Research Agenda

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Forest Preserves of Cook County has long conducted field research and has well-established partnerships with academic research institutions. The Preserves’ nearly 69,000 acres of natural lands are home to some of the nation’s most biologically diverse flora and fauna, inspiring a wide array of scientists and students to better understand the natural world.


Each year our Resource Management staff issues more than 50 permits that allow researchers to conduct scientific studies on Forest Preserves land. Data from each project is shared with the Forest Preserves allowing us to leverage resources and enrich our understanding of the natural world. Many researchers from throughout the country use Forest Preserves data to inform their work and guide land management, benefiting people, plants and animals.


The Forest Preserve engages in research to accomplish the following goals:


1.) Improve land management practices to maximize biodiversity


2.) Understand the transmission of zoonotic diseases to protect public health, and enable additional research on the interaction between zoonotic diseases, flora and fauna.


3.) Expand understanding of climate change on local populations of plants and animals


4.) Compile raw data to create usable and accessible databases, facilitating further analysis and study


The District works with a wide range of academic research partners from throughout the region, including the Field Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo, Chicago Botanic Garden, the National Park Service ,Cornell University, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Tennessee, University of Notre Dame, Rutgers University, University of Oklahoma, University of California, Berkeley, Oregon State University and many others. The Forest Preserves also utilizes citizen scientists who participate in long-running frog, bird, dragonfly, and plant monitoring programs.


The Forest Preserves have done extensive research and data collection on zoonotic diseases, those diseases transmitted from animals to humans. Since 1988 the Preserves’ Wildlife Research Division has collected wildlife blood samples making us one of the oldest and largest contributors to the Center for Disease Control. Our data collection was particularly useful during the first outbreak of West Nile Virus and Lyme disease.


Mike Neri with coyote pupThe Cook County Coyote Project
The Forest Preserve’s Coyote Study, started in 2000, is the largest continuous study conducted on urban coyotes to date.  Coyotes have become a top predator in our urban ecosystem, and there is concern for public health and safety.  This study monitors disease dynamics within the coyote population, as well as any behavioral changes that may increase aggression or boldness in coyotes that have negative consequences.  Nearly 700 individual coyotes have been captured and tracked enabling us to discover that coyotes are able to navigate the urban environment quite well, and are providing ecological services that are not generally recognized by the public. The Cook County Coyote Project is conducted in partnership with The Ohio State University, Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation, and Cook County Animal and Rabies Control, among others.  To learn more visit


The Forest Preserve District continues to forge ahead with ambitious research projects such as the Overcoming Conservation Bottlenecks: A Study of Best Management Practices in Restoration.  This long-term study will evaluate the effectiveness of current management practices for restoring and conserving biodiversity in the region. The study will take a close look at soils that have been impacted by agricultural processes including tilling, fertilizing, and compaction, and examine methods to restore soils so they increase the likelihood that high quality plant populations can be established. This study will benefit many land management agencies and conservation organizations in our region and allow us to be more strategic in the allocation of restoration funding.


Looking for a Research Idea? Potential Questions and Topics:


  • What are the most effective new chemical treatments of various invasive species?
  • Does the full process of brush pile burning or chipping (trucks, chippers, etc.) produce more pollution?
  • Is there a correlation between the incidence of prescribed burns and the occurrence of oak wilt disease?
  • Is there an increase in insect diversity and plant interactions with prescribed burn practices?
  • How do soil biotic elements affect ecosystem management outcomes and health?
  • What are the biotic and edaphic factors that enhance a natural community’s resistance to invasive species?
  • What is the impact of genetically modifying and mixing native plant communities?


Call 708-771-1097 for more information or 708-771-1008 to apply for a research permit.


Browse a wide selection of peer-reviewed documents below.




Species-specific patterns of bat activity in an urban landscape.

Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Chelsvig, James E. Ecological Applications 14(2)2004. p.625-635


Bat activity in an urban landscape: Patterns at the landscape and microhabitat scale.

Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Chelsvig, James E. Ecological Applications 13(4)2003. p.939-950


Effects of recording media on echolocation data from broadband bat detectors.

White, Ethan P.; Gehrt, Stanley D. . Wildlife Society Bulletin 29(3)2001. p.974-978



Population Ecology of Free-Roaming Cats and Interference Competition by Coyotes in Urban Parks.

Gehrt, Stanley D.; Wilson, Evan C.; Brown, Justin L.; Anchor, Chris (2013) PLoS ONE 8(9): e75718. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075718

Coyote (Canis latrans)

Coyote (Canis latrans)

Is the urban coyote a misanthropic synanthrope?

The case from  Chicago Gehrt, Stanley D.; Brown, Justin L.; and Anchor, Chris (2011) “Is the Urban Coyote a Misanthropic Synanthrope? The Case from Chicago,” Cities and the Environment (CATE): Vol. 4: Iss. 1, Article 3.


