Thursday, April 27, 2006

The U of I’s Wildlife Medical Clinic & “Doodle for Wildlife” Benefit

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Most of the time, what wild animals need from people is to be left alone. But when an animal is injured by a run-in with a car or a window, or it shows up obviously ill where people can’t get around it, some sort of human intervention is warranted. That’s part of the philosophy behind the Wildlife Medical Clinic located in the University of Illinois’ Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital off of South Lincoln Avenue in Urbana.

The purpose of the clinic is to treat sick, injured, or orphaned animals so that they may be returned to the wild. At the same time, the clinic provides veterinary students and faculty with excellent opportunities to develop their medical skills. The wildlife clinic also seeks to educate the public about Illinois wildlife and veterinary medicine.

When it was established in 1978, the Wildlife Medical Clinic was staffed by just a handful of volunteers, and was able to admit only a limited number of cases. Since that time it has grown steadily, and it now attracts around a hundred volunteers every semester, and admits nearly two thousand cases in a year.

The range of patients admitted to the clinic includes animals as large and formidable as white-tailed deer and coyotes, and as small and delicate as ruby throated hummingbirds. In between, there are hawks, owls, foxes, possums, robins, raccoons, squirrels, and snapping turtles—just about all of the animals common to our region.

Rabbits constitute nearly twenty five percent of all cases at the clinic, the largest proportion of any one kind of animal, although that figure is skewed by the fact that people often bring in entire litters of baby rabbits, mistakenly thinking they have been abandoned. For the record, it is normal for mother rabbits to leave their young untended except to nurse them at dawn and dusk.

After an animal has been admitted to the clinic and provided with initial treatment, it is assigned to a team of eight to ten volunteers—generally veterinary students—who are then responsible for all of the care the animal requires. The clinic has access to the full range services offered in the veterinary teaching hospital, such as x-rays and blood tests, as well as help from specialists in areas such as ophthalmology and neurology.

Although the Wildlife Medical Clinic is staffed by volunteers and operates with space and equipment provided by the College of Veterinary Medicine, it does depend on public support for all supplies, feed, and new equipment.

If you would like to help support the Wildlife Medical Clinic, check out the “Doodle for Wildlife” Benefit to be held this Saturday, April 29th, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Illini Union on the UIUC Campus. At the benefit, signed photographs and original drawings donated by a slew of national celebrities will be auctioned off, along with a variety of unique travel and outing packages. Reservations for “Doodle for Wildlife” are encouraged, and can be made by calling the Wildlife Medical Clinic at (217) 333-1762.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Appreciating the Boneyard Creek

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Boneyard Creek Community Day information

City of Champaign Boneyard 2nd Street Project Summary

Boneyard 2nd Street Project Survey

I guess most people who live or work in Champaign-Urbana go through most days without thinking about the Boneyard Creek. That’s not true for me; I’m crazy about streams, and during the week the Boneyard is the only one I have access to. On my way to campus I bicycle beside it where it parallels Second Street between Clark and Springfield, and then follow it through Scott Park. Occasionally at lunchtime, I walk over to where it flows through the U of I’s Engineering campus. There I and many others enjoy the open space along the creek. Sometimes I even bring a fly rod along and fish there.

When you stop and pay attention to it, you see that, small and disrespected as it is, the Boneyard is a magnet for urban wildlife. At this time of year, the trees along Second Street and in Scott Park attract great numbers of migrating songbirds. The creek itself provides a stopover for mallards, and the occasional wood duck. A belted kingfisher cruises the creek’s corridor, as do northern rough-winged swallows. In the rejuvenated portion of the Boneyard on campus I’ve seen bullfrogs and even a snapping turtle.

And get this. In 2004 a student who sampled fish on campus and in Urbana to assess the biotic integrity of the Boneyard found twenty-two species of fish. That’s well below the numbers of species found in our area’s more pristine streams—say the Middle Fork and Lower reaches of the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River—but much better than many people would expect.

