Hi! I’m Mike MacDonald, Chicago's "Nature Matchmaker" and creator of ChicagoNatureNOW!. I introduce people to nature with the hope of sparking lifelong love affairs. Check out this uplifting television story about ChicagoNatureNOW! that aired on WTTW Chicago Tonight:
IT'S MY MISSION TO CONNECT CHICAGOANS WITH LOCAL BEAUTY THAT RIVALS THE NATIONAL PARKS!
For over twenty-five years, I’ve been sharing the love by celebrating the rich biodiversity and natural wonders of the Chicago region. After all, within just fifty miles of downtown Chicago, there’s more protected natural area than most national parks and more native plant species than any national park. Yes, any national park.
This means that, each week from April through September, you can find a world-class wildflower blooming event happening right down the road from home, work, or school. Each week, Chicago nature delivers vast bouquets of flowers to Chicagoland’s 9.6 million human inhabitants. Unfortunately, most people are unaware and never receive them. Not only are people missing out on the healing power of nature, but the efforts to restore and protect it are not sufficient to keep up with the onslaught of invasive species that threaten and attack our local habitats. Furthermore, in our virtual world of the Internet and strip malls, people are losing their innate, inborn need and appreciation for nature. And I’ve made it my mission to change that!
April brings breathtaking displays of Virginia bluebells to Chicago's woodlands.
CHICAGO'S NATURE MATCHMAKER
As a Nature Matchmaker and communicator, I share the beauty and wonder as a photographer, author, and public speaker. My big push began in 2010 when I began writing my literary coffee-table book, entitled My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders , which hit bookstore shelves in December of 2015. Then, just four months later, I made the potential of Chicago nature available to everyone by launching the ChicagoNatureNOW! website (ChicagoNatureNow.com ). I created this free service to introduce Chicagoans to nature by sharing the best wildflower shows around the region. And ChicagoNatureNOW! is the reason for this fundraising campaign.
WE BRING YOU A ONE-OF-A-KIND SERVICE WITH RARE EXPERTISE:
- I CREATED A PROPRIETARY DATABASE OF WILDFLOWER BLOOM TIMES AND LOCATIONS
ChicagoNatureNOW! would not exist without my unique calendar of Chicagoland blooming events. Since 1993, as part of my photography research, I've scoured the 5,000-square-mile Chicago region to find the finest nature preserves and most beautiful wildflower shows. From these adventures, I created a calendar of floral events that is now the engine that guides our scouting and reporting efforts. Each week, we know exactly where to scout and what to look for. Our database is the reason why ChicagoNatureNOW! is the only comprehensive source of local blooming information.
In late August or early September, Elgin's Bluff Spring Fen erupts with rough blazing star. To ensure that you don't miss one glorious moment, our unique wildflower database tells us when to scout a preserve. But because nature is unpredictable, we only tell you after a scout has verified that it's worth the visit.
- WE HAVE DEDICATED SCOUTS
For six months of the growing season, I and my small team of volunteer scouts travel the region to bring you the glorious news. I am extremely grateful for their passion and generous effort. Each year, our scouts spend hundreds of hours travelling thousands of miles to bring you the news!
I'm standing in orange between a few of our wonderful scouts (left to right): Charlie, Jim, and Zeke.
- I USE WORLD-CLASS PHOTOGRAPHY TO SPARK EXCITEMENT & PARTICIPATION
Our prairies, woodlands, and wetlands are beautiful and exciting in person. But it's very difficult to make a picture that matches the moment, that conveys the essence, emotion, and experience. A beautiful photo, like online dating, will encourage people to "swipe right" and make a date with nature. Therefore, calendar-quality shots are required. Imagine a national park visitor center and how the breathtaking photographs in books, postcards, calendars, and exhibits get the masses all pumped up to see the sights. I think of ChicagoNatureNOW! as an online visitor center for Chicagoans, with images that help reverse the false presumption that Chicago is “just green.” The photographs on ChicagoNatureNOW! get people enthused by gloriously depicting our home as a kaleidoscopic wonderland full of rich blooms and outdoor opportunities.
Through my work, the national Sierra Club has come to appreciate the natural beauty and importance of our region by featuring my images in their world-renowned wilderness calendars. The image below shows an image of sand coreposis blooming along the Dead River at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (though it really happened in early June).
I INVESTED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO BRING THIS SERVICE TO YOU AND THE COMMUNITY
In addition to the database and the photography, I’ve contributed thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to bring you newfound awareness of our natural wonders along with the peace, hope, and joy that nature brings.
PLEASE SUPPORT OUR MISSION WITH A FINANCIAL VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
Please show us the value of ChicagoNatureNOW! in your life. Show us the importance of being an inspirational voice for the restoration of our ecosystems. And show your appreciation for how we connect our neighbors with the restorative power of nature.
Thank you so much for your contribution!
- Courtney Graham
- Allison Sloan
- Nathan Baker