Great Lakes Action Days

Help restore local habitats!
The Great Lakes are home to more than 3,500 plant and animal species—and 36 million people! So the lakes, rivers, wetlands, dunes, prairies and forests that make up the Great Lakes ecosystem are your home, too. Join our Great Lakes Action Days or Adopt-a-Beach events, and give back to the wild places in your backyard.

Get your hands dirty cleaning beaches, removing invasive plants and collecting important data through citizen science projects. Events are held year-round at natural areas along our local Lake Michigan shore and throughout the Chicagoland area.

Join a Great Lakes Action Day

Contact Reid at or 312-692-2739 to sign up. Shedd will consider your group’s size, site availability and desired activity when scheduling your Great Lakes Action Day. 

Dates and Locations

Age and Requirements

Great Lakes Action Days are for volunteers of all ages! Families, school groups and individuals are all welcome and groups of between 10 and 100 people can be accommodated.

Is your company interested in volunteering? Contact us for more information about our corporate partnerships.

What do I need to bring?

Instructions and directions will be sent to you shortly after you sign up for a Great Lakes Action Day. Most materials and tools for each activity are supplied at the site. Participants are always encouraged to bring reusable water bottles, snacks and sunscreen, and wear weather-appropriate outdoor clothing and shoes. You will be notified in advance if additional items are needed.

What else should I know about Great Lakes Action Days?

• All events are weather-dependent.
• Participants are responsible for their own transportation to the Great Lakes Action Day site. Shedd encourages carpooling or taking public transportation where possible.
• Each participant will need to sign a supplied waiver to participate in any Shedd Great Lakes Action Days.
• Shedd staff will provide a snack, but be sure to bring your water bottle and any other snacks you like.

Great Lakes Action Day Activities

In an effort to help keep the lakes debris-free, Shedd hosts beach cleanups at several sites along the Lake Michigan shoreline through the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach™ program. Volunteers will work in teams, combing the beach for litter and recording data on their findings to support effective coastal management.

Habitat and Wildlife Monitoring
Shedd’s Great Lakes Action Days are about making a direct and positive difference for local wildlife. To measure the impact of our work, participants will take a close look at our amphibian friends in the forest preserves, surveying salamanders and frogs, or strap on waders to seek out Great Lakes fishes just a few feet from shore.

Invasive Plant Removal
With more than 180 invasive plant and animal species in the Great Lakes, taking action to prevent the further spread of harmful ecological invaders is a good start toward restoring the Great Lakes. Participants will learn about the natural habitats along the coast and in forest preserves around Chicago, while making a positive difference for local wildlife, from frogs and salamanders to migratory birds. This is a great way to get physical and have fun restoring habitat!

Amphibian Habitat Restoration
In the spring of 2015, Shedd forged a partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County to begin intensive restoration of local amphibian habitats. Combining the land management expertise of the Forest Preserves with Shedd's expertise of amphibian health, this collaborative project will make major improvements to the ponds and prairies that are home to native amphibians such as blue-spotted salamanders and chorus frogs. Participants will jump in with a variety of activities, from amphibian surveys to water quality testing to invasive brush removal and more.

Contact us

For more information or to register for an event, email Reid


Read about the latest Great Lakes Action Days on our blog