Schrotenboer, Students Take Creation Work to Lake Katherine

Jul 06, 2018

Just blocks from the Trinity campus, Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens offers 85 acres of woodlands, prairie, wetlands, gardens, and a 10-acre lake. And it’s not just a place where Trinity students can appreciate nature.

Under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Biology Abbie Schrotenboer, Ph.D., students regularly visit Lake Katherine to conduct research and do conservation work. That includes getting their hands dirty by removing invasive species during stewardship work days, as Mariah Neleson ’20 discussed in a post on Schrotenboer’s blog.

Students in several of her classes also participate in restoration projects by sampling for insects and other invertebrates to see what biodiversity currently exists and how it might change over time in response to the restoration efforts. Students have also monitored for milkweeds and monarch butterflies as part of an independent research project and done some surveying in Lake Katherine’s “Buzz ‘n Bloom Prairie,” which is dedicated to increasing pollination. These diversity surveys have been a part of Schrotenboer’s her Survey of Plants and Animals and Conservation Biology courses.

“Lake Katherine is a great fit for many of the goals I have as a professor and as someone concerned with the well-being of God’s creation,” Schrotenboer said. “It’s a place that is working to conserve and restore the plants and wildlife of our area, even amid all the suburban development around it. It’s also a place trying to help people connect with nature–if we don’t learn to love God’s world, we won’t be motivated to protect it.”

Trinity and Lake Katherine have a tradition of working together, which began with previous professors at the College. Schrotenboer first became involved at Lake Katherine through Gareth Blakesley, the operations manager there, whom she met when she first began working at Trinity. She also serves on Lake Katherine’s Natural Resources Management Council, a group that meets regularly to discuss environmental aspects of activities and developments and coordinate stewardship work.

Her work at Lake Katherine also ties into much of her research, which focuses on better understanding God’s creation and the ways that humans interact with the creation. “In my own work, much of this is at a very local scale. This has value for making management decisions here on campus and in the Chicago area, but it also helps the larger academic field engage with issues of the connection between humans and nature, especially in a suburban/urban context.” Her research interests include urban waterways; suburban wildlife diversity and habitat use, with a focus on coyote behavior; extent and repercussions of ash tree death due to emerald ash borer; ecological restoration and plant species diversity; and landcover change and its effects on local natural areas.

Click here to learn more about Lake Katherine.