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Four Area Nature Centers Team Up to Bring Acclaimed Ecologist to Town

Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton has traveled the globe and made it his mission to preserve the remaining quiet places. Tuesday eveninghe’ll share his experiences at the Mequon Nature Preserve.
Hempton will not only speak, over the next couple of days he’ll lead silent “sound tours” of unique lands protected by the Mequon Nature Preserve, as well as the Riveredge Nature Center, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center and the Urban Ecology Center.

The collaboration came out of conversations the nonprofits' executive directors have shared over the few month.

Kristin Gies is executive director of Mequon Nature Preserve. Her’s is the “youngest” organization of the bunch.

“We’re really about a decade into restoration. We have about 200 acres in active restoration and another 238 are still waiting for us, so they’re still farmland,” Gies says.

Gies says each of the three other conservation groups partnering on the acoustic ecologist’s lecture and tours represent important and unique elements of ecosystems of southeastern Wisconsin.

“So I think the differentiation is that we’re the baby, the others are much further along, so it’s a good complete cycle to share with the public,” Gies adds.

Collaborator, and executive director of partnering Riveredge Nature Center they were all intrigued by the opportunity to offer Gordon Hempton’s unique experience to the area.

“It’s something that I think really intrigues peoples’ mind. Think of it as you close your eyes; what do you hear; what do you hear outside, what do you hear inside and what parts of the world do we hear more of and what parts do we hear less of,” Jens says.

Jens says the idea grew organically. She thinks it’s just the beginning of collaborations among the four environmental groups.

“What’s really fun about it is, it started with Gordon Hempton; but now it’s cascading into something larger. We’re not really quite sure what it’s going to be, but what can we as nature centers do together and do better as a whole than we can do individually,” Jens says.

Mequon Nature Preserve’s Kristin Gies says there’s no denying that it is normal for groups such as there’s to feel a sense of competition.

“We’d be lying if we said we don’t compete with one another for different things. But let’s be honest, we’re not serving everybody, we’re not helping every species out there or saving every chunk of land. But together we might be able to,” Gies says.

Both directors says the time is right, and the right people are in place to create more collaboration in the future.

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.<br/>