Celebrated squirrel’s legacy lives on for visitors

by Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

The male squirrel nicknamed Pinto Bean was popular among students on campus and became a social media star with its own Wiki page. Its age was unknown. Pinto Bean died on Oct. 8, 2022, apparently from being struck by a vehicle.

Pinto Bean, the beloved piebald squirrel that lived and died on the University of Illinois campus, is back. The squirrel’s taxidermied remains are now on display at the Forbes Natural History Building lobby, where visitors can see its rare gray and white coloration that attracted fans and followers at the university.

Photo by Joseph Spencer

The Forbes Building is a fitting location for Pinto Bean after his death, according to Eric Schauber, Illinois State Biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), a unit of the Prairie Research Institute.

“The INHS has been the guardian and memory of Illinois’ biological resources since the 1850s,” Schauber said. “This is another page in that history, and one that is tied to our campus here.”

It is unknown if Pinto Bean had any offspring, but if so, half of its kits would have inherited the distinctive piebald pattern, Schauber said. This condition is a genetic mutation that slows the rate at which melanocytes, cells that produce pigment, increase during embryo development. In this case, there was not enough of these cells to cover the animal, and patches of light and dark fur occurred.  

This gene is prominent in many domestic animals, such as in tuxedo cats that have fur with a black and white pattern.

Pinto Bean’s celebrity is an example of humans’ innate need to bond with nature, Schauber said.

“Even in a human-dominated area, such as a college campus, people are experiencing nature around them in various ways and are connecting with that,” he said. “This is just one instance in which students tend to make a connection with local squirrel populations on campuses all across the country.”

Pinto Bean joins a variety of other natural history specimens and models on display in the Forbes Building lobby at 1816 South Oak Street in Champaign, including a great horned owl, songbirds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Fossils preserved in amber are also located there. The centerpiece of the lobby’s display is a bison from Illinois in the 1870s.


Media contact: Eric Schauber, 217-300-7827, schauber@illinois.edu

This story originally appeared on the Prairie Research Institute News Blog. Read the original story.

Scientists take a historical look at fishes of Champaign County streams

Read the full story from the Prairie Research Institute.

Using data spanning 120 years, scientists in the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) have a unique view of long-term changes in stream fish populations and their habitats in Champaign County. The best news: several fish species that were last seen here in the 1960s have returned to the county, suggesting some streams are improving.

Champaign County fish surveys were first taken in the late 1880s, with subsequent monitoring in 1930, 1960, and 1988. INHS ecologists resampled 122 sites in the county between 2012 and 2015.

University of Illinois seeks volunteers for 2023 Dump & Run program

Between the dates of Monday, May 8th and Saturday, May 13th, University of Illinois students living in on-campus residence halls will be moving out. Each year, the university sees thousands of students leaving and many have items they would like to part with.

As part of the university’s Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) zero waste objectives, a spring move out program, Dump & Run, has been implemented to collect good materials and divert them away from otherwise being discarded in the trash. The collected materials will be donated to local non-profits in Champaign-Urbana to promote the reuse and repurpose of these items.

The University needs your assistance with executing this program! Volunteers will be stationed at central collection locations across the campus to direct students toward the collection boxes and ensure that the appropriate items are being collected (a comprehensive list will be provided). 

Sign up to volunteer for this event here.

Who was Minna Ernestine Jewell?

Read the full story on the Illinois State Water Survey History Blog. If you’re in the Champaign-Urbana, stop by the University of Illinois Funk ACES Library to check out the display. See also an online annotated bibliography.

Minna Ernestine Jewell (1892-1985) was an early 20th century aquatic ecologist and zoologist who studied Midwestern aquatic habitats extensively. Although she has gained some recognition for her contributions in ecology, a fact that has gone unreported is her brief affiliation with the Illinois State Water Survey.

Jewell was born Feb. 9, 1892 in Irving, Kansas, the fourth of seven children of Lyman Leander and Mary Jane Moores Jewell. Her parents had been neighbors and schoolteachers in Blue Rapids Township prior to marrying. The family owned a farm in Irving, Kansas where Minna lived until she graduated from Irving High School in 1910. Jewell enrolled at Colorado College in 1910, where she studied biology and graduated with honors in 1914. Yearbooks show she participated in the social life of the campus, engaged in extracurriculars such as the Dramatic Club, and had a wry sense of humor. Parasitologist William Walter Cort was a biology instructor at Colorado College during Jewell’s junior year, in between his MA and PhD work in zoology at the University of Illinois. Cort may have influenced Jewell’s interest in zoology and in pursuing graduate work, as well as her choice of graduate schools.

