January 30, 2020 - Katherine Moore Powell, PHD.


“A Natural Fortress Against Climate Change: Building Healthy, Resilient Urban Green Spaces”


Please join us as we welcome Katherine Moore Powell, PHD as she presents her Nature Speaks talk, “A Natural Fortress Against Climate Change: Building Healthy, Resilient Urban Green Spaces” .


Tallgrass prairies, once one of the Midwest’s largest and most biologically productive ecosystems, are disappearing. Oak savannas, marshes, and other wetlands have been removed, drained or modified. The landscape that makes up the current Chicago Wilderness region is a very different place because of human development, yet we also prioritize the preservation and restoration of these imperiled habitats.

Climate change not only adds to threats from development, it accelerates the potential impacts. In the long term, temperatures are expected to increase and rainfall events will become heavier and shift seasonally, with more occurring in the spring and winter. In addition, short term, wide ranging temperature and rainfall variability will strain vulnerable habitats.


Urbanized green spaces might share species compositions with their rural counterparts, but the location, adjacent land use, and areal extent of these habitats will likely require different strategies to build resiliency while also playing a role in connecting to regional ecosystems. One shared goal however, is increasing biodiversity, which creates a variety of ecological functions that can respond to a range of climate threats.


The talk will outline the status of Chicago’s urban green spaces, the Green Infrastructure Vision, and how to build resilient habitats that will not only endure but provide many desirable ecosystem services needed in our changing urban environments.

All programs take place at the Prospect Heights Public Library's Borland meeting room and start promptly at 7:00. Nature Speaks is free admission but registration is necessary.

As an ecohydrologist, Katherine is interested in how water moves through an ecosystem. Her research focuses on how fluxes of carbon, water, and energy respond to precipitation that is becoming characterized by seasonal shifts, larger events, and longer dry periods. Prior to doing research, Katherine worked for over a decade as a software programmer and consultant, meeting with clients in diverse sectors and traveling world-wide. As a result, she has retained a strong interest in technology, especially ecosystem models. In addition, she draws on her experience in consulting to work across science, government and communities developing climate-informed strategies.


Katherine started her science career studying hydrogeology in Florida, participating in a carbon sequestration feasibility study for Tampa Electric Company and then researching the ecohydrology of cypress wetlands. This research involved sampling soils and conducting stable isotope analysis of organic matter - and started her love of soil science that endures today. She then worked with the USGS and the University of Colorado researching water and carbon fluxes from grasslands and a montane forest site in Colorado. The research involved using flux towers, measuring soil characteristics and belowground movement of gases, and characterizing aboveground changes in biomass and leaf area index.


She is currently a climate change ecologist for the Field Museum, leading climate change adaptation projects for Chicago Wilderness prairies, and the Indiana Dunes National Park.



Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission

8 N. Elmhurst Road

Prospect Heights, IL. 60070

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