James F. Steffen

James Steffen
Senior Ecologist
(847) 835-8266
Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Interests: 
  • Exotic invasive plant populations
  • Soil microarthropods
  • Litter-dwelling spiders
  • Sedges in the genus Carex
  • Exotic invasive earthworm populations
  • Moth populations

As a specialist in oak woodland flora and fauna, my goal is to restore Mary Mix McDonald Woods, a 100-acre oak woodland complex, using a number of methods. Through the removal of invasive species, the collection and sowing of seeds from appropriate local native species, the maintenance of nursery populations for seed production, the monitoring of floral and faunal populations and the use of controlled burning, I am striving to increase species diversity and develop a healthier functioning ecosystem.

Moths are an incredible diverse group of invertebrates in all natural systems.  They have many significant functional roles in all natural communities and play an important role in the food web.  Almost all bird species depend on moth caterpillars for feeding their young.  I have been studying the diversity of moths in McDonald Woods and how restoration management has affected their populations.  Since many moths, and in particular, micromoths, have an obligate relationship with either single species or genera of native plants, they are important indicators of ecosystem health.

Utilizing my ornithological background, I maintain bird-nesting structures throughout the Garden, use bird bands to mark selected species of breeding birds at the Garden and oversee a cumulative bird list.

Mites (Acari) and springtails (Collembola) are very important components of the nutrient cycling process within all natural communities. These micro-organisms live in the soil and leaf litter environment and are an under-studied group of extraordinarily diverse life forms. Here we provide two catalogues along with keys to just some of the many mites and springtails families and species found in McDonald Woods, an oak woodland being restored at the Chicago Botanic Garden. We hope that these catalogues will assist other researchers undertaking studies of soil biota and serve as an introduction to this fascinating component of our biodiversity.

Selected Publications: 

Steffen, James (co-author). 2014. Disjunct Lake Michigan Population of Two Atlantic Coast Spiders, Disembolus bairdii and Grammonota pallipes (Araneae: Linyphiidae). The Great Lakes Entomologist 42(1&2):20-24. 

Steffen, James. Activity and Diversity of Collembola (Insecta) and Mites (Acari) in Litter of a Degraded Midwestern Oak Woodland.

Steffen, James (co-author). 2010. Diversity and activity of ground-dwelling spiders (Araneae) in four sub-communities in a degraded oak woodland at the Chicago Botanic  Garden, Cook County, Illinois. The Great Lakes Entomologist 42(2&4):79-97.

Steffen, James. 2010. Prairie Grouse (Ghost Dance). The Passenger Pigeon. 72(1):12

Steffen, James. 2008. Cooper's hawks use artificial nest structure. The Passenger Pigeon 70(2):185-187.

Heneghan, Liam, James Steffen, and Kristen Fagen. 2007. Interactions of an introduced shrub and introduced earthworms in an Illinois urban woodland: Impact on leaf litter decomposition. Pedobiologia 50:543-551.

Steffen, James. 1996. Seed treatment and propagation methods. In The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook. Covelo, Calif.: Island Press.

Steffen, James. 1993. Study examines the heat of combustion of deciduous tree leaf litter (Illinois). Restoration and Management Notes 11(2):152.

Steffen, James. 1989. Turnbull Woods: A Vegetation Inventory and Management Plan. Glencoe, Ill.: Chicago Horticultural Society.

Steffen, James, Thomas C. Erdman, and Robert W. Howe. 1988. A biological inventory of Kingfisher Farm: A potential long-term research site in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Richter Natural History Museum Research Report No. 1. Green Bay, Wis.: University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Steffen, James. 1985. Some effects of clearcutting on songbird populations in the northern hardwood forest. Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters. 73:123-132.

Steffen, James. 1984. Turkey vultures breeding in unused farm buildings. Passenger Pigeon 46(3):101.

Steffen, James. 1981. Unusual hunting behavior of the American kestrel. Inland Bird Banding 53(3):109-110.

Steffen, James. 1981. Seventh state record for groove-billed ani. Passenger Pigeon 43(3):109-110.

Steffen, James. 1981. Nesting off the common loon in Manitowoc County. Passenger Pigeon 43(3):111.

Steffen, James. 1981. Some notes on breeding sharp-shinned hawks in Manitowoc County. Passenger Pigeon 43(3):112-113.

Steffen, James. 1979. Woodland Dunes: Past, Present, and Future. A Resource Inventory and Land Management Plan. Manitowoc, Wis.:Woodland Dunes Nature Center.

Steffen, James. 1977. Cannibalism in adult nesting red-tailed hawks. Auk 94(3):593-594.