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posted: 5/12/2014 12:36 PM

Local author to be honored at nature symposium

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Brushwood Center submission

Brushwood Center, formerly Friends of Ryerson Woods, presents its annual award for distinguished leadership in the world of nature to Joel Greenberg at the 31st annual Smith Nature Symposium Saturday, May 17, at Ryerson Woods.

Greenberg is being recognized for his significant contributions to the field of conservation.

An author and naturalist, Greenberg shares his love and knowledge of nature and conservation in the Chicago region through his writing and speaking. His newly published and critically acclaimed book, "A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction," is an account of the passenger pigeon, which was once the most abundant bird on the planet but went extinct in 1914.

"The book is an important contribution to conservation, reminding us not to take any species for granted," said Sophie Twichell, executive director of Brushwood Center. "Joel has written several books that help us appreciate, understand and seek to protect the natural world, and that's why he's so deserving of this award."

Greenberg, who grew up in Skokie but now lives in Westmont, has written three other books: "A Natural History of the Chicago Region"; "Of Prairie, Woods, and Waters: Two Centuries of Chicago Nature Writing"; and "Birder's Guide to the Chicago Region," co-authored with Lynne Carpenter.

Because he relates to natural history not only through science, but also through music, art and literature, Greenberg offers a unique perspective. This resonates with Brushwood Center's focus on the intersection of art and nature. Greenberg frequently offers ideas on book talks, art exhibitions and lectures to be presented at Ryerson Woods.

Each year since the symposium's inception in 1984, Brushwood Center has selected an individual to be honored during the event. Past recipients have included newsman Bill Kurtis, birding expert Roger Tory Peterson, former Field Museum president John McCarter, and the MacArthur Foundation's past president Adele Simmons.

The theme of Extinction/Survival is explored throughout 2014 programming at Brushwood Center. This year's theme recognizes the fact that 2014 is the centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon. "Martha," the last of the species, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

The symposium's keynote speaker is evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro. In her lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Shapiro analyzes the genes of ancient plants and animals to trace the complex relationship between environment, extinction and the evolution of species.

For information on the Smith Nature Symposium, call (847) 968-3308 or visit

For information on Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, visit or call (847) 968-3343. Ryerson Woods is a Lake County Forest Preserve District property.

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