If you aren't used to thinking of the Boneyard Creek as a natural asset in the urban landscape of Champaign-Urbana, I’d encourage you to take a new look at it. Especially now. You see, the City of Champaign is currently working on the design for Phase II of the flood control project it began in the 1990s. In Phase I of that effort, the Boneyard was treated strictly as a nuisance, and buried in a pipe for three blocks.

It seems likely that the creek will be treated with more respect in the current phase, known as the Second Street Detention Project. But it’s important that people who value the potential of an open waterway in the city make their voices heard on this issue.

The current project proposes two detention basins along Second Street between Springfield and University Avenues, and the work done there will tie in with modifications to Scott Park. Among the alternatives now being developed, the best allow for a somewhat naturalized creek corridor. They leave the normal flow channel of the stream above ground, and they include some areas landscaped with native plants. They also incorporate a gradual slope leading to the creek from one side, so that people can approach it.

If you are interested in how the Boneyard Creek is treated in the Second Street Detention Project, the City of Champaign is interested in hearing from you. You can fill out a survey to indicate what you would value in the project design online at the City’s website, or receive a mail-in survey to complete by calling the Public Works Division.

Beyond that, you can come out and get acquainted with Champaign-Urbana’s hometown stream at the Boneyard Creek Community Day taking place this Saturday, April 22nd. Sponsored by numerous entities, including the cities of Champaign and Urbana, their respective park districts and the U of I, with organizational help from Prairie Rivers Network, this event will include a stream clean-up, storm drain stenciling, food, entertainment, and even free t-shirts for the first 350 participants. Registration for volunteers takes place in Scott Park and begins at 9:00 a.m. Entertainment and other activities are scheduled from noon to 4:00 p.m.

The Boneyard Creek really is a natural asset for our community, and we have much to gain by treating it well.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Environmental Horizons Conference

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Next week the University of Illinois Environmental Council will host its 8th annual Environmental Horizons conference. This event invites members of the campus and wider community to experience the depth and breadth of environmental research, education, and outreach going on at the U of I.

The Environmental Horizons conference will feature three speakers. The keynote address Tuesday evening will be given by Mohammed El-Ashry, who is currently a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation, and who holds a Ph.D. in Geology from the U of I. Dr. El-Ashry will provide a global perspective on the role of clean energy in sustainable development.

At noon on Wednesday, Praveen Kumar, associate professor in the U of I’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will speak on the importance of variability for the health of natural ecosystems associated with water. Dr. Kumar is engaged in developing comprehensive models for understanding the impacts of intensive agriculture and urban development on lakes and streams, with an eye toward policy and management practices that will preserve land and water resources for future generations.

Later on Wednesday, David Huggins, a soil scientist from Washington State University and director of the “Climate Friendly Farming Project,” will talk about his work with innovative, sustainable farming systems. Dr. Huggins' presentation will be followed by a panel discussion hosted by the U of I’s Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program. That discussion will focus on how research into sustainable practices will take shape at the new South Farms.

In addition to speakers, the Environmental Horizons conference will feature an open house highlighting the wide range of the environmental scholarship done on campus.

The open house is especially interesting for the opportunity it provides to see some of the innovative and exciting research being done by U of I undergraduates. Students from a variety of disciplines will be on hand with posters explaining the work they do. Among them will be one who has investigated the incidence of West Nile Virus in foxes and coyotes in Illinois, another who has been involved with experiments on the response of soybeans to global climate change, and another who is filming a documentary on how industry has impacted the health, politics and economics of the southwest Chicago suburb where he grew up.

I would emphasize that the Environmental Horizons open house isn’t an entirely left-brain affair, as it also includes a display of environmental art. You’ll be able to see paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture on environmental subjects by students and faculty from across campus.

The open house on Wednesday afternoon will also provide opportunities for connecting with some of the very engaged environmental organizations based in Champaign-Urbana. If you’ve thought you might want to get involved with groups like Grand Prairie Friends, Prairie Rivers Network, the Champaign County Audubon Society, or the Sierra Club, this is a good chance to check them out in one place.

The Environmental Horizons conference takes place next Tuesday and Wednesday. For details about time and place, please check the web site of the University of Illinois’ [click here-->] Environmental Council. Then come out and see how U of I researchers are addressing today’s most pressing environmental concerns.