TLS Annual Gathering

About Loyola Retreat and Ecology Campus (LUREC)

Our 2018 Annual Gathering was held at the Loyola University Retreat & Ecology Campus (LUREC) in McHenry County, Illinois is a place to learn about the interconnectedness of nature, outside, in nature.  The 100-acre property is part of a rare wetlands and oak woodlands that has deteriorated over the years since human settlement in the 1830s. LUREC hosts a prairie of native flowers and grasses and a peaceful landscape for spiritual contemplation.

Rare Michigan LilyMost of the natural ecosystems and habitats have become severely degraded due to past human disruptions to the hydrology of the site, the suppression of natural fires, and the introduction of invasive species. The restoration activity that is currently underway aims to reverse these negative trends, improving ecosystem functions, habitat, and biodiversity at LUREC.

Loyola's mission of restoring the original ecological complexity and biodiversity to this area affords their students, faculty, and the neighboring communities opportunities to get involved in numerous real-world restoration projects.

Biodiversity is the variety of life in all of its many forms. This variety is characterized as ecological diversity and genetic diversity as well as the more familiar species diversity. The 100-acre Retreat & Ecology Campus contains a number of human landscapes and natural habitats which are home to a wide range of species, as well as possible genetic varieties. Some of the natural habitats include oak-hickory woodlands, shrublands, small patches of grasslands, a small pond, and wetlands.

Recent inventories and surveys of LUREC fauna has so far revealed:

Presently, Loyola is engaged in recording the current biodiversity found on the property and is developing a database that can be used by faculty and students to record or retrieve interesting information concerning that biodiversity.

This information can be used as baselines for current and future biodiversity surveys.  For those who are interested, it can also provide exact locations on the property where certain organisms can be found or have been found in the past.  Such data will also assist in planning and evaluating our restoration work.

By engaging in ecological restoration, Loyola is working to educate the wider Loyola community, and the campus's neighbors about the importance of developing a relationship with our natural surroundings. Loyola offers ecological courses and internships based at the campus, and holds monthly volunteer Restoration Work Days open to all Loyolans and the public.

Restoration at LUREC focuses on two sensitive ecological areas on the Retreat and Ecology Campus property: a wetland basin on the east end of the property and a surrounding oak woodland. More information can be found on the Loyola Retreat and Ecology Campus webpage.

The Loyola Farm has been operating for five years and has experienced much growth over last couple of years. With the addition of a new Farm Operations Manager, Emily Zack, and the assistance of a few dedicated student employees, the Loyola Farm is in full throttle toward becoming a sustainable food operation. Farm employees work extremely hard to get as much fresh, organic produce into the LUREC kitchen as possible. The produce is picked, processed, and fed to guests almost immediately. 

Sustainable Food Operation
The Loyola farm strives to be a sustainable food operation and works in conjunction with the LUREC kitchen to ensure maximum productivity. Some key factors in having a sustainable food operation include preserving for winter, composting, eating seasonally, and year-round production. The LUREC greenhouse contains winter lettuce, arugula, beets, radishes, and spinach while the hoop house has cold weather veggies planted: carrots, parsnips and leeks. Their goal is to continue to increase efficiencies and be near a 100% sustainable food operation.

Loyola Labyrinth

There is a permanent labyrinth onsite.