Professor Shares Research from Fulbright Experience

Professor Julian Kerbis Peterhans spent last year in Uganda after being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, where he trained African students in biodiversity survey techniques. During that time, four new mammal species were discovered, with three of them from a single unexplored ‘montane island forest’ in central Africa.

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A collaborative international effort by Dr. Julian Kerbis Peterhans of the College of Professional Studies at Roosevelt University (Chicago), the Wildlife Conservation Society (New York), the Centre de Recherché des Sciences Naturelles (Lwiro, Dr Congo), and the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago) has documented multiple unique species in a remote forest overlooking the western shore of Lake Tanganyika in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The forest, known as the Misotshi-Kabogo Highlands, is located within an African biodiversity hotspot known as the Albertine Rift.

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Sustainability Studies Blog Debuts

If you’re interested in the greening of urban areas, then subscribe to RU’s new Sustainability Studies blog: http://rusustain.wordpress.com . Written by Assistant Professor Carl Zimring, the SS blog discusses the new RU major, relevant RU events, as well as research interests and contributions from RU’s faculty. It’s an essential subscription if you are one of the new Sustainability Studies majors or minors–and also if you want to learn more about living greenly.

Bryson Writes Article “Rediscover the Chicago River”

Associate Professor Mike Bryson’s article “Rediscover the Chicago River” is the cover story this month for the Mindful Metropolis, a local online progressive environmental and health publication. Bryson’s article establishes that the city and nature are seamless–frequently trespassing each other’s boundaries even though people tend to separate them unnecessarily in their minds. Suggesting city-dwellers look around them more carefully, Bryson reflects on the Chicago River specifically: “Dredged, straightened, polluted and famous for having its flow reversed at the turn of the century, the river is nevertheless a complex ecological system that fulfills an amazing array of economic, social and environmental functions–from transportation conduit to wastewater repository to recreational resource to wildlife corridor.” Accompanied by breathtaking photography by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee, the article asks readers to re-examine their beliefs about urban environments.

Cooke Receives Second Grant to Aid Urban Garden Community

Maris Cooke, a long-time adjunct faculty member in the Department of Professional and Liberal Studies (PLS) program, has been awarded a second McCormick Tribune Foundation Transformational Service-Learning Grant from RU’s Mansfield Institute of Social Justice and Transformation. The grant will help fund an urban community garden which helps provide nutritious fruits and vegetables that are largely beyond the budgets of people who live below the poverty level.

Cooke’s part in the project began back in 2006, when her students in a PLS 391 Seminar in Natural Sciences voiced their concerns about urban environmental deterioration and the poverty that often surrounds it, after learning about it in their class. They wanted to do something meaningful–and so did Cooke. Cooke knew about community gardens and had worked in several, so began researching opportunities to blend student awareness, philanthropy, and social justice within an urban garden setting.

Cooke learned about the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago’s Mission Outreach Program, which in 2002, began the conversion of an outdoor basketball court to a community garden. The garden is located on a property the church owns next to the Cabrini Green Public Housing Project. The garden provides church members and residents of Cabrini Green with gardening plots on which to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The church, with their community partners, provide educational programs and monthly cookouts for adults and children at the garden. After learning about the church’s project, Cooke applied for and received her first service-learning grant in 2008, in the amount of $6000, and Roosevelt University became one of the church’s community partners.

Two neighborhood children enjoy an event at the Chicago Avenue Urban Farm. Picture taken by RU student Kenneth Sullivan.

The students in Cooke’s PLS 391 have been at the garden for several events since the spring of 2008.  They co-hosted two events: the Healthy Living, Healthy Eating Cookout in the summer of 2009, and the Fall Harvest Festival in October 2009.  Students attending these functions have served in a variety of roles: some weeded and watered the garden; others served and cooked food at the monthly cookouts, while still others engaged with the children who come to the garden for educational and recreational programs. Cooke says “My intent for our participation in the garden was to demonstrate what can be done with vacant spaces in any urban setting.  The conversion of vacant spaces can rehabilitate communities, and provide a setting that is a safe haven for children and adults that can create or reinforce community ties.”

