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Director of Natural Resources Recognized as Notable Woman in STEM

September 6, 2023 02:34 PM

Crain’s Chicago Business named Pati Vitt, director of natural resources at the Lake County Forest Preserves, one of the 2023 Notable Women in STEM.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Women are historically underrepresented in STEM. At last count, just 28% of professionals in these fields were women, according, according to a recent Crain’s story announcing the winners.

“Their careers as physicians, biologists, neuroscientists, physicists, architects, engineers, computer scientists, technologists, STEM educators and leaders of STEM nonprofits prove to young women that there is plenty of room for them in the wide-ranging, creative and lucrative world that is STEM,” the story said.

Vitt develops and implements land management and restoration programs at the Lake County Forest Preserves, the second largest forest preserve district in the state. Programs include controlled burning, farmland management, reforestation and native vegetation planting, endangered and threatened species monitoring, wildlife species re-introduction and invasive species control.

“I am honored that our organization’s work is valued and acknowledged in the Chicago area,” Vitt said. “I am thrilled to be part of this distinguished group that will serve as role models for generations to come.”

One of her accomplishments includes partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to secure $11 million in funding to restore native habitats and improve ecosystem services in the Upper Des Plaines River Watershed. She has been involved in the application of recent scientific advances, including those related to climate change, to ongoing management of natural resources animates all decision making at the Forest Preserves.

She received a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society to test how sourcing seed from different regions in the Midwest will increase their resilience to climate change. “Understanding how climate change will affect our region is critical to ensuring the resilience of our communities,” Vitt added. 

“Recognizing gaps in our knowledge and ensuring science is undertaken to bridge those gaps has been a focus for the past year,” she said. Vitt has worked with the Midwest Climate Collaborative to assist in developing a Midwest-wide Climate Research Agenda. She serves as team lead for the biodiversity and ecosystems components of this group.