Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Rebecca K. Zarger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

E. Christian Wells, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kevin Yelvington, D. Phil.


applied anthropology, conservation, environmental education, policy, race


What role do environmental conservation projects play in the transformation of American cities? How do these projects affect city residents? In this study, I ask these questions at the Burnham Wildlife Corridor, where the Chicago Park District worked with institutional and community-based partner organizations to engage city residents in the creation of a lakefront wildlife habitat and public nature area. Through ethnographic interviews and participant observation I explored how actors at various levels understand this changing landscape and their roles in shaping it. I situate the Burnham Wildlife Corridor project in the broader context of a state-level plan, the Millennium Reserve, as well as relevant trends in urban planning and environmental governance. Using concepts from anthropology, geography, sociology, philosophy, and natural resource management, I interpret my results, with a focus on space, place, and the role of race and ethnicity in community engagement around conservation. I discuss emerging tensions and contradictions in urban environmental conservation and offer recommendations for how land managers and their partners can refine community engagement efforts aimed at increasing public participation in land management.