Alfred O and Barabara Cordwell Plaque

The University of Illinois-Springfield (UIS) opened the Alfred O. and Barbara Cordwell Therkildsen Field Station at Emiquon (TFSE) in 2008. Located within The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve, the TFSE is ideally situated to provide researchers and students of all ages with an opportunity to study and learn from this unique floodplain restoration project.

The Therkildsen Field Station provides researchers with lab space and equipment for carrying out a variety of scientific projects in the Emiquon Preserve and its surrounding areas. With housing for 10-12 researchers, as well as kitchen facilities, the TFSE provides a “home base” for researchers working in the Preserve.

The TFSE is also set-up to accommodate day-trips by classes (college and k-12) and other organizations (birding clubs; photography groups; artists; etc.). With classroom and laboratory space, as well as basic equipment, the TFSE can provide the starting point for groups looking to examine the Emiquon Preserve in a variety of ways. While we encourage groups to have their own agenda/schedule for their day at the Preserve, TFSE staff are available to help with planning and organizing activities.

The TFSE has partnered with several organizations in vicinity of the Emiquon Preserve: The Nature Conservancy, the Illinois State Museum at Dickson Mounds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forbes Biological Station, and the Illinois River Biological Station. These partnerships aid in furthering scientific discovery, as well as providing a larger outlet for sharing information with the public about the Emiquon Preserve.

To use the TFSE, for months or a day, please check out our Visitor’s information page.

emiquon field station

Emiquon Preserve

For generations, the floodplains and bottomland lakes of the Illinois River in the area of present day Havana supported a rich and diverse community of fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife. Native Americans, explorers, settlers, and sportsmen were drawn to the productivity of Thompson and Flag Lakes. Despite being known as “the most famous and useful breeding ground for the various fish that abound in the Illinois River, and also a wonderful feeding ground for ducks while pursuing their migratory flights…” (Submerged Shore Lands Legislative Investigating Committee, 1911, in Havera et al. 2003), Thompson and Flag Lakes met the same fate as many lakes and floodplains: conversion to farmland.

Charles Kofoid and Miles Newberry sampling the floodplain in the 1890s (INHS Files)

In the mid-1920’s levees were constructed and the water pumped out of Thompson and Flag Lakes. For nearly 80 years farms existed on what was once a productive aquatic ecosystem. In the early part of the 21st century this began to change. The Nature Conservancy acquired the former sites of Thompson and Flag Lakes, and in 2007, began the process of restoring them to a more natural state.

The restoration has not been without its controversies, but has successfully moved forward and established the Emiquon Preserve, one of the largest undertakings of its kind. In 2012, the Emiquon Complex (consisting of the Emiquon Preserve, Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, and the Illinois State Museum-Dickson Mounds) was recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the RAMSAR Convention.