Coexisting with Wildlife
Humans have a long history of coexisting with the wildlife native to Illinois’ prairies and forests. We have always felt a connection to wild things, marveling at the majestic buck darting across the field and delighting in the bright colors of the monarch caterpillar munching on milkweed. Increasingly, however, humans are coming into conflict with plants and non-human animals, which are not always welcome where we live and work. People tend to fear what we don’t understand, including wildlife, which often unknowingly interferes with human endeavors. In Illinois Wildlife Extension, we seek to move away from this conflict mindset to one of coexistence, which will help us to solve environmental challenges facing humans and to sustain the rich biodiversity of Illinois. Our research and outreach efforts are focused on assisting our communities where wildlife and humans meet.
Ensuring equitable access to nature
Our natural environment is at risk —species go extinct every day due to global threats such as climate change, loss of natural areas, overuse, and intrusion into natural spaces by non-native, invasive plants and animals. Simultaneously, society is often disconnected from the natural world, and some people are excluded from enjoying green spaces through forces beyond their control. Illinois comprises a rich mosaic of people with different racial, cultural, ethnic, and gender identities, plus different sensory and physical abilities. To reconnect all types of people with wildlife and natural spaces, we must ensure access to natural areas, address environmental burdens born by communities disenfranchised from nature, and elevate the perspectives of those historically excluded from these spaces. In Illinois Wildlife Extension, our goals are to engage with communities to share knowledge, facilitate wildlife conservation and habitat restoration, and support advocacy work by informed and engaged naturalists.