant.
Even as zoo scientists discuss threats to local wildlife, though, they’re also delivering solutions. Right now zoo researchers are in Michigan as part of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake recovery effort. Annually surveying healthy massasauga populations in Michigan let scientists gain vital information to protect this reclusive predator in other states where it’s endangered, including Illinois.
By studying healthy populations of eastern massasauga rattlesnakes in Michigan, zoo scientists can learn how to better conserve the shy predators in Illinois, where they're endangered.
The yearly survey also lets massasauga experts from across the country meet face to face, something they find useful in planning the species recovery. Even in a global age, it seems, the local touch can’t be overlooked.