two wildlife biologists banding egrets at Baker's Lake
Wildlife biologists band egrets at Baker's Lake.

The Forest Preserves of Cook County has long conducted field research and has well-established partnerships with academic research institutions. The Forest Preserves 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.

On this page:

Research Agenda

Each year The Forest Preserves’ Resource Management department 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:

  • Improve land management practices to maximize biodiversity.
  • Understand the transmission of zoonotic diseases to protect public health, and enable additional research on the interaction between zoonotic diseases, flora and fauna.
  • Expand understanding of climate change on local populations of plants and animals.
  • Compile raw data to create usable and accessible databases, facilitating further analysis and study

The Forest Preserves works with a wide range of academic research partners from throughout the region and beyond, including:

The Forest Preserves also recruits citizen scientists who participate in long-running frog, bird, dragonfly, and plant monitor programs.

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

a coyote pup waiting for its health work up as part of the Urban Coyote Research Project
A coyote pup waits for its health work up as part of the Urban Coyote Research Project.

Urban Coyote Research Project

Urban Coyote Research Project is a partnership between the Forest Preserves, Cook County Animal & Rabies Control, Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation and The Ohio State University.

The Cook County Coyote Project is a comprehensive study of coyotes in Chicago metropolitan areas. Also known as the Urban Coyote Research Program, the study was initiated in 2000 as a non-biased attempt to address shortcomings in urban coyote ecology information and management; the Coyote Project is still underway. With the help of many key agencies, a continuous subset of coyotes is live-captured, collared, and released at their capture site. Coyotes are monitored to understand how they live in urban areas and how they interact with other wildlife, domestic animals, and humans. 

Urban Coyote Research Project Website

In addition to giving researchers and the public a window into the lives of coyotes in Cook County, the project has provided training and support for multiple young researchers, including postdocs and graduate students.

Research Ideas

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?

Research Access Permit

Unless otherwise under contract with the Forest Preserves, all research investigations on Forest Preserve property require a Research Access Permit. Research investigations include any monitoring, collecting, testing, study, observation, investigation or other related activity, that benefit the Forest Preserves, public education or the community.

If these stipulations do not apply, or if the proposed activity includes the installation, repair or maintenance of roads, facilities, or structures, a Construction Access Permit will be required. The Research Permit has a maximum term of one year with five additional one year extensions as approved by the Forest Preserves.


Rebecca Collings
Department of Resource Management

Peer Reviewed Publications






White-tailed Deer


  • 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.
  • Rothrock, P. E. (2021). Sedges of Indiana and the Adjacent States: The Carex Species (Vol. II). Indiana Academy of Science.