Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Berry Juice Photo Cells

The SETF office became a temporary lab on March 13th when Robert LeSuer, our President and resident Chemist, conducted his "Make a Solar Cell Workshop".   With the assistance of his chemistry students from nearby Chicago State University, he demonstrated how to use berry juices, iodine, Titanium Oxide, glass slides and other materials to construct and to create a photovoltaic cell that generates electricity. The process is similar to the one used by solar cells.   Different types of berry juices, such as strawberry, blueberry and mixtures were tested to see which one worked best for generating a current. Participants were fascinated by the process and enjoyed the "hands on" experience. 

Captivated audience.

"Lab assistant" mixes the solutions.

NO doubt a mixed audience.

Students explain the steps.

Examining the results.

Testing the current.

Assisting with the process.
"Hands on"
Robert LeSuer explains the process.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Great Blue Herons

On March 15, SETF along with representatives from Chicago Audubon, Chicago Department of the Environment, The Chicago Legal Clinic,  two Northwestern students, and a reporter gathered on a mission to scout for nesting Blue Herons near Whitford Pond.  Blue Herons are large waterfowl that build their nests high atop trees next to ponds that serve as sources of food for the birds.

We were hiking the property owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclaimation Department, the site that the Chicago Police Department is proposing to build an outdoor firing range on and the only site in Chicago known for nesting Blue Herons.  The property is isolated, being surrounded by landfills on three sides.   It was last used as a staging area for the deep tunnel project and still contains limestone spoils that had not all been removed.  We walked atop those spoils toward the pond and where the spoils ended, the marshy terrain began.  As we trumped through the ankle deep water toward the huge nests that were easily visible in the bare trees, the nervous birds took flight.  We continued hiking toward the pond curious to get a closer look, noting the many deer tracks along the way.

We had to scale a berm in oder to get a view of the Whitford Pond. This time of the year it's a rippling pool of water surrounded by thinned out Phragmities.    With mission accomplished and not wanting to disturb the birds any more, we headed back to the SETF office to warm up with a hot cup of coffee.

Photo courtesy of Chicago Ornithological Society, 15 March 2011
Great Blue Heron nesting on MWRD property

Single nest

Looking closely, you can spot two birds standing in their nests.

Looking out over the Whitiford Pond.

Hiking along the berm surrounding Whitford Pond.
Left to right

John Pastirik, Calumet Ecological Park Association
Jill Nilland, Chicago Ornithological Society
Carolyn Marsh, Chicago Audubon Society
Peggy Salazar, Southeast Environmental Task Force
Jennifer Maxwell, Calumet Initiative

Grove of trees where birds are nesting.

View of Whitford Pond looking south.