Home range and landscape use of coyotes in a metropolitan landscape: conflict or coexistence?

Gehrt, Stanley D.; Anchor, Chris; White, Lynsey A. Journal of Mammalogy 90(5)2009. p.1045-1057


Ecology of coyotes in urban landscapes.

Gehrt, Stanley D Proceedings of the 12’~ Wildlife Damage Management Conference (D.L. Nolte, W.M. Arjo, D.H. Stalman, Eds). 2007


Spatial and temporal variation in the diet of coyotes in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Morey, Paul S.; Gese, Eric M.; Gehrt, Stanley. American Midland Naturalist 158(1)2007. p.147-161



The Structure and Seasonality of Baylisascaris Procyonis Populations in Raccoons (Procyon Lotor)

Page, L. Kristen; Delzell, Darcie A. P.; Gehrt, Stanley D.; Harrell, Elise D.; Hiben, Mark; Walter, Elizabeth; Anchor, Chris; Kazacos, Kevin R. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 52(2)2016. p.286-292


Pathogen dynamics and morbidity of striped skunks in the absence of rabies.

Gehrt, Stanley D.; Kinsel, Michael J.; Anchor, Chris. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 46(2)2010. p.335-347


Backyard raccoon latrines and risk for Baylisascaris procyonis transmission to humans.

Page, L. Kristen; Anchor, Chris; Luy, Ellen; Kron, Sarah; Larson, Grace; Madsen, Lauren; Kellner, Kenneth; Smyser, Timothy J. Emerging Infectious Diseases 15(9)2009. p.1530-1531


The relationship between Baylisascaris procyonis prevalence and raccoon population structure.

Page, L. Kristen; Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Cascione, Andrea; Kellner, Kenneth F. Journal of Parasitology 95(6)2009. p.1314-1320


Columbid herpesvirus-1 in two Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperii) with fatal inclusion body disease.

Pinkerton, Marie E.; Wellehan, James F. X., Jr.; Johnson, April J.; Childress, April L.; Fitzgerald, Scott D.; Kinsel, Michael J. . Journal of Wildlife Diseases 44(3)2008. p.622-628


Land-use effects on prevalence of raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis).

Page, L. Kristen; Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Robinson, Nathaniel P. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 44(3)2008. p.594-599


Lyme disease in urban areas, Chicago.

Jobe, Dean A.; Nelson, Jeffrey A.; Adam, Michael D.; Martin, Stephen A., Jr. Emerging Infectious Diseases 13(11)2007. p.1799-1800


Borrelia burgdorferi in Ixodes scapularis ticks, Chicago area.

Jobe, Dean A.; Lovrich, Steven D.; Nelson, Jeffrey A.; Velat, Tom C.; Anchor, Chris; Koeune, Tad; Martin, Stephen A., Jr. Emerging Infectious Diseases 12(6)2006. p.1039-1041


Measuring prevalence of raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis): a comparison of common techniques.

Page, L. Kristen; Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Robinson, Nathaniel P. Wildlife Society Bulletin 33(4)2005. p.1406-1412


Seasonal survival and cause-specific mortality of urban and rural striped skunks in the absence of rabies.

Gehrt, Stanley D. . Journal of Mammalogy 86(6)2005. p.1164-1170


Effective primary isolation of wild-type Canine distemper virus in MDCK, MV1 Lu and Vero cells without nucleotide sequence changes within the entire haemagglutinin protein gene and in subgenomic sections of the fusion and phospho protein genes.

Lednicky, John A.; Meehan, Thomas P.; Kinsel, Michael J.; Dubach, Jean ; Hungerford, Laura L.; Sarich, Nicolene A.; Witecki, Kelley E.; Braid, Michael D.; Pedrak, Casandra; Houde, Christiane M. Journal of Virological Methods 118(2)2004. p.147-157


Raccoon roundworm encephalitis– Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California 2000.

CDC – MMWR Weekly January 4, 2002/ 50(51);1153-5


High prevalence of antibodies to Neospora caninum in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

Dubey, J. P.; Hollis, K. ; Romand, S.; Thulliez, P.; Kwok, O. C. H.; Hungerford, L.; Anchor, C.; Etter, D. International Journal for Parasitology 29(10)1999. p.1709-1711


Genotypic and phenotypic characterization of Borrelia burgdorferi isolated from ticks and small animals in Illinois.

Picken, Roger N.; Cheng, Yu; Han, Dongmei; Nelson, Jeffrey A.; Reddy, A. Giridher; Hayden, Mary K.; Picken, Maria M.; Strle, Franc; Bouseman, John K.; Trenholme, Gordon M. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 33(9)1995. p.2304-2315

Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

Behavioral and genetic aspects of the raccoon mating system.

