Stories by Patty Wetli

(Linus Schutz / Pixabay)

October in Chicago Is Off to a Scorching Start After a Hotter Than Normal September

But fear not lovers of all things fall, more seasonal weather is on the way.

A black-crowned night heron, in its signature hunched stance, with long white streamers just visible. (Dulcey Lima / Unsplash)

Endangered Black-Crowned Night Herons Are Thriving in Chicago. Researchers Want to Know Why

The more scientists can learn about the Chicago colony of black-crowned night herons, the more they can help these birds help themselves. Because night herons are hanging on in Illinois by a thread.

(WTTW News)

WTTW News Explains: How Do Chicago’s Lake Michigan Water Cribs Work?

Meet Ellis Chesbrough, Chicago’s first city engineer and designer of the water delivery system we still use today. WTTW News Explains how water cribs work out on Lake Michigan. 

Spotted lanternfly adult (left) and nymphs. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Spotted Lanternfly Isn’t an Eco Disaster But It Does Have a Major ‘Yuck’ Factor. Here’s How Chicago Can Defend Itself

The first sighting of the invasive pest was confirmed in Chicago, but we’re years from a major infestation and have learned from cities like Pittsburgh how to minimize the nuisance, an expert said.

Adult spotted lanternfly. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Get Ready to Stomp and Squash: Illinois’ First Infestation of Dreaded Spotted Lanternfly Confirmed in Chicago

The insect was found in the Fuller Park neighborhood of Chicago, according to a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Neighbors, preservationists and park advocates are calling for the demolition of an unauthorized annex to the landmarked Receptory Building and Stable in Humboldt Park. The building is leased by the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, which began construction of an adjacent archive facility without permits. (Top photo: Patty Wetli / WTTW News; Bottom photo:

Illegal Building Still Standing in Humboldt Park. Community Meeting Scheduled To Discuss Its Future

More than a year after the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture began construction on a non-permitted facility in historic Humboldt Park, a community meeting has been scheduled to discuss the project's status and explore future possibilities for the structure.

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Are You Ready for ‘Chicagohenge’? Fall Equinox Creates Amazing Sunrise, Sunset Effect

During the fall and spring equinoxes, the sun rises due east and sets due west, creating an effect dubbed “Chicagohenge.”

Spring Lake Forest Preserve, Cook County. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Did You Forget To Make Plans for National Public Lands Day This Weekend? We’ve Got You Covered

Created back in 1994, the day is meant to celebrate the connection between people and the green space in their community. 

American white pelicans make a twice yearly appearance in Will County during fall and spring migration. (Diane Renkin / National Park Service)

The Pelicans Have Landed. Here’s Where to See Them Near Chicago

The Forest Preserve District of Will County is celebrating the birds’ fall arrival during Saturday’s Pelican Watch event at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon.

(Credit: City of Chicago)

Chicago’s Looking for Its Next Official Millennium Park Christmas Tree. Think You’ve Got What It Takes?

The selected tree will serve as the centerpiece of Chicago’s official holiday celebrations in Millennium Park. Here’s how to submit yours for consideration.

Michael Davidson has been named president and CEO of the conservation organization Openlands. (Courtesy of Openlands)

Openlands Announces Michael Davidson as CEO, First New Leader at the Conservation Organization in 35 Years

The last time the conservation organization experienced a changing of the leadership guard, the year was 1988, Ronald Reagan was president, Mike Tyson was heavyweight champ, and floppy disks were still a thing.

A colony of ants formed their own life raft, seen in Hickory Creek Preserve in Will County. (Courtesy of Meagan Crandall)

After Recent Rains Flooded Ant Colonies, They Formed Their Own Life Rafts

If their nests become waterlogged, ants will evacuate and form a waterproof ball that floats on the surface until the waters recede.

Kinda, Brookfield Zoo’s new baby giraffe, with mom Arnieta. (Jim Schulz / CZS-Brookfield Zoo)

Brookfield Zoo Has More Big News to Celebrate: A Record-Setting $40M Donation

Brookfield Zoo has received a historic $40 million gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, the largest single private contribution in the zoo's 89-year history, officials announced Tuesday.

