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With similar missions to conserve native species and the places where they thrive, Shedd has worked for many years in close collaboration with the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC). The long-standing partners have invested invaluable time and resources together protecting, restoring and researching freshwater ecosystems within the preserves as well as educating local communities and students from across the region.

Our Chicagoland waterways are all connected, running through the suburbs and city alike. Healthy, resilient natural areas are critical to the Chicago region’s climate resiliency and for the wellbeing of our communities. As one of the largest county forest preserves in the country, FPCC provides residents, visitors and wildlife with 70,000 acres of green space. The preserves have a wide reach, improving the health of ecosystems and the people who recreate there, as well as housing Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) partner Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden on FPCC land.

Hear more about the multi-faceted partnership that Shedd has with FPCC and the long-lasting, positive impacts that work has made on wildlife and people, as well as what you can do to take action.

A Blue Spotted Salamander on an orange leaf..

Freshwater ConservationResearch

Shedd Research Biologist Dr. Melissa Youngquist studies the health and abundance of wetland species like amphibians in the forest preserves throughout the county. One area of focus is around Salt Creek in the western suburbs, including LaGrange Park Woods, Possum Hollow Woods and Salt Creek Woods Nature Preserve, where Shedd is helping to restore wetland habitat.

Local partners and volunteers led by Shedd conservationists work to restore ecosystems by eliminating invasive species like buckthorn. Dr. Youngquist then surveys the sites at different stages of restoration to see how the wetland species respond. This work helps land managers make informed decisions about the forest preserves for the benefit of local wildlife and communities.

Dr. Youngquist and an intern walk through a thicket of trees.

Student Education

Both high school and college students have joined Dr. Youngquist in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. In particular, for the past two years Shedd’s Learning Programs department has facilitated a special partnership with St. Laurence High School where students have explored biodiversity in restored versus non-restored study sites. The students look at vernal ponds, seasonal pools of freshwater that provide habitat for distinct plants and animals, and compare the plant and animal life they support.

Students learn to identify buckthorn and discuss how it is impacting the vernal pool spaces. They engage in macroinvertebrate surveys and explore the difference in diversity of species found in and around the pool sites. Students also look at wildlife camera images that Dr. Youngquist has collected and complete basic statistical analysis to compare diversity between the sites explored. 

A volunteer wearing a windbreaker and jeans crouches in a local wood to cut down an invasive tree with a hacksaw. In the background, another volunteer tends a brush fire.

Conservation Action

As part of FPCC’s Ecological Stewardship program, Shedd mobilizes volunteers to restore ponds and wetlands and to build a community of people committed to this ongoing environmental improvement. Shedd’s Conservation Action team works closely with Dr. Youngquist and the FPCC team to identify wetlands and other aquatic ecosystems to restore through volunteer workdays. But before the work begins, team members build relationships with local community and school groups to recruit volunteers and teach about the impact that volunteer invasive species removal has on these sites. 

Through Shedd Aquarium Action Days, people of all ages and backgrounds work together to do the restoration work, eliminating invasive plant species. Though buckthorn is the biggest culprit, the team also removes Asian honeysuckle, multiflora rose, garlic mustard, invasive grasses like common reed and reed canary grass, and other species.

The team also encourages native plant species to grow in key sites and has started a plant head start program with Shedd’s horticulture team. When out in the field, conservation action team members will collect seeds from native plants, bring them back to Shedd to begin growing and be nurtured by our expert horticulturists, then return the plants to the forest preserves for a better chance of survival.

Learn more about Action Days and sign up to join an upcoming event at

A Blanding's turtle is held by a member of Shedd's Animal Response Team.

Blanding’s Turtle Head Start Program

This year, Shedd established a new partnership with FPCC to help a state-endangered species of turtle, the Blanding’s turtle, have a better chance at survival. This partnership comes after a long-running head-start program launched by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County in 1996.

Shedd raised 11 turtles from baby hatchlings to one-year-old juveniles and reintroduced them to their natural habitat in July. These efforts ensure that the turtles make it through one of the most challenging stages of life and can sustain their population for the health of the wetland ecosystems.

As part of our mission, Shedd Aquarium is committed to advancing our understanding and protecting the aquatic world, here in Chicagoland and beyond. You play an important role in helping us to achieve this goal, for people, for communities and for animals. To take action, visit the Forest Preserves of Cook County fact page.