Stories by Patty Wetli

Challenger Sharon Waller bested incumbent Daniel “Pogo” Pogorzelski in the Democratic race to claim a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s board of commissioners. (Provided)

MWRD Primary Results Are in: Waller Defeats Pogorzelski, Moves on to General Election

Challenger Sharon Waller has bested incumbent Daniel “Pogo” Pogorzelski in the Democratic race to claim a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s board of commissioners, according to unofficial results from the Chicago Board of Elections released Tuesday evening.

Total solar eclipse, Aug. 21, 2017, photographed from Madras, Oregon. (NASA / Aubrey Gemignani)

The Great American Eclipse: Your Guide to the Upcoming Solar Show in Chicago, Downstate Illinois and Everywhere Else

The Great American Eclipse is almost here. Here’s how to make the most of the experience in Illinois and the Chicago area.

Bana was a great mother, Lincoln Park Zoo officials said. Here she's pictured with son Djeke in 2019. (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

Lincoln Park Zoo’s Beloved Gorilla Matriarch, Bana, Has Died

The 29-year-old gorilla was diagnosed with congestive cardiac failure in early March and after an “abrupt decline” in her condition, “the difficult decision was made to euthanize her,” zoo officials said.

Say hello to Seldovia, Shedd Aquarium’s rescued otter pup. (Heidi Zeiger / Shedd Aquarium)

Shedd’s Rescued Otter Pup Has a Newly Announced Name and It’s a Nod to His Small-Town Roots

The rescued otter pup, now nearly 6 months old, was named in honor of his Alaskan roots.

Some of the birds gathered by the Field Museum that were killed in October 2023 after colliding with McCormick Place Lakeside Center. (Courtesy of Taylor Hains)

Advocates Cry Foul Over Forthcoming Policy to Make Chicago’s Buildings Safe for Birds, Call Lack of Mandatory Requirements ‘Enraging’

In mid-April, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development is set to release an update to the city’s sustainable development policy. No section of the policy will make bird-friendly design mandatory.

Zach Wirtz. (Courtesy of The Morton Arboretum)

Morton Arboretum Names New Director of Chicago Region Trees Initiative

CRTI connects organizations — public and private — across the seven-county Chicago area to promote the importance of trees and improve the quality of the region's tree canopy.

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

11 Shot, None Killed in Weekend Violence in Chicago: Police

For the first time in at least six months, Chicago recorded zero weekend homicides due to gun violence, according to police.

Challenger Sharon Waller is facing incumbent Daniel “Pogo” Pogorzelski in the Democratic race to claim a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s board of commissioners. (Provided)

MWRD Commissioner Race Too Close to Call Between Sharon Waller, Daniel Pogorzelski

Challenger Sharon Waller holds a slight lead over incumbent Daniel “Pogo” Pogorzelski in the race to claim a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s board of commissioners, with more than 100,000 outstanding vote-by-mail ballots still uncounted.

Tamarack Farms, overhead view. (The Conservation Fund)

‘Dream Realized’ as Illinois Conservation Groups Add 1,000 Acres to Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge

The Conservation Fund, Illinois Audubon Society and Openlands announced the purchase of the 985-acre Tamarack Farms, which will now become the single largest property within McHenry County’s Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge.

(Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

As Polls Close in Illinois Primary, Chicago Ekes Out 20% Voter Turnout

The initial turnout tally was at just 20.2% of the nearly 1.7 million registered voters — including early voting and vote-by-mail ballots.

A rendering of a planned inclusive playground to be built at the east end of Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park. (Chicago Park District)

Obama Foundation Donating $4M to Build Divisive Playground at Midway Plaisance

Though lauded as “groundbreaking” by the Park District, the playground has met with significant opposition from neighbors, who have faulted the choice of the Plaisance's east end as too dangerous for a play space.

(Adler Planetarium / Facebook)

Adler Planetarium Admission Fee Increase OK’d by Park District Board

On Wednesday, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners approved an admission fee increase that will take effect April 1.

Hordes of female periodical cicadas will be laying their eggs in small tree branches. (Armed Forces Pest Management Board / Flickr Creative Commons)

The Cicadas Are Coming, Do Your Trees Need Protecting? Experts Weigh In

Young trees could be vulnerable to damage from the emergence of millions of periodical cicadas in Illinois this spring. Here are tips on how to protect your trees.

(WTTW News)

Friends of the Parks to the Chicago Bears: Play Ball With Stakeholders on New Stadium Plans

The parks advocacy group said it isn’t chasing the Bears out of Chicago, but wants an “open, clear and free discourse driven by the public instead of private interests.”

(National Park Service / Flickr Creative Commons)

The Solar Eclipse Is a Month Away, But the Time to Get Your Viewing Glasses — and Smartphone Filters — Is NOW

If you've been sleeping on the North American total solar eclipse of 2024, it's time to start paying attention. The big event — on April 8 — is fast approaching and folks who haven't prepared could find themselves left out in the dark.

(Miriam Alonso / Pexels)

It’s Time to Spring Forward, and Schedule a Nap for Sunday

Daylight saving time officially arrives at 2 a.m. Sunday.

Milkweed stems stand tall in the Field Museum's Rice Native Gardens. In the past, gardeners have been threatened with fines when native plants were mistaken for weeds. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Remember Chicago’s Native and Pollinator Garden Registry? It’s Finally Getting off the Ground

More than two years after Chicago's City Council passed an ordinance creating a Native and Pollinator Garden Registry, an advisory board has finally been appointed to oversee the operation.

The tag on a Chicago resident’s new parkway tree clearly shows the species as “Aristocrat” pear, one of some two dozen cultivars of the invasive callery pear tree. (Courtesy of Eliza Rohr)

A Chicago Resident Requested a Parkway Tree. The City Planted an Invasive Species

Just because a species is known to be invasive doesn’t mean it’s officially regulated as such. One Chicagoan learned that lesson the hard way.

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

Number of Active Eagle Nests Now Up to 4 in Will County

It's the first time four active nests have all been located on Will County forest preserve property.

Demolition began Monday, March 4, 2024, on an illegal building in Humboldt Park that has been at the center of controversy since 2022, when it began rising on park grounds with no prior notice to the community. (WTTW News)

Demolition Begins 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, (l); Rob Rutledge, Sault College,

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.