Stories by Patty Wetli

The cinderblock shell of an illegal building in Humboldt Park, obscuring the landmarked Receptory and Stable building, will be demolished. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Demolition To Start Monday on Illegal Building in Humboldt Park

The illegal building, intended as an archive for the neighboring landmarked National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, has been at the center of controversy since 2022.

A non-native subspecies of common reed is an invasive bully (l), crowding out its native counterpart in wetlands. (Credits: Caleb Slemmons, National Ecological Observatory Network, Bugwood.org (l); Rob Rutledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org)

Invasive Dupes, Part 5: The Common Reed’s Identity Crisis is a Doozy

For the last in our series on invasive species that can be mistaken for natives, here’s one of the trickiest: phragmites, also known as common reed.

February 2024 was the warmest on record in Chicago. The lakefront seen from the Museum Campus, Feb. 27, 2024. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

What the Heck Happened to February in Chicago? It Was the Warmest on Record, But It Could Have Been Weirder

It’s official, Chicago: February 2024 was the warmest in 153 years of recording keeping.

Native lilliput mussels (l) and invasive zebra mussels (r). (Credits: Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Flickr Creative Commons)

Invasive Dupes, Part 4: Two Tiny Mussels, One Big Difference

In honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, we’re posting daily “dupes” — invasives that can easily be confused with native species. Today we’re featuring two tiny freshwater mussels that couldn’t have less in common.

File photo. (Jplenio / Pixabay)

At Least 11 Tornadoes Confirmed by National Weather Service Following Tuesday’s Severe Storms

It was a wild day that saw Chicago just miss out on setting a record-high temperature for February before a powerful cold front moved through the region. 

Native climbing rose (l) and invasive multiflora rose (r). (Credits: Peter Chen, College of DuPage, Bugwood.org (l); James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org)

Invasive Dupes, Part 3: A Rose by Another Name Is a Multiflora Disaster

In honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, we’re posting daily “dupes” — invasives that can easily be confused with native species. Today brings us to a truly unexpected subject: the rose.

A file photo depicts lightning across the Chicago skyline. (S_UM_A / Pixabay)

Tornado Watch Issued for Chicago Region Through Late Tuesday Night

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for the Chicago region, much of northern Illinois and parts of northeast Indiana, through 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Can you tell them apart? That’s rusty crayfish, left, and virile crayfish, right. (Credit: Flickr Creative Commons)

Invasive Dupes, Part 2: Crayfish vs. Crayfish — Seeing Double

In honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, we’re posting daily “dupes” — invasives that can easily be confused with native species. Today we’re tackling crayfish.

A bald eagle is pictured in a file photo. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Second Pair of Bald Eagle Mates on the Nest in Will County. How Big Will the Eaglet Boom Be?

The Forest Preserve District of Will County confirmed a second pair of eagles are incubating eggs in a newly-built, enormous nest.

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

February Is Going Out on a Wild Note: Record-Breaking Warmth, Wildfire Warnings, Tornadoes and Maybe Snow

The forecast for last week of February has a little something for everyone. Buckle in for a wild ride.

Prairie (or field) thistle on the left, cutleaf teasel on the right. Which is native and which is invasive? (USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab; Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Invasive Dupes, Part 1: Teasel vs. Thistle, Will the Real Native Please Stand Up

In honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, we'll be posting daily "dupes" — invasives that can easily be confused with native species. 

Brookfield Zoo’s grey seal pup is just one week old and already a charmer. (Courtesy Brookfield Zoo)

Look at That Face: Brookfield Zoo’s Baby Seal in the Running for Cutest Newcomer

The grey seal pup was born Feb. 17. He’ll stay behind the scenes for the next month and a half while bonding with his mom.

Eaglet heads poke above the top of their nest in 2023. Fingers crossed for a repeat in 2024. (Will County Forest Preserve / Chad Merda)

Bald Eagles Confirmed Nesting in Will County. Eaglet Watch Is On

All signs are pointing to another successful year of bald eagle mating in Will County.

Sandhill cranes. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region)

Are Early Birds a Sign of Climate Change, Weird Weather, Neither, Both? It’s All of the Above, Experts Say

Red-winged blackbirds, American robins, and sandhill cranes are among the species of birds Chicagoans have spotted in recent days on the leading edge of spring migration. But wait — according to the calendar, it’s still winter.

