The Calumet region, extending from Chicago’s south side along Lake Michigan into Indiana and Michigan, was once a vast network of wetlands, lakes, prairies, and dunes. This region lies at the intersection of pre-contact distributions of northern boreal forest, prairie, savanna, and dune. While the area saw significant use prior to European colonization, it was only in the last 150 years that human land use — especially heavy industry and urban development — began to radically reshape the region. In spite of this, the Calumet is still home to significant levels of biodiversity. Through the synthesis of four integrated courses, guest lectures, stakeholder meetings, community environmentalist projects, weekly field trips, outreach, and the compilation of three site-specific (Pullman/Lake Calumet, Indiana Dunes, and Big Marsh Complex) final technical reports, students in the University of Chicago Program on the Global Environment-run Calumet Quarter will be part of an innovative example of cooperative conservation, the 70+ member Calumet Initiative, which brings together scientists, planners, community groups, local residents, and business with the goal of revitalizing both the local economy and the ecological riches of the Calumet region.
The courses comprising the academic portion of this year’s Calumet Quarter will include:
- Environmental Studies 27120: Historical Ecology of the Calumet Region (Instructor: Mark Lycett, Teaching Assistants, Administrators, and Guest Lecturers: Maddie McLeester and Sonia Grant), which contextualizes the Calumet Region in terms of its complex and intersectional sociocultural, political, economic, and geographical/geological/environmental history;
- Environmental Studies 27220: Environmental Management and Planning in the Calumet Region (Instructor: Sabina Shaikh), which explores and identifies the environmental issues, challenges, and opportunities in the Calumet Region through multiple lenses, including environmental economics, urban planning and management, and urban revitalization and renewal, ultimately addressing the historical path towards economic development in the region with a focus on sustainable redevelopment amidst myriad interests and stakeholders;
- Environmental Studies 27320: Topics in the Ecology of the Calumet Region (Instructor: Alison Anastasio), which gives students a strong foundation in the local ecology of the Calumet using local research and habitats to understand fundamental concepts in ecology and the scientific method and focusing on urban ecology, whether these fundamental ecological concepts are applicable, what other factors need to be considered in the urban ecosystem, and the role humans have in restoring natural and managing novel ecosystems (“from discovery to delivery”), among other topics; and
- Environmental Studies 29720: Reading and Research: Calumet (Instructor: Mark Lycett), which is primarily dedicated to the discussion of relevant articles written by various guest speakers, acquainting students with literature on a variety of topics ranging from food security to wetlands ecology to conservation theory.