Rod Walton

Even the “everyday” American robin is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Photo: Harry Cheung, PPD For most people, protecting wildlife means taking into account endangered-species lists published by federal and state wildlife agencies. Species on these lists are those whose very existence is threatened, usually due to human activities. These lists are relatively short, and they contain species that are, almost by definition, uncommon. There are also laws intended specifically to protect bird species. Most of these laws…

The FESS Operation Department works to ensure that the drinking water at Fermilab is safe. It’s easy to take water for granted. We expect clean, clear and safe water whenever we turn on the tap. But whether the water comes from deep underground or a surface water source, getting it to you involves a lot of engineering and science. “Raw” water has to be treated using filtration and chemicals, then pumped to consumers through a system of mains over a…

This poster, printed during World War II, shows that recycling is not a new concept. Image courtesy of Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives Since the advent of the modern-day environmental movement in the United States in the late 1960s, recycling has arguably been the single most identifiable component of a sustainable strategy. The idea of using materials over and over instead of extracting more limited resources appeals to our common sense and is easy to understand and implement….

If you see an elk or other wildlife rare for northeastern Illinois, let the people at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources know. Photo: fritzmb Recently, possible cougar sightings in the northeastern Illinois area have made the news. It seems each year there are reports of unusual wildlife in the area. Although many of the sightings are cases of mistaken identity, instances of cougars or other wildlife species not normally seen in our area are not that uncommon. In 2008,…

Low-flow, motion-sensing faucets like this one in Wilson Hall save hundreds of gallons of water each year. Photo: Rod Walton The water level in Lake Michigan is down a foot, the Colorado River peters out before it even reaches the Gulf of California, and the supply of clean drinking water around the world is shrinking, even as population levels increase. Many ecologists consider the lack of drinking water the number one future global environmental and public health problem. In addition…

Dead trees, or snags, may not look like they belong in a healthy forest, but they are thriving habitats for all sorts of wildlife. Photo: Ryan Campbell If there is one fundamental principle underlying all of ecology, it may be that no niche goes unused. Essentially everywhere we look in nature, we find plants and animals exploiting the available resources and energy to make a living. One common feature of all forest environments is some number of standing dead trees,…

Nepese Marsh is located in the northeast corner of the Village. This diverse and productive wetland was once a sewage treatment lagoon. Photo: Dave Shemanske, FESS Roads and Grounds According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May is American Wetlands Month. Like many natural ecosystems, American wetlands have suffered because of the spread of agriculture and other development. In Illinois, less than half of pre-settlement wetlands remain, and many of the remnants are severely degraded by isolation and contamination. Wetland…

Conservationalists from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum transfer caterpillars onto turtlehead plants at Fermilab. Spring doesn’t officially begin until Tuesday, but we’ve been enjoying spring-like weather for weeks. Could there be any possible downside to this? Maybe. Human beings are not particularly sensitive to subtle changes in our environments because we are highly buffered from their effects. If the temperature changes, we can just turn the heat or air conditioning up or down and go about our business. But some…

Fermilab’s iconic Wilson Hall can be seen in the background as visitors inspect savanna restoration efforts. Credit: Fermilab Natural Areas. The highly endangered oak savanna was once one of the most common vegetation types in the Midwest. But during the surge of settlement in the 1840s the savanna gave way to the plow, and now less than one percent of Illinois’ original savanna remains. Thanks to a grant from the DuPage Community Foundation, one of those remnants, located in the…

Nick Wielgos stands on one of the bridges repaired as part of his Eagle Scout project. One of the great strengths of Fermilab is its availability to the general public – our neighbors – for a variety of activities. We are justifiably proud of Fermilab as an open facility, where community members as well as employees can come to admire the architecture, be entertained, enjoy a gourmet dinner or just experience the outdoors. The “Big Woods” just north of Wilson…