Partners in Fieldwork

Urban Wildlife Field Research at Local High Schools

Launched in the fall of 2013, this year-long program engages high school youth in research activities that support the work of the zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute. Students work with their teachers to collect data on local wildlife at their school site using non-invasive techniques such as camera traps (pictured above with participating high school teachers), bird surveys and bat monitors. Teachers and students will receive all the training they need in order to participate successfully.

Partners in Fieldwork Program Goals

  • Engage Chicago youth as participants in the authentic research of Lincoln Park Zoo scientists.
  • Increase understanding about methods used for studying wildlife.
  • Raise awareness about the diversity of Chicago wildlife.
  • Provide educators with authentic experiences to augment the classroom life-science curriculum with research activities.
  • Encourage youth to explore nature outside of school hours.
  • Collect useful data for the Urban Wildlife Institute.

Partners in Fieldwork Program Components

The Partners in Fieldwork program focuses on training youth and teachers to collect data and share their research with the zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute as well as their school community. The program consists of five key components:

Component 1: Professional Development Workshops
Conducted at Lincoln Park Zoo, these workshops prepare participating teachers to assist students in data collection, learn more about the animals and research at the zoo and collaborate with fellow participants.

Component 2: School Site Visits
Four times throughout the year a zoo educator visits participating schools to help students develop authentic research skills that allow students to collect data that will be used by Urban Wildlife Institute scientists.

Component 3: Field Trips 
Participating students will take two field trips, one to visit the zoo to conduct research near Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo and the other to conduct research in a local natural area.

Component 4: Ongoing Research
Students will conduct ongoing research on school grounds and in the surrounding neighborhood, employing techniques used to study local wildlife.

Component 5: Zoo Family Day 
The culminating event, Zoo Family Day, is held at Lincoln Park Zoo and is an opportunity for students to demonstrate to their families what they learned throughout the year, to meet zoo researchers and hear how they are using the data collected by the schools.

Partners in Fieldwork NGSS Standards


Lincoln Park Zoo’s Partners in Fieldwork program was awarded Top Honors in Education at the 2015 Association of Zoos and Aquariums Annual Conference!  

Post from the President—Leaders in Learning
Lincoln Park Zoo’s Partners in Fieldwork program was awarded Top Honors in Education at the 2015 Association of Zoos and Aquariums Annual Conference!

Teacher workshop on camera traps at Lincoln Park Zoo  

Schoolyard Species
Learn how the zoo’s Hurvis Center for Learning Innovation and Collaboration links Chicago high school students with research led by the zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute.


Teen Researchers Wrap Up a Wild Year
Program facilitator Matthew Mulligan looks back at Partners in Fieldwork’s first year and highlights some of its successes and students’ observations.


Returns from the Dark Night
Find out how zoo educators helped young researchers collect clues on winged predators that patrol the night skies above Chicago.