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Students Learn About Climate Change While Identifying Trees On The 606

By Mina Bloom | December 5, 2016 6:10am | Updated on December 6, 2016 11:51am
 A group of 10 students took to The 606 Thursday to explore the environmental impact Lake Michigan has on flowering plants along the trail.
A group of 10 students took to The 606 Thursday to explore the environmental impact Lake Michigan has on flowering plants along the trail.
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Courtesy/Joshua Lott of The Trust for Public Land

LOGAN SQUARE — Even though neighborhoods like Logan Square and Humboldt Park are miles away from Lake Michigan, plants in the area still see an impact from the great lake.

A group of 10 students took to The 606's Bloomingdale Trail last week to explore the impact the lake is having on flowering plants along the trail. The day was part of a larger project led by The Trust for Public Land that will be formally announced in early winter.

The student outing, which was also part of "The 606 Day," was organized by The Trust for Public Land, the Exelon Foundation and the Student Conservation Association.

The students spent the afternoon mapping trees like lilac and serviceberry trees, which are prevalent in the area. Their identification work will help the next group of "citizen scientists" tag the trees and eventually record when they start to bloom, which will lead to a greater understanding of how climate change is impacting the area.

“It’s not just a tree. It’s a specific tree. You can learn more about it and participate more in how it’s evolving,” said Christina Carrero, co-leader of the conservation association’s fall group.

“I think it’s a really important way to get the community involved in their green spaces," she added.

Jean Linsner, who works for The Trust for Public Land as an Exelon fellow, said the 2.7-mile trail is a great place to study climate change.

"The 606 offers a unique set of circumstances: Its strict east-west orientation, its proximity to Lake Michigan and its overall length," Linsner said.

Carrero said mapping trees along the trail was an eye-opening experience for the students, many of whom had never used it before.

"All of the students I was working with were taking pictures," she said. "They just loved the access they had. They were so relieved to find a place like that. It was nice to see them connecting that way."

Thursday's outing was merely the first step in the project, which aims to determine climate change issues and then provide solutions, Linsner said.

"When you pay attention to nature and you start to notice trends over time, that might be able to help us understand bigger pictures of climate change and how to mitigate those types of climate issues with gardening and how we plant," Linsner said.

"The big idea is to track these plants over time and see if there are fluctuations in bloom times and correlate that with temperature and humidity to understand the micro-climate and what that might say about climate change in this part of the city," she added.

The Trust For Public Land was tapped by the Chicago Park District to manage the planning, design and development of the innovative "rails-to-trails" project that transformed an old railroad line into an elevated trail and debuted in 2015.

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