The garden is currently in a transformational period as the Cabrini Green Public Housing projects are being torn down.  However,with the Cabrini Row Houses and nearby North Town Village, the garden is about to become a year round urban farm.  In conjunction with Growing Power, a national organization that supports efforts of this kind, this transformation will begin over the summer of 2010.  Cooke’s 2010 grant, which is $1850, will fund a Children’s Garden, the creation of a herb garden, the purchase of rain barrels to defray costs of watering and which are an environmentally sound practice for the conservation of water, and the purchase of one of the year-round greenhouses.

Beginning in May of this year and through the fall of 2010, students in the PLS 391 course and the new SUST 230 course (“Food”), will be helping with this conversion, and also attending and working at various community cookouts and educational events sponsored by the farm.  Cooke says, “What is most meaningful to me is the interaction between our students and the children . . . you can clearly see how important it is for these children to have the friendly and generous attention of adults, whether it is helping them to fill their plates, helping them to water the children’s garden, or playing games with them.  It is a meaningful and rewarding experience that our students will take with them for the rest of their lives.”

Go Green Awareness Day: April 22

Learn how to live life to the greenest!

Students can help celebrate Earth Day at Roosevelt by attending the “Go Green Awareness Day,” this Thursday, April 22nd. Sponsored by the Center for Student Involvement, the event will be held from 12noon-3pm in the Auditorium Building’s Congress Lounge (second floor). Go Green Awareness Day will feature environmentally-friendly products and education, as well as volunteer opportunities in the field with local organizations. Associate Professor Mike Bryson and Assistant Professor Carl Zimring, co-developers of the new Sustainability Studies major in ETSCPS, will also be there for questions and discussion.

Professor Conducts First Surveys in Congo basin

In August 2009, RU Professor Julian Kerbis-Peterhans transferred his field efforts from Rwanda to the Congo basin (Upper Lualaba River) where he conducted the first biological surveys in a newly proposed protected area, currently known as TL2 (after the region’s great river systems: Tshuapa, Lualaba and Lomani Rivers).  They found the first specimens of the rare black guinea fowl (Agelastes niger) on the left bank of the Congo River as well as other important new records. These data will serve as a baseline of species now documented from this severely threatened area, an area that has been hammered by bushmeat hunters over the past two decades. These conservation efforts are driven by the determination of Peterhans’ long time colleagues and friends, Drs John and Terese Hart (formerly of the New York Zoological Society Wildlife Conservation Society), who have dedicated 25 years of their lives towards saving the great forests of the Congo basin (and where they have raised 3 kids!).

Post by Julian Kerbis Peterhans

Environmental Film Debuts in Chicago

Many environmental problems are large-scale, global issues — think climate change, the energy crisis, and biological extinctions. But other crises are right under our noses, yet don’t grab the headlines. Ever wonder, for example, about the potentially adverse effects of lawn-care pesticides on the health of people and animals?

The ubiquitous and largely unquestioned use of toxic chemicals in our lawns and gardens poses a significant environmental threat to public health and ecosystem quality. RU’s Sustainability Studies program invites everyone to attend the Chicago-area debut of a groundbreaking documentary film from Canada about the impact of lawn-care pesticides on public health, A Chemical Reaction, at Columbia College’s Ferguson Auditorium, 600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, on Saturday, March 20th, 3-5pm.

Film debuts in Chicago, March 20th

The event features an appearance by the film’s executive producer, Paul Tukey.

According to the movie’s promotional materials, “Canada has spoken and lawn and garden pesticides that are commonly used in the U.S. are now banned in most of that nation. A Chemical Reaction examines how Hudson, Quebec, became the first town in North America to eliminate these products and how its battle all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court inspired activists everywhere. But can the U.S. ever overcome its own pesticide lobbyists for the sake of children’s health? If Paul Tukey has his way, it will.”

View a trailer of A Chemical Reaction on YouTube.

Post by Professor Mike Bryson.