This is a view looking out from the restored savannah onto the prairie. The students removed tons of buckthorn, non-native honeysuckle, invasive roses, ect. There was a time when you could see see two feet in front of you. The prairie remnant is located on the Northwest corner of 167th and Central in Oak Forest/Tinley park border.
The triangle formed by the tracks, 167th and central avenue, shows the clearing done by the ecology club. The Savannah is located on the top corner of the triangle and is where many of the photos were taken from on June 11, 2014.
"Hatched" robin's egg found in savannah floor. The blue color caught my eye
I am the sponsor of the Oak Forest High School Ecology club. For the past ten years, my students and I have been restoring a prairie remnant about one mile South of our school. I chose this for site for my bioinspiration activity because here I have witnessed direct evidence the resiliency of nature. Although we have worked on the site for over 10 years, Cook County Forest Preserve granted us stewardship just over a year ago so we are legit (Ha ha). We had a workday in May and June to end the school year. We saw some really cool plants coming up that were not present the year before, or at least in low numbers. On my first walk about I must admit my mind was spinning. I wasn't sure what to focus on. I asked Dr. Alleyne if we should pick something we don't know anything about or are we to assume that we are one of our students asking the questions? One of the first things I spotted on the Savannah floor was a hatched robin's egg. So many questions came to mind: why the blue color? How does the liquid biomass inside of an egg turn into a fully developed, solid mass animal? Another cool thing I saw were two plants species that are very rare and according to the Cook County Field Ecologist, were once present in large numbers in the early 1970's on our site. One is blue-eyed grass (see video clip) and another is the Green Dragon (in the same family as the Jack-in-the-Pulpit, but much rarer).
On prairie walk, found this species growing in an area previously cleared last winter. This is the Green Dragon. The flower similar to pitcher plant; a green, long and slender "tube." Very cool and much rarer that its cousin plant the "Jack-in-the-pulpit."
I found a decaying ground squirrel on the prairie; maggots were already hatching. Reminded me of nutrient cycles how nature represents balanced manufacturing..what goes in comes out and is reused!!
The first day at our Ecology club prairie gave me much to think about....how does an egg develop into an adult...how do organic monomers in an egg "self-assemble" into an organized adult animal? what environmental factors trigger the event? how does nature recycle so efficiently?