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Chicago's Wild Mile transforms its river into a wildlife sanctuary

Environmental sanctuary takes shape in Chicago River's Wild Mile
Environmental sanctuary takes shape in Chicago River's Wild Mile 01:36

CHICAGO (CBS) — Local scientists are trying to transform the Chicago River into a wildlife sanctuary.

It's all part of an ongoing effort to restore biodiversity in the Chicago area.

In the shadow of Willis Tower, a group of environmental scientists is hard at work.

They focus on these so-called floating gardens along the Chicago River, better known to locals as the Wild Mile, the world's first floating eco-park.

"This used to be a pathway and a canal for sewage, and now it's becoming a place where biodiversity and people come together to enjoy this space," said Dr. Lesley de Souza of the Field Museum.

The majestic feat is a collaborative effort led by Urban Rivers, a small team of dedicated professionals on an environmental mission to transform urban waterways into wildlife sanctuaries.

"We can have the main attraction be the wildlife that is coming back to the space," said Nick Wesley, Executive Director of Urban Rivers. 

The wildlife along the waterway would surprise many, from birds to beavers and muskrats.

Despite what the naysayers may think, the Chicago River is currently in the best shape ever. Today, it is home to 105 species of life, proving that this intervention is working.

Urban Rivers earned the Parker/Gentry award from the Field Museum this year for its groundbreaking work.

The work of these scientists is ongoing.

On this day, the Field Museum partnered with Urban Rivers to collect water samples and study the DNA of other life thriving in the river.

The results, they hope, could spark a newfound interest in the waterway that is sometimes taken for granted.

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