Development of sustainable native communities on engineered soils and in an urban river floodplain.
I am the ecologist for the Garden's River and Prairie Ecosystems. I implement and manage the enhancement of the Skokie River Corridor and the development and management of the Susan S. Dixon Prairie within the Chicago Botanic Garden.
My goal, within the one-mile long, constructed, urban river corridor, is to develop diverse and sustainable communities of native plants and animals, recognizing that what happens upstream and in the watershed affect this effort. This goal has been pursued through the development of a 23-acre riparian buffer and the use of native vegetation for the stabilization of the streambanks. Through experimentation with seeding and planting a wide palette of native species of local origin, I pursue the creation of wetlands in the floodplain and prairie and an oak-dominated community in the upland.
The Susanne S. Dixon Prairie encompasses 15 acres of created grassland communities constructed and planted on "engineered" soils between l982 and l998. My goal (as well as my predecessor's) has been to exhibit six different types of native communities comprising the prairie landscape found in northeastern Illinois: fen, gravel hill, mesic, sand, savanna, and wet. Portions of the mesic and savanna prairies were developed with prairie soil "rescued" from development projects.
I use a variety of restoration tools to manage these developing native ecosystems, targeting, in particular, the encroachment of invasive species: mowing, herbicide treatments, manual removal of plants, and prescribed burning.