Bird walk celebrates biodiversity on Northwestern’s campus while reckoning with its past

Migratory birds settling in Northwestern's Evanston campus for the spring provided a backdrop for community members to explore the area's natural landscapes and the strong indigenous presence that still resides there.

By Hannah Magnuson
Medill Reports

Northwestern University’s Evanston campus serves as home base to a host of travelers this spring — but students hustling to and from classes may not have noticed. That’s why Josh Honn, digital humanities librarian at Northwestern Libraries, decided to host a bird walk Monday morning around the eastern edge of the campus where migratory birds have settled after flying north from Mexico and Central and South America.

“It just seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring faculty, students, families and community members together to celebrate spring and to get to know campus a little better in both its animal life and nature,” Honn said.

The Birds & Breakfast event showcased the animals and plants that share space with the campus buildings, infrastructure and student life — a feature made especially noteworthy in light of the United Nations’ report on biodiversity released last week. The report warned that human activity has placed more than 1 million species worldwide in danger of extinction.

But for Honn, conversations surrounding campus preservation must go beyond wildlife. As the faculty affiliate for the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at Northwestern, he encouraged attendees to use the walk to connect with the indigenous population who inhabited the area that now forms Northwestern’s campus–and who are as fundamental to the present campus as they are to its past.

Photo at top: Migratory birds settling in at Northwestern’s Evanston campus for the spring provide a backdrop for community members to explore the area natural landscapes and the indigenous heritage – past and present – of this area. (Hannah Magnuson/MEDILL)