So after the Bats and Brews event I headed into downtown Detroit to get an overnight bus to Chicago, this time though I’ve left the big hiking bag behind. Which is great as I am meeting the Lincoln Park Zoo team before going to my next hosts place, so I am thankful I am not carrying an extra 50lbs on my back! I head to grab some breakfast then get the bus up to the zoo, which by the way is totally FREE!! A couple of the scientist and educators from the LPZ Urban Wildlife Institute have agreed to meet with me.
The Urban Wildlife Institute studies the interaction between urban development and the natural ecosystem to develop scientific standards for minimizing conflict between these overlapping areas. The team show me their camera trap study outline which is huge, most of the science team are out deploying camera traps across the City! The study helps to monitor and assess the biodiversity of the area and to understand more about the urban gradient and wildlife. To assess the greater Chicago area, the Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute has established monitoring stations within city parks, forest preserves, golf courses and cemeteries across a four-county area, including downtown Chicago and its suburbs. The team at UWI aims to use Chicago as a model for urban areas struggling to deal with wildlife relocation, rehabilitation, disease and conflicts.
Cities can be hostile places for wildlife, with threats coming from habitat destruction, roads and traffic, humans, pets and large numbers of invasive species. However, with proper management, urban areas can house a number of important wildlife species, including carnivores, small mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians. The team are also looking to understand more about Chicago’s bats, and have installed passive acoustic-monitoring systems to accompany their camera traps. This non-invasive technique records echolocation calls (sounds that are above the range of human hearing) which can then inform the scientists which bat species are around. Their research has not only uncovered new information about how urban animals select habitat and persist within urban landscapes, but has also helped connect the people of Chicago to the natural world through educational outreach and citizen science initiatives.