Stories by Patty Wetli

Chicago mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas. (Provided)

Johnson, Vallas Both Talk a Green Game. Here’s a Look at the Candidates’ Environmental Plans

Much of the focus has been on the mayoral candidates’ public safety plans, but whoever emerges victorious on April 4 will also inherit environmental and climate-related challenges.

(Danne / Pexels)

This Week in Nature: Nature’s Bounty is a Myth, and Scientists Have the Numbers to Prove It

Scientists calculated the biomass of various groups of mammals, and humans’ impact weighs heavily on the planet.

A prescribed burn at Rainbow Beach. (Courtesy Chicago Park District)

Chicago Parks Are on Fire, and That’s a Good Thing

The Chicago Park District has been setting its land ablaze on purpose, these fiery scenes leading to healthier natural areas.

(Oliur Rahman / Pexels)

Ban on Plastic Foam To-Go Containers and Utensils Passes Illinois House

The Illinois House of Representatives passed legislation that would phase out single-use polystyrene foam foodware beginning in January 2024.

(WTTW News)

This Week in Nature: It’s Beginning to Look Like a Fest-Free Summer in Douglass Park

It will be up to the next mayor to decide how to respond to Chicagoans’ growing frustration with these mega-events.

(WTTW News)

Lollapalooza Lineup Announced: Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, TXT Among Headliners

The annual four-day music festival will take place in Grant Park Aug. 3-6.

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Today’s the Vernal Equinox and It Might Even Feel a Bit Like Spring

Spring is always an iffy proposition in Chicago, but it officially begins Monday. 

The Chicago Botanic Garden's orchid show is a colorful sight for winter weary eyes. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Orchids’ Diversity is Magnified at Chicago Botanic Garden’s Annual Show. This Plant Has Color and Variety to Spare

There’s one place spring has most definitely sprung: the Chicago Botanic Garden, where the annual orchid show is now underway. WTTW News also toured the garden’s orchid greenhouse, which isn’t open to the public.

Sidai, Lomelok and Pesho — African lion cubs born at Lincoln Park Zoo. (Lincoln Park Zoo / Jill Dignan)

Lincoln Park Zoo Reveals Names of Lion Cubs, and They’re Unexpectedly Sweet

The cubs were named in partnership with Maasai lion guardians in Tanzania. 

Silvia Alvarez-Clare of Morton Arboretum measures a tree’s diameter in Costa Rica. (The Morton Arboretum)

Morton Arboretum, Shedd Aquarium Taking Conservation to Next Level as Global Centers for Species Survival

“This is providing the means for us to collaborate not only within the Chicagoland area but to really make a difference in biodiversity hot spots across the globe,” said Chuck Knapp, vice president of conservation research at Shedd Aquarium.

An aerial view of the Chicago Area Confined Disposal Facility, a 45-acre site on Chicago’s Southeast Side that has been in operation since 1984. Inset: The CDF is outlined in red. (Credit: Army Corps of Engineers)

Southeast Side Residents Suing to Keep Army Corps ‘Mountain of Dredge’ From Rising Up on Lake Michigan

Opponents of a toxic sludge landfill on Lake Michigan have filed a lawsuit to stop a plan by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to expand the dump by 25 vertical feet.

Sea anemone. (Bernard Spragg NZ / Flickr Creative Commons)

This Week in Nature: Fossil Discovery in Northern Illinois Has Turned Science on Its Head

Fossils unearthed from Illinois’ famed Mazon Creek site have been sitting in collections misidentified for close to 50 years.

A bulldozer slices through Bell Bowl Prairie, March 9, 2023. (Courtesy of Jessie Mermel)

Death of a Prairie: Bulldozers Arrived at Bell Bowl at Dawn

Bell Bowl Prairie was bulldozed Thursday morning after an 18-month fight to save the ancient prairie remnant from destruction by Rockford Airport, which is carving out a roadway for an expansion of its cargo operations.

