Jason Knade, of Palos Park; his wife, Marcelina; and daughters, Zofia, 6, and Kaya, 3, braved the weather last Saturday afternoon to take part in Lake Katherine's Earth Day BioBlitz. (Photos by Kelly White)

Jason Knade, of Palos Park; his wife, Marcelina; and daughters, Zofia, 6, and Kaya, 3, braved the weather last Saturday afternoon to take part in Lake Katherine's Earth Day BioBlitz. (Photos by Kelly White)

Lake Katherine celebrates with Earth Day BioBlitz

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Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens, 7402 Lake Katherine Dr., Palos Heights, held an Earth Day BioBlitz on April 22.

By Kelly White 

Earth Day is an annual celebration is an opportunity to raise awareness and advocate for change around the issues most impacting our planet and to celebrate the beauty of Mother Earth. It is held globally every year on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

It was no surprise that Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens, 7402 Lake Katherine Dr., Palos Heights, took part in the initiative with an Earth Day BioBlitz last Saturday.

“The mission of Lake Katherine embodies the spirit of Earth Day. Not only with its presence; but with its programs and presentations,” Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz said.

Much has been achieved since former Palos Heights Mayor Eugene G. Simpson first had the vision to create a nature center in the heart of Palos Heights.

Nearly 20 years ago, Lake Katherine became a non-profit park and since then a dedicated team of staff and volunteers have utilized fundraising, donations and grants to fulfill Lake Katherine’s goal of connecting people to nature and encouraging good ecological practices.

Now, Lake Katherine is an 85-acre public park consisting of gardens, woodland, wetlands, prairie, and a 10-acre manmade lake. The park was created in 1988 for the purpose of providing public recreation opportunities for residents of Chicago’s southwest suburbs, and the lake was excavated as a retention basin to hold storm water before it flows into the Cal-Sag Channel.

The nature center continues to develop and educate the public on the importance of celebrating nature. In the past decade, there has been much restoration effort with teams of volunteers regularly removing buckthorn and planting around 50 native trees every year.

“Lake Katherine is one of our favorite places to visit in Palos Heights,” Roger Schweikert, of Palos Heights, said.

During the community event that aimed at discovering as many living things as possible in a specific area and timeframe, Lake Katherine’s Earth Day BioBlitz celebrated Earth Day by allowing local area residents to join Lake Katherine staff and volunteers to discover the variety of life on the trails, under rocks, on tree trunks, or in the garden beds.

Sophia Shukin, Naturalist at Lake Katherine, explained the name of the event.

“A BioBlitz is a community event that aims at discovering as many living things as possible in a specific area and timeframe,” Shukin said. “BioBlitz’s help organizations, cities, parks and more to better understand and appreciate their natural surroundings.”

Attendees were just asked to bring their phone and sense of discovery. The data gathered was collected in iNaturalist, an online mapping and identification website. The data could then be accessed by researchers, staff, and visitors to better understand and appreciate their surroundings.

Participants were also able to learn about completely new species, put names to species they see often but may not have known the name of before, and contribute to the scientific community Lake Katherine’s Naturalists work hard to entail.

Shukin said it is important to not only recognize, but to celebrate Earth Day.

“Appreciation of nature, learned at any age, is the key to ensure the survival of the forests, prairies, wetlands, and oceans,” Shukin said. “If you love and understand something, you will want to protect it. Earth Day is a great day to actively do something fun and productive in nature to learn more about the environment yourself, and to inspire others to join.”

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Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens, 7402 Lake Katherine Dr., Palos Heights, held an Earth Day BioBlitz on April 22.

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