Urban Ecology at Nature Boardwalk


Lincoln Park Zoo experts are studying how all species of wildlife utilize Nature Boardwalk to better understand and foster environments in which people and wildlife can coexist and thrive.


Urban green spaces are valuable resources for both human and wildlife communities. They provide people with physical and mental health benefits and wildlife with important habitat in otherwise highly developed landscapes. Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo is no exception: Since its re-naturalization in 2010, zoo horticultural and wildlife experts have continually studied the biodiversity and ecology of the plants and animals that call the boardwalk home. This work provides a better understanding of how various species create and use urban ecosystems, how urban greenscapes can contribute to wildlife conservation, and how to foster nurturing environments for both people and wildlife.

Biodiversity Monitoring

Biodiversity can be described as the number of species (plants, animals, fungi, etc.) in an environment. Generally, greater biodiversity contributes to healthier and flourishing ecosystems. Unfortunately, many groups of wildlife, such as bats, turtles, birds, and insects, are in peril from a variety of factors, including habitat destruction and global climate change.

But urban green spaces can be excellent mitigants of climate change and biodiversity loss. Nature Boardwalk provides a safe haven for more than 200 species of animals and 300 species of plants, helping to make Chicago a biodiversity hotspot in Illinois. Researchers from the zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute (UWI) and Horticulture department continually monitor biodiversity at Nature Boardwalk to better understand which species use this urban green space and how to improve its management for both wildlife and human communities.

To learn more about specific biodiversity monitoring projects, please visit here.

Pollinator Ecology

Pollinators provide an invaluable ecosystem service and are an indicator of overall ecosystem health. In order to better understand how Nature Boardwalk supports local pollinators and other insects, UWI researchers and Horticulture department staff monitor the diversity and presence of pollinators as well as their plant preferences

Nature Boardwalk Internships

UWI and the Horticulture department offer opportunities for aspiring biologists to gain valuable experience in a rigorous scientific environment and take part in long-term monitoring and management-based research programs.

Learn More


Wildlife Management Coordinator
Urban Wildlife Institute
Assistant Director
Urban Wildlife Institute
Urban Wildlife Information Network Coordinator
Urban Wildlife Institute
Urban Wildlife Institute
Quantitative Ecologist
Urban Wildlife Institute
Abby Lorenz
Manager of Plant Records and Horticulture Programs
Megan McCawley
Manager of Horticulture Operation
Alexandria Burgess
Turner Donelan
Elliot Foley
Mallory Bryson
  • Fidino, M., Limbrick, K., Bender, J., Gallo, T., & Magle, S.B. (2021). Strolling through a century: Recreating historical bird surveys to explore 100 years of change in an urban bird community. American Naturalist, 199 (1), 159–167.
  • Lehrer, E.W., Gallo, T., Fidino, M., Kilgour, R.J., Wolff, P., & Magle, S.B. (2021). Urban bat occupancy is highly influenced by noise and the location of water: Considerations for nature-based urban planning. Landscape and Urban Planning, 210,104063.
  • Gallo, T., Lehrer, E.W., Fidino, M., Kilgour, R.J., Wolff, P.J., & Magle, S.B. (2018). Need for multiscale planning for conservation of urban bats. Conservation Biology, 32(3), 638–647.
  • Bender, J., Fidino, M., Limbrick, K., & Magle, S. (2016). Assessing nest success of black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) in an urban landscape using artificial cavities. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 128(2), 425–429.