Project to provide a better picture of what Mahomet aquifer looks like

Read the full story from the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette.

Scientists will take to the sky over much of Champaign County to get a closer look below the earth later this month.

Area residents shouldn’t be alarmed if they spy a fast-moving helicopter towing what looks like a trampoline frame.

Beginning Nov. 19, as part of a project contracted by the Illinois State Geological Survey at the University of Illinois and funded by Champaign County, the helicopter will be mapping most of the county to provide a three-dimensional look at the Mahomet aquifer, which supplies hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day to East Central Illinois.

Campus Landscape Master Plan: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Download the document.

The Campus Landscape Master Plan (CLMP) presents a shared vision for the overall campus landscape and provides specific design guidelines, tested through extensive public engagement and stakeholder input. The campus community desires a landscape that inspires, nurtures, restores and educates. They desire a multifunctional landscape that provides opportunities for collaboration, celebration and gathering; a landscape that clearly defines the University of Illinois brand and is accessible, safe, inviting and manageable; a landscape that respects origins and heritage, a landscape that will amplify the region’s biodiversity and assist in the University with achieving its Climate Leadership commitments. The CLMP outlines a vision to achieve a resilient, sustainable campus landscape. The realization of this vision will require a commitment towards phased investment year by year over the coming decades. By committing to a sustainable campus the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) will embody resilience as a model landscape in the Midwest and a world-leader in campus native landscape expression and honoring rain water as a valued resource.

Students protest in climate strike demanding UI fossil fuel divestment

Read the full story in the Daily Illini.

Organized by the Students with Environmental Concerns RSO, students converged by Alma Mater at noon on Wednesday as part of a climate strike that aimed to draw attention to the climate crisis and demand that the University divest from its economic holdings in fossil fuels and nonrenewable energy.

University YMCA Dump & Run returns for 2022

Dump and Run keeps over 30 tons of used, quality goods out of Champaign-Urbana’s dumpsters and landfills each year. This project reduces litter and consumer waste, saves space in landfills, lowers dumping costs for certified housing and apartments and provides inexpensive items for folks to purchase in the fall.

This year collections will begin on Monday, August 1 and culminate with the Big Sale on August 20 and 21. All collections and the sale will be held at the U of I Stock Pavilion, in cooperation with the College of ACES and Department of Animal Sciences.

Dump & Run 2022 Collection Days

All collections will be held at the UI Stock Pavilion, located at 1402 W. Pennsylvania Ave, Urbana IL, beginning on Monday, August 1.

  • Monday Aug. 1: noon – 4:00pm
  • Tuesday Aug. 2 – Friday Aug. 5: 9:00am – 4:00pm
  • Saturday, Aug. 6: 10:00am – 2:00pm
  • Monday Aug. 8 – Friday August 12: 9:00am – 4:00pm. Late collection on Wednesday Aug. 10 until 7:00pm
  • Saturday, Aug. 13: 10:00am – 2:00pm


The Big Sale is BACK ON!

Located at the Stock Pavilion, 1402 W. Pennsylvania Ave.

Saturday, August 20, 2022:
8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. $4 admission
Free admission for U of I students.

Sunday, August 21, 2022:
11:00am – 2:00 p.m.: $3 bag sale and 1/2 price furniture
2:30-3:00 p.m.: “Free sale”

Want to shop early? Volunteer for one 3+ hour shift for first dibs during the August volunteer pre-sale!

Allerton Park offers bird-focused hikes in April

American redstart, one of the more common and vocal warblers to visit central Illinois. American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), male” by Allan Hopkins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Join Allerton Natural Areas Staff on unique bird-focused hikes this spring. As migration progresses, the bird species at the Park change almost daily. Binoculars will be available on a first-come basis. Each week the hike will leave from the Main Parking Lot at 9 am and will focus on a different area of the Park. Registration is required and tickets cost $5 per person. Children under 5 are free.

If you will need disability-related accommodations in order to participate, please email Olivia at owarren@illinois.edu.

Upcoming hikes

From trash to treasure: Illinois dump becomes community solar farm

Photo credit: Nexamp

Read the full story at Yale Climate Connections. See also How to turn trash into treasure: Put solar panels over landfills at Canary Media.

In Urbana, Illinois, a former landfill is now home to a community solar farm. With nearly 14,000 solar panels, it provides enough clean electricity to power a municipal building and about 300 homes.