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New e-book highlights profound, diverse effects of nature on learning

URBANA, Ill. – Children are losing their connection to nature.

It’s more than an unfortunate abstraction. Scientists say our increasingly indoor lifestyle negatively affects our health and well-being, not to mention our drive to protect the natural world. And it may be hampering kids’ ability to learn and thrive. A new e-book, published by Frontiers in Psychology, examines the many ways putting children back in contact with nature could make them more successful in school and in life.

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Researchers call for urban greening to improve mental health

URBANA, Ill. – As modern societies become increasingly urban, sedentary, and screen-oriented, people are spending less time in nature. We’re also more likely than ever to suffer from mental illnesses. A new article in Science Advances links the two phenomena, suggesting that adding natural elements to urban landscapes could improve mental health.

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Wind turbine design and placement can mitigate negative effect on birds

URBANA, Ill. – Wind energy is increasingly seen as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, as it contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that by 2050, wind turbines will contribute more than 20% of the global electricity supply. However, the rapid expansion of wind farms has raised concerns about the impact of wind turbines on wildlife.

Research in that area has been limited and has yielded conflicting results. A new study, published in Energy Science, provides comprehensive data on how turbines affect bird populations.

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When introduced species interact: Degraded Hawaiian communities operate similarly to native ones

URBANA, Ill. – On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, it is possible to stand in a lush tropical forest that doesn’t contain a single native plant. The birds that once dispersed native seeds are almost entirely gone too, leaving a brand-new ecological community composed of introduced plants and birds. In a first-of-its-kind study published today in Science, researchers demonstrate that these novel communities are organized in much the same way as native communities worldwide.

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Counties with more trees and shrubs spend less on Medicare, study finds

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A new study finds that Medicare costs tend to be lower in counties with more forests and shrublands than in counties dominated by other types of land cover. The relationship persists even when accounting for economic, geographic or other factors that might independently influence health care costs, researchers report.

The analysis included county-level health and environmental data from 3,086 of the 3,103 counties in the continental U.S.

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Chicago's Large Lot Program sowing change in inner-city communities

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Chicago’s vacant lot-repurposing program is enhancing not just the curb appeal of blighted properties across the city, but also the culture and safety of the surrounding communities, residents said in a new study.

Chicago’s Large Lot Program allows existing property owners to buy up to two vacant residential lots on their blocks for $1 each.

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Invasive crayfish sabotages its own success, study says

URBANA, Ill. – Since they were first released as live bait in the mid-twentieth century, rusty crayfish have roamed lake bottoms in northern Wisconsin, gobbling native fish eggs, destroying aquatic plants, and generally wreaking havoc on entire lake ecosystems. Today, in some lakes, traps can routinely pull up 50 to 100 rusty crayfish at a time, compared to two or three native species. But in other lakes nearby, populations seem to be declining.

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Experiences of nature boost children’s learning: Critical review finds cause-and-effect relationship

URBANA, Ill. – Spending time in nature boosts children’s academic achievement and healthy development, concludes a new analysis examining hundreds of studies.

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Become a citizen scientist for pollinators with University of Illinois

URBANA, Ill. — University of Illinois Extension is calling all lovers of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that keep our crops and gardens growing to join scientists in tracking their distribution and habitat use across the state, from the comfort of your home, school, or community garden.

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Targeting deer tick control at multiple life stages may be necessary, study says

After they hatch, deer ticks take two years to reproduce. In that time, they morph from tiny larvae to nymphs to adults, with each stage feeding on a different group of host animals. For researchers studying the dynamics of Lyme disease, understanding host-tick interactions could reveal weak spots that may leave ticks vulnerable to control. A recent University of Illinois study simulates these interactions and provides guidance for effective management.

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