The Warehouse (l), Werner Brothers Storage Building and Continental Can Company Building are all the 2023 list of Preservation Chicago's Most Endangered buildings. (Credits: Serhii Chrucky, Ward Miller, Serhii Chrucky / Preservation Chicago)

The ‘Birthplace’ of House Music Makes Preservation Chicago’s Most Endangered Buildings List for 2023

“The Warehouse should be protected as a symbol of the rich history of Chicago’s LBGTQ+ African-American community, the incredible story of house music and the groundbreaking impact that Frankie Knuckles had on the sound of modern music today,” Preservation Chicago said.

Construction on the Rockford Airport cargo expansion has come right to the edge of Bell Bowl Prairie. (Courtesy of Cassi Saari)

FAA Clears Way for Rockford Airport to Bulldoze Portion of Bell Bowl Prairie

Barring any last-minute court decisions, the Greater Rockford Airport Authority will soon resume construction on its cargo expansion project, bulldozing a portion of ancient Bell Bowl Prairie in order to carve out a new roadway.

An aerial view of Waukegan National Airport. (Facebook / Waukegan Port District - Waukegan National Airport)

Questions Loom as Lake County Considers Forest Preserve Land Sale to Waukegan Airport

A proposal from the Waukegan Port District to buy 52 acres of forest preserve land to accommodate construction of a new airport runway is stirring up controversy in Lake County.

(Alan Schmierer / Flickr Creative Commons)

This Week in Nature: 23-Year Study of Chicago’s Coyotes Shows Females Are Wilier

Over the course of 23 years, the Cook County Coyote Project has tracked the movements of nearly 1,500 coyotes. 

(Dostigla / Pixabay)

No Snow Day For You, Chicago. Storm System Slides South, Indiana To Take Brunt

Chicago will dodge the worst of a storm system whose track has stymied meteorologists as it's approached the region.

(Dan Lambert / WTTW News)

There Will Be Nasty Weather Friday, But Forecasters Still Aren’t Sure What Form It Will Take

At some point Friday, it will probably rain or snow, but how much of which form of precipitation will fall, and where, forecasters still can’t say with confidence.

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

February Was Uncommonly Warm and Light on Snow, But March Could Change That

The big story was the amount of rain that fell in the Chicago region: There have only been seven wetter Februarys since 1871.

Jupiter and Venus conjunction in 2015. (Stephen Rahn / Flickr Creative Commons)

Venus and Jupiter Will Be Side by Side in Wednesday’s Night Sky. Here’s How to See the Dazzling Duo

In what’s being dubbed a celestial “kiss,” Jupiter and Venus will appear to nearly touch Wednesday.

Volunteers at LaBagh Woods help remove invasive buckthorn. Chicagoans might be surprised to learn which other popular ornamental plants are invasive. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

This Week in Nature: It’s Invasive Species Awareness Week and We’ve Got Some Bad News for Fans of Certain Pretty Shrubs

It’s National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Think you would know an invasive species if you saw one?

One of Lincoln Park Zoo's new lion cubs receives his first checkup. (Lincoln Park Zoo)

First Checkup for Lincoln Park Zoo’s Lion Cubs Reveals All 3 Are Male

The cubs, born Jan. 9, received their first health checkups this week, allowing the zoo's veterinary staff to confirm all the youngsters are male.

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

Look Who’s Eggs-pecting: Bald Eaglet Watch On in Will County

Forest Preserve District staff and volunteers have been keeping a close eye on the nests of two mated pairs of eagles and recently confirmed that at least one of the couples is sitting on eggs.

Native bergamot seed heads. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest / Courtney Celley)

From Wildfire Recovery to Wetland Conversions, There’s a Growing Pain in Eco-Restoration Projects: Not Enough Native Seed

A new report highlights several supply-and-demand conundrums and makes recommendations for how to increase native seed production.

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Heavy Rains and High Winds to Deliver One-Two Weather Punch Wednesday

Parts of the Chicago region could get drenched with up to 2 inches of rain Wednesday, with localized flooding likely. High winds will stick around through Thursday.