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Chicago-area National Park Begins 24-Hour Species Roundup

It’s a big day today for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, a 15,000-acre national park that’s spread in patches of forest, prairie, marsh, and bog, tucked between towering dunes that formed the ancient Lake Michigan shore.

Nestled in a community of some 10,000,000 people, and hemmed in by steel mills, power stations, and railroads, the park has a fine view of Chicago’s skyscrapers. It’s one of America’s largest and most species-rich urban national parks.

Indiana-Dunes-globe-map2.jpgIndiana Dunes was so exploited by industry, mineral extraction, and other human activities that it was once thought it would be pointless to make it a national park.

But conservationists persevered and the U.S. Congress declared Indiana Dunes a national park in 1966. Restoration and consolidation of disparate chunks of habitat that survived early industrialization have turned Indiana Dunes into a haven for a large number of species, including millions of visitors who use the park each year for relaxation and inspiration.

Today, May 15, more than a hundred scientists from a wide range of disciplines have descended on the park. Over the next 24 hours they will inventory every species they can find.

I spoke to several scientists as they headed into the field at the start of the bioblitz two hours ago. Many said they were optimistic that they would confirm that Indiana Dunes is home to extraordinary biodiversity.

In the video below Superintendent for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Constantine (Costa) J. Dillon talks about what’s special about the park, its challenges, and its opportunities.

Indiana Dunes is in many ways dealing with issues today that other national parks will eventually have to confront, Dillon predicts.

Video by David Braun

Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University, North Carolina, addressed the opening of the bioblitz on behalf of the scientists. Pimm, a former member of the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration, explained to the audience why biodiversity is so important. Watch his speech on this video:

Video by David Braun

After the ceremony, Pimm gave me this video interview about the bioblitz and what’s so special about Indiana Dunes:

Video by David Braun