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WTTW's Urban Nature explores thriving urban communities

Chicago may be many things, but what comes as a surprise to some is the various subcommunities of nature and vegetation that are thriving among the buildings and homes. For Dave Odd, the alleys and streets are filled with more than rats. The professional forager unearths edible vegetation for some of the city’s most reputable restaurants — and WTTW, Chicago’s PBS station, is bringing you on the adventure.

Urban Nature returns for a second season featuring nine short episodes touring overlooked ecosystems in some of the nation’s most populous metropolises. In this season, viewers will follow along as Marcus Kronforst, an Evolutionary Biologist at University of Chicago, follows Dave Odd, and many others, as they explore the thriving subcommunities living among us. 

See the press release below for more information. 

CHICAGO – If you know where to look, you’ll find the most surprising slices of nature thriving amidst the urban jungle of America’s largest cities.  In season 2 of WTTW’s digital series URBAN NATURE, University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Marcus Kronforst leads audiences on a journey of these overlooked ecosys­tems in Chicago; Miami, Florida; and Austin, Texas.

“This season of URBAN NATURE got us into some very bizarre situations,” said the series’ producer and writer, Dan Protess. “We hunted for crocodiles at a nuclear power plant near Miami, searched for rare birds at a sewage processing plant in Austin, Texas, and gathered edible plants in the dingiest Chicago alleys. But we once again proved that nature can thrive in the most unlikely urban locations.”

The second season of nine webisodes will premiere on on Wednesday, March 20. The episodes include:


  • If You Build It (a Nuclear Reactor), They (Crocodiles) Will Come
    Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant was not designed to be a sanctuary for crocodiles; it was built to generate electricity for South Florida. But this massive facility has been credited with helping to save this once-endangered species.


  • The Bat Bridges of Austin, TX
    From February to November each year, hundreds of people gather daily at sunset to watch half a million Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats emerge from Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge. How did the locals learn to peacefully coexist with the bat colony, and welcome it as a tourist attraction?


  • The Forager
    Dave Odd makes a living as a professional food forager, and his Chicago company Odd Produce has supplied foraged goods to more than 300 local restaurants to date. Dave and Marcus take to Chicago alleys in search of delicious eats.


  • Florida’s Most Wanted
    South Florida is under attack. From green iguanas in Miami, to Argentine black and white tegus in Homestead, to Burmese pythons in the Everglades, invasive reptiles from Asia and South America are wreaking havoc on the region’s ecosystems. Marcus sets out to find out why.
  • Birds of a Feather Flock to Sewage
    Each year, thousands of birds—and bird enthusiasts—f flock to Austin’s Hornsby Bend, where all of the city’s sewage solids are recycled. While this process might sound disgusting to people, the birds don’t seem to mind.


  • Backyard Butterflies, Meet Climate Change
    Cabbage white butterflies are not normally an area of study for Urban Nature host Marcus Kronforst – his subjects are usually from exotic locations. But this species offers an interesting case study in the effects of climate change.


  • A Healthy Dose of Nature
    A growing number of doctors are ordering their patients to take a hike, literally. In other words, they are prescribing nature. Learn why from physicians and researchers.


  • A Rising Tide Drowns a City
    Sea level rise is not a dystopian vision of the future in Miami. It is happening now. What does this mean to Miami’s natural environment? And what role can nature play in saving the city?


  • The Salamanders in the Springs are a Canary in a Coal Mine
    Rare creatures are lurking at the bottom of Austin’s favorite swimming hole: a unique amphibian known as the Barton Springs salamander. But the city’s exponential growth may be a threat to its future.


URBAN NATURE is produced and written by Dan Protess and hosted by Marcus Kronforst. Camera: Tim Boyd, Jefe Greenheart, Felix Mendez, Tom Siegel. Editor: Paul Thornton. Associate Producer: Sean Keenehan. Graphic Design: Reed Marvine. Art Director: Linda Fox. Original score by Steve Mullen. Website Design: Jenny Macchione. Website Development: Kevin Crowley, Nate Beversluis. Executive Producer: Anne Gleason.


URBAN NATURE was made possible, in part, by the support of a generous group of individual, corporate, and foundation funders.


Marcus Kronforst (host) is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolution at the University of Chicago. He is a prominent researcher in the field of evolutionary biology, where his work focuses on wing pattern mimicry in butterflies. Dr. Kronforst has published his scientific research in an array of highly influen­tial journals, including Nature, Science, Nature Communications, Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences USA, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Genetics, and Genome Biology, among others. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, he held a five-year Bauer Fellowship at Harvard University’s FAS Center for Systems Biology.


DAN PROTESS (Producer and Writer) is the Executive Producer, Producer, and Writer of the national primetime 10 that Changed America series. He has been producing and writing at WTTW Chicago for 20 years. His recent productions include season one of Urban Nature and Foodphiles as well as the feature-length architecture and history specials Chicago’s Loop: a New Walking Tour, Biking the Boulevards, and Chicago’s Lakefront. He wrote and produced the Emmy-winning, James Beard-nominated The Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History. He began his career at WTTW in 1999 as an associate producer of arts and architecture programming, and soon after served as the associate producer and writer of A Justice That Heals, a documentary about a teenage murderer and his young victim that was shown on ABC’s Nightline.


About WTTW

WTTW is the PBS member station in Chicago, committed to creating and presenting unique media content across distinct television and digital channels – WTTW11, WTTW Prime, WTTW Create/WTTW World, WTTW PBS Kids 24/7, and the PBS/WTTW video app. Recognized for award-winning journalism and local productions such as Chicago Tonight, Chicago River Tour, Check, Please!, digital-first series Chefs Off the Clock, the original Urban Nature, and Foodphiles and national productions 10 That Changed America and Nature Cat, WTTW presents the very best in public affairs, arts and culture, nature and science, history and documentary, and children’s public media content. Connect with WTTW on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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