Barrington Hills' Sanfilippo estate is a popular venue for elegant, charitable fundraising parties, but Tuesday it was all about scientific research in the property's spring-fed creek by Shedd Aquarium experts and a local nonprofit conservation group.
In collaboration with the Sanfilippo family, the Barrington Area Conservation Trust organized the monitoring of Spring Creek to sample fish populations to determine abundance, density and species composition. Conservation trust Executive Director Lisa Woolford said the organization is helping the family legally protect a "big stretch" of its land from development in perpetuity.
"So, part of what we do is we identify as many plant, insect and animal species as we can as part of the project," Woolford said during a break from slogging through Spring Creek in waders. "And we put it into a nice, big, hefty report so we know exactly what it is we're preserving."
Two methods were used to learn what's living in the Sanfilippo estate's section of the creek, with Shedd scientists and four conservation trust high school interns breaking into groups. Woolford previously ran Shedd's public education programs and used her contacts to secure the aquarium's experts for the Sanfilippo estate research.
One group used a fish seine, a horizontal net that has floats keeping the top of the line at the surface. Shedd Aquarium Director of Water Research Andy Casper brought the other group for electrofishing down the creek that feeds into the Fox River.
Wearing a backpack, Casper had a pole connected to it with an anode ring at the bottom sending electrical power into the water in the hope that a fish would float to the top -- with no harm done -- after its swim bladder expanded, allowing for a scientific survey. Spring Creek ran fast Tuesday because of recent rain, which Casper said made the electrofishing difficult.
"It's true to its name," Casper said of Spring Creek, "with such a big groundwater influence. We're interested to see if there's a few different species here than there are in some of the neighboring tributaries. It adds just another tile to the Fox River Valley mosaic."
At least seven fish species were identified by the Shedd Aquarium scientists on the Sanfilippo property Wednesday: largemouth bass, green sunfish, bluegill, blunt nose minnow, blackstripe topminnow, yellow bullhead and creek chub.
Interns from Palatine, Fremd and Barrington high schools have been helping on the project since it began last week. Susan Lenz, the trust's director of community engagement and education, informed the teenagers that they'd be working with the Shedd experts.
"I was actually kind of surprised when she had told us that we were going to be working with some scientists," incoming Barrington senior Michael Bedard said shortly before entering Spring Creek in waders.