Stories by Patty Wetli

Cicadas mating. (AFPMB / Flickr Creative Commons Public Domain)

Your Guide to All Things Cicada: How Loud Will It Get? How Bad Will It Smell? And Everything You Didn’t Know to Ask

In 2024, Illinois can’t be beat for periodical cicadas. Here’s everything you need to know about these fascinating creatures, and what to expect between now and July.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s video has humans act out periodical cicadas’ lifecycle. (Screenshot)

‘We Were Not Dropping Acid’: The Story Behind the Making of DuPage Forest Preserve’s Viral Cicada Video

“Nature education is a big part of what we do here, but you gotta find a way to make it interesting so that people actually watch it,” said Jonathan Mullen, part of the team behind the viral video.

The scene at Red Gate Woods looks like an eco-disaster but it’s actually the result of invasive shrub removal. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

This Forest Preserve May Look Like a Disaster Zone, but What You’re Seeing Is the Most Ambitious Restoration Project Cook County’s Ever Tackled

A 1,000-acre, $10 million restoration project is now underway at Red Gate Woods, part of the vast Palos Preserve system in southwestern Cook County.

Brood XIX periodical cicadas have showed up in force in Alabama, photographed April 30, 2024. (Alabama Extension / Flickr Creative Commons)

Chicago is Still Waiting on Its Cicadas, But Southern States Are Buzzing. Here’s What the Emergence Looks and Sounds Like Across the Country

Cicada Watch 2024 is reaching fever pitch in the Chicago region, where Brood XIII periodical cicadas are expected to burst from the ground by the millions, any day now. Here’s what’s in store.

Thousands of volunteers will fan out across the Chicago-Calumet river system Saturday for the annual River Day cleanup. (Courtesy of Friends of the Chicago River)

The Annual Chicago River Day Cleanup is Saturday, But Tackling Litter in the Waterway is Never-Ending

“One of the biggest things about litter is it makes people think that the river is more polluted than it is,” said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River.

The Chicago Archaeopteryx was unveiled Monday at the Field Museum. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The Chicago Archaeopteryx, the Field Museum’s Newest Dinosaur, Meets the Public

The Field Museum ushered in a new era of scientific exploration with Monday’s unveiling of the Chicago Archaeopteryx.

A graphic that says “Where in the World is Archaeopteryx”? (Nicole Cardos / WTTW News)

Where in the World is Archaeopteryx?

Only 13 specimens of Archaeopteryx — and one special feather — are known to exist since the first Archaeopteryx fossils were discovered in 1860. Most come from the same deposit of Solnhofen Limestone in Bavaria, Germany.

Jingmai O'Connor, associate curator of fossil reptiles, with the Chicago Archaeopteryx specimen, at the Field Museum, March 2024. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The Field Museum Now Has an Incredibly Rare Fossil Proving Birds Are Dinosaurs. Here’s a Behind-the-Scenes Look at How They Got It

The Field formally announced to the world what had become a not-so-well-kept secret: The museum had acquired just the 13th specimen known to exist of Archaeopteryx, a fossil often described as the “missing link” between dinosaurs and birds.

Jingmai O’Connor, associate curator of fossil reptiles at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. (WTTW News)

Meet Jingmai O’Connor, the Punk Rock Paleontologist Who Leads the Field Museum’s Archaeopteryx Team

WTTW News sat down with paleornithologist Jingmai O’Connor and talked about dinosaurs, birds, the Chicago Archaeopteryx, evolution and why studying fossil birds is more important now than ever.

Warblers, like this palm warbler, are among the biggest group of migratory birds crossing Chicago at the moment, as spring migration nears its peak. (U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region)

Chicago On Migration High Alert as Hundreds of Millions of Birds on the Move Nightly Across the US

BirdCast, a project of Cornell Bird Lab and Colorado State University, has issued a high alert for Chicago, recommending lights out to reduce collision risks for birds.

A periodical cicada nymph, flushed from its tunnel is pictured on April 28, 2024, in Cook County’s Palos preserve system. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Early Cicada Sightings Are a False Alarm, Mass Emergence Not Here Yet, Researchers Say

It’s not uncommon for some cicadas to jump the gun, experts said. Recent sightings, especially after last weekend’s rains, aren’t a sign that the mass emergence has started. 