Hauver, Stephanie A.; Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Prange, Suzanne; Dubach, Jean. Journal of Mammalogy 91(3)2010. p.749-757


Maternal response to conspecific visits at natal dens in raccoons (Procyon lotor).

Hauver, Stephanie A.; Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Prange, Suzanne. American Midland Naturalist 163(2)2010. p.374-387


The influence of anthropogenic resources on multi-scale habitat selection by raccoons.

Bozek, Clare K.; Prange, Suzanne; Gehrt, Stanley D. . Urban Ecosystems 10(4)2007. p.413-425


Influences of anthropogenic resources on raccoon (Procyon lotor) movements and spatial distribution.

Prange, Suzanne; Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Wiggers, Ernie P. Journal of Mammalogy 85(3)2004. p.483-490


Demographic factors contributing to high raccoon densities in urban landscapes.

Prange, Suzanne; Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Wiggers, Ernie P. Journal of Wildlife Management 67(2)2003. p.324-333


Drug effects on recaptures of raccoons.

Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Hungerford, Laura L.; Hatten, Suzanne. Wildlife Society Bulletin 29(3)2001. p.833-837

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Behavior and survival of white-tailed deer neonates in two suburban forest preserves.

Piccolo, B. P.; Van Deelen, T. R.; Hollis-Etter, K.; Etter, D. R.; Warner, R. E.; Anchor, C. Canadian Journal of Zoology 88(5)2010. p.487-495


Survival and movements of white-tailed deer in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

Etter, Dwayne R.; Hollis, Karmen M.; Van Deelen, Timothy R.; Ludwig, Daniel R.; Chelsvig, James E.; Anchor, Chris L.; Warner, Richard E. Journal of Wildlife Management 66(2)2002. p.500-510


Sex affects age determination and wear of molariform teeth in white-tailed deer.

Van Deelen, Timothy R.; Hollis, Karmen M.; Anchor, Chris; Etter, Dwayne R. Journal of Wildlife Management 64(4)2000. p.1076-1083


Overabundant deer: Better management through research.

Etter, Dwayne R. Van Deelen, T. R.; Ludwig, Daniel R.; Hollis, Karmen M.; Warner, R. E.; Chelsvig, James E. Wildlife Damage Management Conference Proceedings Year 2000


Radio-telemetry and geographical information systems to assess urban deer zoonoses.

Karmen M.; Anchor, Chris L.; Chelsvig, James E.; Etter, Dwayne R.; Dubey, J. P.; Warner, R. E.; Hungerford, Laura L.  Wildlife Damage Management Conference Proceedings Year 2000


Variation of white-tailed deer home ranges in fragmented urban habitats around Chicago, Illinois (2000).

Piccolo, B. P.; Van Deelen, T. R.; Hollis, K.; Etter, D. R.; Warner, R. E.; Anchor, C. Wildlife Damage Management Conference Proceedings Year 2000



Movement of Hypophthalmichthys DNA in the Illinois River Watershed by the Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Guilfoyle, Michael P.; Farrington, Heather L.; Lance,Richard F.; Hanson-Dorr, Katie C.; Dorr, Brian S.; Fischer, Richard A. Waterbirds 40(1)2017. p.63-68


Linking Grassland and Early Successional Bird Territory Density to Predator Activity in Urban Parks

Thieme, Jennifer L.; Rodewald, Amanda D.; Brown, Justin; Anchor, Chris; Gehrt, Stanley D. Natural Areas Journal 35(4)2015. p.515-532


Response of skunks to a simulated increase in coyote activity.

Prange, Suzanne; Gehrt, Stanley D. Journal of Mammalogy 88(4)2007. p.1040-1049


Interference competition between coyotes and raccoons: a test of the mesopredator release hypothesis.

Gehrt, Stanley D.; Prange, Suzanne. Behavioral Ecology 18(1)2007. p.204-214


New radiocollars for the detection of proximity among individuals.

Prange, Suzanne; Jordan, Trevor; Hunter, Colin; Gehrt, Stanley D. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34(5)2006. p.1333-1344


Changes in mesopredator-community structure in response to urbanization.

Prange, Suzanne; Gehrt, Stanley D. Canadian Journal of Zoology 82(11)2004. p.1804-1817


Raccoons, coyotes, and reflections on the mesopredator release hypothesis.

Gehrt, Stanley D. ; Clark, William R. Wildlife Society Bulletin 31(3)2003. p.836-842


Scale effects between body size and limb design in quadrupedal mammals.

Kilbourne BM, Hoffman LC (2013)  PLoS ONE 8(11): e78392. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078392



Urban Carnivores: Ecology, Conflict, and Conservation. Stanley D. Gehrt, Seth P.D. Riley, Brian L. Cypher, ed. 2010. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Flora of the Chicago Region: A Floristic and Ecological Synthesis. Gerould Wilhelm, Laura Rericha, ed. 2017. Indianapolis, Indiana, USA: Indiana Academy of Science.

Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County