The Office of the State Biologist communicates information and provides expert advice to the residents of Illinois and to our legislators and policymakers on issues related to nature, ecology, and conservation. This role was established by the Illinois General Assembly in 2008 and is now held by INHS Director Eric Schauber, an animal ecologist whose research tackles a broad suite of questions centered around populations of mammals, including documenting factors that influence where foxes, coyotes, and other carnivores are found across southern Illinois, understanding how marsh rice rats move between wetlands, and studying contacts within and between social groups of white-tailed deer and applying those insights to help manage how diseases spread in the deer population.
“We are all affected by changes in the abundance, distribution, and behavior of organisms—shade trees; agricultural pests; beautiful birds and butterflies to watch; quarry of anglers, hunters, and trappers; carp and deer posing hazards to boaters and drivers; myriad flowers and their pollinators; vectors of disease; the bounty of morels and chanterelles; beavers creating wetlands that slow runoff but may also flood roadways; and the list goes on,” Schauber says. “Our understanding of these organisms is constantly advanced by research conducted at INHS as well as by our colleagues across the state and beyond, often published in academic style and behind paywalls. I view the role of the State Biologist as facilitating the transfer of information (both ways!) between scientists, managers, policymakers, and the public.”