A deer grazing in LaBagh Woods, a Cook County forest preserve, spring 2024. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Who’s Ready for a Wild Weekend? The Annual City Nature Challenge is Here

Hundreds of cities around the world will take part in the friendly City Nature Challenge competition — Friday through Monday — to see who can identify the most biodiversity.

Imani at Montrose Beach, April 2023. (Matthew Dolkart)

Imani Is Back at Montrose Beach. Will This Be the Year Chicago’s Piping Plover Bachelor Finds a Mate?

Imani is the son of Chicago's beloved late piping plover lovebirds, Monty and Rose.

(David Waschbusch / Pexels)

Get Ready to Clean Out the Garage. Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site Coming to South Suburbs

For the second year in a row, the Cook County government has celebrated Earth Day by announcing a new south suburban recycling facility aimed at taking some of the nastiest garbage out of the waste stream.

A blanket of bluebells at O’Hara Woods in Will County. (Courtesy Forest Preserve District of Wall County)

The Bluebells Are Here. Catch These Short-Lived Beauties Before They’re Gone

These gorgeous spring ephemerals love woodland habitats near creeks, and they’ll spread like a carpet on the forest floor. But only for a couple of weeks, and then they’re gone.

Cherry blossoms in Jackson Park in 2021. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

Sour Cherries: Weird Weather Stunts Blossoms in Jackson Park for Second Year in a Row

The Cherry Blossom trees in Jackson Park won’t reach peak bloom this year, the Chicago Park District said.

Stephen Colbert is bringing "Late Show" to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention. (Screenshot)

Look Who’s Coming to the DNC: Stephen Colbert Bringing Live ‘Late Show’ Broadcasts to Chicago

Stephen Colbert, host of CBS’s “Late Show,” announced Wednesday night he’ll be broadcasting live from Chicago during the convention, Aug. 19-22.

An eastern meadowlark, recently killed in a collision with a Chicago building. (Courtesy of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors)

Advocates Say Chicago’s New Sustainable Development Guidelines Fail to Protect Birds: ‘That’s Shameful’

Spring migration is still weeks away from reaching its peak in Chicago and already the tiny body bags are piling up, filled with birds killed in collisions with the city’s glass buildings.

A graphic that says "The Return of the Cicadas." (WTTW News)

WTTW News Explains: Why Will There Be So Many Cicadas in Illinois This Year?

In case you haven’t heard, the cicadas are coming, and things are about to get loud. WTTW News explains.

Brumby, a 2-year-old koala, is coming to Brookfield Zoo Chicago. (Courtesy of San Diego Zoo)

G’Day, Chicago! Koalas Coming to Brookfield Zoo, Debuting Memorial Day Weekend

For the first time in its 90-year history, Brookfield Zoo Chicago will welcome koalas.

Four active eagle nests are being monitored in the Forest Preserve District of Will County in 2024. (Forest Preserve District of Will County / Chad Merda)

Baby Bald Eagles Confirmed in 3 of 4 Nests in Will County Forest Preserves

Sharp-eyed observers have now confirmed hatchlings in three of the four bald eagle nests being monitored on Will County forest preserve property.

Lights on the Museum Campus will be out during upgrades to electrical equipment. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Lighting Upgrades Will Create Mini-Blackout on Museum Campus, Lakefront Path This Weekend

Lights will be out in parking lots and along portions of the lakefront bike and pedestrian trails from 7 p.m. Friday to 8 p.m. Sunday.

(Brian Yurasits / Unsplash)

Great Lakes Beaches Might Look Clean, But They’re Littered With Tiny Plastics, New Report Says

Alliance for the Great Lakes has collected 20 years’ worth of data from beach cleanups. Tiny plastic trash is a huge problem.

(Karolina Grabowska / Pixabay)

EPA Sets New Rule on ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Drinking Water. What Does It Mean for Chicago?

Chicago’s water has been tested numerous times for the presence of so-called “forever chemicals,” and the substances have never been detected.

Imani at Montrose Beach, April 2023. (Matthew Dolkart)

First Great Lakes Piping Plover Returns to Michigan, Watch Is On for Chicago

Wildlife officials are reporting that the season’s first Great Lakes piping plover, known as YibBee, has returned to his breeding grounds at Sleeping Bear Dunes. Will arrivals in Chicago be far behind?

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Here’s Where to Recycle Those Eclipse Glasses (Or You Can Save Them for 2099)

Instead of trashing those vital eclipse glasses, recycle them at any one of dozens of Chicago locations.