A Global Expansion

Sabrina Cynova
April 7, 2022
Sabrina Cynova
April 7, 2022
The world’s largest urban wildlife monitoring alliance, known as the Urban Wildlife Information Network, has now expanded to 42 cities across three continents—working to help people and wildlife coexist in urban areas.

Coyotes seen crossing streets in downtown Chicago. Mountain lions encountered on hiking trails in Salt Lake City. Stone martens discovered in forests in Freiburg, Germany. Although cities are built for people, wildlife made homes in them too. As inspiring and fascinating as these human-wildlife encounters are, they can sometimes create conflict and unexpected interactions—sparking the question “How can people and wildlife coexist in urban areas around the world?”

The Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN), created by Lincoln Park Zoo in 2017, is an alliance of ecologists and educators who are working to help people and animals thrive together by gathering and analyzing data on urban biodiversity and, ultimately, discovering and applying solutions to existing or potential human-wildlife conflicts.

Within each city in the network, research techniques include motion-activated cameras and/or other monitoring methods. Partners include universities, wildlife organizations, city governments, and other institutions.

A Worldwide Footprint

In exciting news, the Urban Wildlife Information Network, which is the world’s largest urban wildlife monitoring alliance, has now expanded to three continents.

The network has added partners in Freiburg, Germany and Cape Town, South Africa, expanding its global footprint. Freiburg, Germany is the network’s first European partner. Similarly, Cape Town, South Africa marks the first time the network has partnered with an African city. UWIN’s expansion to two more continents is significant, creating a global exchange of information that can be utilized to help humans and wildlife coexist near and far.

“The Urban Wildlife Information Network’s growth has been quite incredible,” says Urban Wildlife Institute Director Seth Magle, Ph.D. “The network was originally comprised of only eight cities across the U.S. These new international members represent a growing, global network of scientists who are committed to enhancing the ability for people and wildlife to thrive together.”

The network’s first European partner, the department of Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Freiburg in Germany, has set up motion-activated cameras across one of Europe’s greenest cities. Locations include private gardens, parks, cemeteries, and city forests.

Their scientists are seeking to answer various questions about Freiburg’s wildlife populations, including “Do some mammal species, like the red fox and stone marten (a member of the weasel family), regularly occur in urban areas?” and “Is habitat connectivity the key factor to influencing mammal diversity patterns in this city?”

In order to understand broader patterns of urban wildlife, data from all around the world is needed. UWIN looks forward to adding future international partners.

“From flying squirrels in North America to stone martens in Europe, the more we know about biodiversity in urban environments, the better tools we have to build wildlife-friendly cities,” says Magle.

New Cities Across North America

Not only is the Urban Wildlife Information Network present in three continents with the addition of partners in Europe and South Africa, but cities across all of North America continue to join this vast, growing network.

UWIN is now comprised of 42 cities from Tacoma, Washington to Boston, Massachusetts. Recently-added partner cities of UWIN include Albuquerque, New Mexico; Pomona, California; Syracuse, New York; and Vancouver, Canada.

“Wildlife surrounds and inspires both children and adults alike, and this became very apparent when people took to social media to share images of wildlife spottings during the pandemic,” says Magle. “If anything, the pandemic taught city dwellers that the urban area they call home is wilder than they think. There’s definitely been an increase in interest from both scientists, as well as the general public, in discovering ways that humans and wildlife can thrive together.”



What’s on the Horizon?

In November 2019, UWIN held its inaugural Urban Wildlife Information Network Summit at Lincoln Park Zoo to bridge the divide between scientists, urban planners, designers, and land managers from the nation. Attendees discussed issues of urban biodiversity, planning, and equity. This important dialogue later resulted in a manuscript published in People and Nature that details insights regarding barriers to building wildlife-inclusive cities learned from urban ecologists, urban planners, and landscapers.

Currently, the network is working on various projects relating to social justice and environmental equity. One such project is studying how current patterns of gentrification and segregation are related to biodiversity.

“Although the network was launched in 2017, it’s only just the beginning,” says Magle. “By collaborating with new partners across the globe, we’re able to identify the differences in animal behavior across regions and find patterns that remain consistent around the world.

We’re looking toward a future full of life, diversity, and coexistence, which is all made possible due to this growing network.”

UWIN is made possible by the Abra Prentice Wilkin Foundation, Davee Foundation and Grainger Foundation

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