Federal Emergency Management Agency had just opened a Disaster Recovery Center in Calumet City Sept. 14 to assist people with claims from flooding that happened in July. (Facebook / City of Calumet City)

Nearly a Foot of Rain Devastates Calumet City With Second Flash Flood This Year: ‘All My Stuff Is Gone’

Residents of Calumet City are recovering from a second round of flooding in less than three months after more than half a foot of rain fell on the area Sunday.

Illinois Beach State Park boasts some of the highest quality remnant habitat in the Midwest, but it’s being threatened by invasive plant species. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Invasive Plants Threaten Illinois Beach’s Native Ecosystems. Volunteers Needed to Join the Defensive Line

A kick-off event Sept. 16 is aimed at recruiting more volunteer stewards, whose work helps safeguard the nature preserve’s endangered and threatened species.

An endangered Bowmouth Guitarfish, one of three 11-month-old pups that has arrived at Shedd Aquarium. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

These Baby Shark Rays Are Among the Most Threatened Marine Life on the Planet. Shedd Aquarium is Providing Safe Harbor

Bowmouth Guitarfish, also called Shark Rays, are hunted for their fins and thorns. Three rescued pups have arrived at Shedd Aquarium.

Brookfield Zoo's three-week-old giraffe Kinda (rhymes with Linda) makes her public debut Sept. 8, 2023. (Jim Schulz / CZS-Brookfield Zoo)

Brookfield Zoo’s Baby Giraffe Makes Her Public Debut, and She Has a Name

The zoo’s three-week-old baby giraffe is making her debut Friday and can now be seen daily, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Chicago Public Library officials unveil "There There" as the 2023 One Book, One Chicago selection. (WTTW News)

‘There There,’ an Exploration of the Urban Native American Experience, Announced as 2023 One Book, One Chicago

Author Tommy Orange will take part in a discussion of his debut novel on Nov. 15 at Harold Washington Library Center. 

A water rescue device is pictured in a file photo. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

2 Dead, 1 Critical, 1 Missing As Chicago's Summer Swim Season Ends on Tragic Note

A pair of water rescues on Chicago's lakefront over the holiday weekend resulted on one person dead and another in critical condition, according to the Chicago Police Department. Indiana officials report a teen drowned in East Chicago.

Bruno de Medeiros, assistant curator of insects, with just a handful of the beetles in the Field Museum’s collection. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

It’s Beetle Mania! Field Museum Scientist Says It’s Time to Give These Unsung Pollinator Heroes Their Due

Beetles, and weevils in particular, are thought of as destructive pests. Bruno de Medeiros, assistant curator of insects at the Field Museum, is upending those preconceptions.

“Chicago Tonight” viewer J. Scott Sykora shared this photo of a harvest supermoon eclipse on Sept. 27, 2015.

Tonight’s Blue Super Moon Will Be Year’s Biggest and Brightest, But Its Impact on Tides Is Cause for Concern

The super blue moon also means unusually high tides, which could worsen the impact of Hurricane Idalia. 

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel appears on “Chicago Tonight” on May 13, 2019. (WTTW News)

Is Seafood Radioactive After Japan’s Nuclear Wastewater Release? Rahm Emanuel Says He’ll Eat Fukushima Fish in Show of Support: Report

Now U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel plans to travel to Fukishima prefecture and eat some local catch of the day to quell concerns about the release of treated radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

The Crown Fountain in Millennium Park is pictured in a file photo. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Chicago Officially Hit 100 Degrees for First Time in More Than a Decade, And It Felt Even Hotter

On Thursday, Chicago notched its first official 100-degree day since 2012 and tied a daily high set nearly 80 years ago, according to the National Weather Service.

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Dangerous Heat That Could Feel Like 115 Degrees Hits Chicago, Here’s How To Keep Your Cool

Cooling centers and splash pads are open to help people cope with oppressive heat that will feel like 115 degrees.

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Illinois’ Nature Preserve System Is Turning 60. Celebrate By Visiting the State’s Rarest Landscapes

This weekend, you’re invited to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the creation of Illinois’ state nature preserves by touring some of state’s rarest and most endangered landscapes. 

Meet Brookfield Zoo's baby giraffe, born Aug. 19. (Jim Schulz / CZS-Brookfield Zoo)

It’s a (Very Tall) Girl! Brookfield Zoo Welcomes Baby Giraffe

The 6-foot, 130-pound calf was born Aug. 19, Brookfield Zoo announced Monday.