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Robert J. Kirschner

Robert J. Kirschner
Director of Restoration Ecology
Woman’s Board Curator of Aquatics
(847) 835-6837
Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Interests: 
  • Urban lake water quality and habitat enhancement
  • Aquatic invasive plants
  • Bioengineering approaches to control shoreline erosion
  • Citizen stakeholder involvement in environmental conservation

My research studies for more than 35 years have focused on urban aquatic ecosystems, primarily in the northeastern Illinois region. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s 60 acres of lakes and nearly six miles of lakeshore provide exceptional opportunities for scientists to study the stressors inherent to urban lake environments and to explore sustainable approaches for enhancing lake water quality and aquatic habitat.

Since joining the Garden in 1999, I have overseen the rejuvenation of 4.5 miles of lake shoreline using more than 50 different treatment strategies and a half-million shoreline plants. Nearly all of these approaches combine the soil-stabilizing characteristics of emergent and submergent plants with structural and fluvial engineering principles to create stable, ecologically diverse, and visually attractive shoreline habitats. Some of these techniques are presented on the Garden’s website.

Our scientists are taking advantage of several new opportunities to study aquatic habitats here at the Garden. Surrounding the new Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center is the one-acre Woman's Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society Rainwater Glen, an environmental landscape feature that provides the sustainability functions of both a rain garden and a bioswale. The new Barbara Brown Nature Reserve at the south end of the Garden includes a six-acre pond that is being rehabilitated with a particular focus on enhanced shorebird and wading bird habitat.

Throughout all of my research and resource management activities, I am continually seeking new opportunities for making conservation of native ecosystems relevant and of value to our visitors and our region's residents. Each year, the Garden's Aquatic Plant and Urban Lake Studies Program provides workshops, lectures, and written materials on individual- and community-based approaches for enhancing aquatic systems.

Selected Publications: 

Kirschner, R. 2005. "The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lake Enhancement Program." Public Garden 20(4):22-25.

Kirschner, R. 2005. "The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lake Enhancement Program." LakeLine 25(2):14-19.

Kirschner, R. 1991. "A Guide to Illinois Lake Management." Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, Chicago, IL. 31 pp.