Shedd’s newest rescued sea otter pup explores the aquarium’s otter habitat. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

Shedd’s Rescued Sea Otter Pup Makes Public Debut as He Continues to Thrive, Doubling in Size and Cuteness

The still-unnamed pup arrived at Shedd Aquarium in November 2023 and recently made his public debut after acclimating behind the scenes.

A memorial for Monty and Rose, held in 2022, at the site now named in their honor. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Monty and Rose #4Ever. Park District Names Dune Habitat for Piping Plover Lovebirds, On Valentine’s Day No Less

The Park District Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to rename the plovers’ Montrose Beach meeting spot the Monty and Rose Wildlife Habitat.

A monarch butterfly cozies up to milkweed in a Chicago yard. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

With Monarch Butterfly Population at Near Record Low, Chicagoans Have Their Marching Orders: Every Milkweed Stem Counts

Aster Hasle, a conservation scientist at the Field Museum, said, “Our role in the Midwest is to build that population back up. There is a lot that we can do here to provide habitat that’s going to help.”

A rendering of a proposed new White Sox stadium and surrounding development, including housing, at The 78 site. (Credit: Related Midwest)

Forget Something? Drawings of Proposed White Sox Stadium Leave Nature Out of the Picture, Advocate Says

Any development on the Chicago River should address concerns about climate resilience, biodiversity, sustainability and pollution, advocates say. "It would be an enormous mistake to not take that seriously," said Margaret Frisbie, of Friends of the Chicago River.

Honey locust seed pods blanket the ground in Albany Park, late January 2024. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

In This Wacky Winter, Seed Pods Instead of Snow Are Blanketing the Ground

In a winter that hasn’t seen much in the way of snow, honey locust pods are picking up the slack in terms of blanketing lawns, parkways and sidewalks, and piling inches deep along curbs.

(WTTW News)

'Skilling It' a Top Vote Getter in Chicago's Snowplow Naming Contest. Read all the Winners

The results of Department of Streets and Sanitation's snowplow naming contest are in and we can confirm that Chicago truly is a Tom Skilling kind of town.

The Field Museum’s rare copy of John J. Audubon’s “Birds of America” is now on public view. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

What To Do About Audubon? Field Museum Displays Rare Copy of Naturalist’s Masterwork But Also Examines Personal Flaws

The Field Museum’s rare copy of John J. Audubon’s “Birds of America” is now on public display, as part of an exhibit that doesn’t shy away from Audubon’s complicated legacy.

Woodstock Willie got an assist from meteorologist Tom Skilling. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The Groundhogs, and Tom Skilling, Have Spoken: It's Going To Be an Early Spring

Neither groundhog saw its shadow, indicating an early spring.

Tapeko, one of Brookfield Zoo’s bottlenose dolphins, gets a big welcome home from Melissa Zabojnik, a senior animal care specialist. (Jim Schulz / CZS-Brookfield Zoo)

Welcome Back! After 15-Month Absence, Dolphins Return to Their Home-Sweet-Renovated-Home at Brookfield Zoo

The zoo’s seven bottlenose dolphins will spend the next six weeks getting used to their new and improved digs.

A volunteer pulls a freshwater mussel from the Chicago River, Dec. 12, 2023. (Patty Wetli / W

Native Mollusks Are Key to Freshwater Ecosystems. Here’s How One Group is Helping Build Mussel Mass on the Chicago River

Freshwater mussels can be a river system’s best friend, but they’re missing from long stretches of the Chicago River. Here’s a look at one effort to reintroduce them.

Arnold Randall in a “Chicago Tonight” interview that aired Oct. 18, 2022. (WTTW News)

‘Night and Day’ Transformation: Arnold Randall is Leaving Cook County Forest Preserves in Better Shape Than He Found Them

From catching walleye to bringing restoration work out of the dark ages to passage of a groundbreaking tax hike, Arnold Randall reflects on his 13 years as general superintendent of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

(WTTW News)

From Buckingham Plowtain to CRTL-SALT-DELETE, Finalists Announced in Chicago Snowplow Naming Contest. Time to Cast Your Vote

Snowprah Windfrey and Micicle Jordan are among the pun-heavy contenders just announced as finalists in Chicago’s second annual Name a Snowplow contest.