For the past few years the Urban Wildlife Institute has been chronicling the diversity of wildlife at Nature Boardwalk and Lincoln Park Zoo. We use motion-triggered camera traps to collect photographs of mammals (coyotes, raccoons, etc.), conduct visual observations of birds and butterflies, and even deploy hoop-net traps to monitor the turtle populations in our ponds.
Coyotes are among the species "captured" by camera traps near the zoo.
But how does the composition of species we see at Lincoln Park Zoo differ from other zoos throughout the country? Are the abundances of species similar or are they very different? To answer these questions we have teamed up with the Minnesota Zoo to explore the differences of wildlife on zoo grounds between Chicago and Minnesota
Located in Apple Valley, the Minnesota Zoo started the BioDiscovery Project last year. This exciting project “aims to document the wildlife living on zoo grounds through field surveys and conservation research; share these discoveries by using wildlife photography, social media and interpretive programming; and provide tools for others to discover, understand and celebrate biodiversity in their own lives.” Katie Talbott heads up this initiative at the Minnesota Zoo, and after a brief conversation, we quickly realized how exciting it would be to compare data.
Zoos can provide many opportunities for wildlife and are often closed off at night, giving wildlife an open space to roam (which can be important if you are living in downtown Chicago). While both survey local wildlife, the size, geographic location and degree of urbanization in the surrounding area may impact the species we see.
For example, Lincoln Park Zoo is located right along Lake Michigan, and the diversity of migratory birds we see come spring is phenomenal, while the Minnesota Zoo has much larger tracts of natural vegetation and hosts a variety of different habitat types important to many aquatic and semi-aquatic species.
Secretive soras are among the migratory birds that have been spotted at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Despite the cold, Katie and I already have a few projects underway. We don’t want to spoil too many surprises, but in the next few months we will be regularly blogging to share our results and discuss the similarities and differences we observe. By doing so, we hope to illustrate that you can discover and celebrate wildlife anywhere you are!
Mason Fidino is coordinator of wildlife management for Lincoln Park Zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute.