Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program Goes National

Posted on March 23, 2017

Lincoln Park Zoo President and CEO Kevin Bell and Lincoln Park Zoo Urban Wildlife Institute (UWI) Director Seth Magle today announced an unprecedented initiative to help save the country’s urban wildlife.

The zoo has partnered with universities, wildlife organizations and other institutions to expand its Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN) to eight cities across the U.S., including Denver, Indianapolis, Austin and Los Angeles. Launched by Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute in Chicago in 2010 and already the world’s largest urban wildlife monitoring infrastructure, the urban biodiversity study seeks 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.

“The amount of data being collected is incredible, but what we can do with those data is truly inspiring,” Magle said. “The Urban Wildlife Information Network not only enables us to compare wildlife across cities but also to use these data to influence city planning, wildlife management and to reduce human-wildlife conflict. We are grateful to our partners, who bring a rare and invaluable level of commitment and expertise to this initiative.”

Started in 2008 and made possible by a $1.5 million grant from The Davee Foundation, the Urban Wildlife Institute employs Lincoln Park Zoo’s diverse scientific specialties to study the interaction between urban development and the natural ecosystem and develop scientific standards for minimizing conflict between humans and wildlife. Landscape ecology, population biology, epidemiology, endocrinology, veterinary medicine and other core disciplines contribute to an increased understanding of ecosystem health in an urban setting. As a member of the Mayor’s Committee on Nature and Wildlife, Magle advises on new developments. UWI scientists also work with the Chicago Park District to monitor areas that have been restored, such as Northerly Island and the Burnham Corridor.

Two years after its founding, the Urban Wildlife Institute launched the biodiversity study in Chicago. Four times a year, biologists install more than 100 cameras across the Chicago area along three 50-kilometer transects and the lakefront. The cameras—many strapped to trees and posts in parks, cemeteries, forest preserves and golf courses—are motion-triggered and snap up digital images. Currently, more than 100,000 photos are amassed every year. Citizen scientists help the researchers tag photos for data analysis by clicking through photos on chicagowildlifewatch.org and identifying animal species captured in pixels.

Now, UWIN has partnered with the University of Colorado at Denver, Denver, Colorado; Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana; St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas; the National Park Service and California State University, Long Beach, Los Angeles, California; University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin; Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado; and Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

“For the first time, we’re trying to understand what urban animals all around the country have in common,” Magle said. “We know forests in the Pacific Northwest and forests in New England are different, but how is Austin different from Denver? Once we know what all these cities have in common, and what factors influence their local species, we can use that knowledge to start designing wildlife-friendly cities around the world.”

Today’s announcement signifies a big step toward a major Lincoln Park Zoo goal: to launch UWIN globally, and help humans and wildlife—particularly those who live in close proximity-more harmoniously co-exist. Indeed, Magle and his team already are in discussions with potential partners in Asia and Europe as well as organizations in other U.S. cities.

It also comes as the zoo unveils its new brand, which highlights its vision for the future and sharpens its focus on local and global conservation and other key commitments.

The zoo’s new vision statement, “Inspire communities to create environments where wildlife will thrive in our urbanizing world,” supports and upholds the institution’s mission while serving as a guiding principle over the next 75-100 years. The marriage of mission and vision are summed up in the zoo’s new tagline: For Wildlife. For All.

“A commitment to wildlife conservation is not, of course, new for Lincoln Park Zoo,” Bell said. “What is new and very exciting for the organization is to create a vision that exemplifies that commitment, sharpens our focus and drives us to share our expertise and success in a way that will have a real and positive impact on the world’s wildlife.”

In addition to the vision and tagline, Lincoln Park Zoo revealed a new logo; look and feel; website; and interactive digital experience, Wild Horizons.

Lincoln Park Zoo is inviting the public to celebrate its new vision beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 25, with Wild Horizons, located at Kovler Lion House. The event will highlight new features on grounds, crafts for kids, a photo booth and giveaway for the first 250 visitors.

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