More than 3,500 plant and animal species, and 36 million people, call the many habitats of the Great Lakes region home. The habitats include lakes, rivers, wetlands, dunes, prairies and forests, some of which need help with restoration and conservation. Shedd Aquarium, a global leader in aquatic animal health and medicine, recognized that need and launched a program called Great Lakes Action Days (GLAD).
Some of the GLAD activities include habitat and wildlife watching, and invasive plant removal. Recently, the GLAD program expanded upon a partnership between Shedd Aquarium and the Forest Preserves of Cook County to include amphibian habitat restoration.
For the past five years, Shedd has been working with the Forest Preserves of Cook County by adopting Black Partridge Woods as their student intern program site. Recently, Shedd Aquarium staff began the Forest Preserves Path to Stewardship trainings, enabling them to become certified to lead public workdays to help improve the amphibian habitat at three different sites across Cook County.
Volunteers participating in Amphibian Great Lake Actions Days will focus on improving the local amphibian habitats by removing buckthorn and other invasive species around creeks and ephemeral ponds, which are ponds that are wet in spring and summer and usually dry by fall or winter.
“They (the ponds) are really rich mini ecosystems in and of themselves because they’re productive in a lot of nutrients; they’re shallow, they tend to be warmer, and if they get enough sunlight in them, then a lot of plants and algae are growing in them,” explained Karen Glennmeier, amphibian specialist with Shedd Aquarium. “When the ponds are healthy, they are providing a lot of food and resources for amphibians.”
Additional work by the Amphibian GLAD volunteers will include amphibian and water quality monitoring, as well as vegetation surveys to monitor change over time and the reestablishment of native plants.
“Through this partnership, Shedd is helping the Forest Preserves of Cook County reach new audiences and volunteers, and engage them in taking care of our forest preserves,” said Raquel García-Álvarez, stewardship program coordinator with the Forest Preserves. The collaboration is included in Shedd’s Amphibians exhibit, which opened at the aquarium in May 2015.
Amphibians introduces visitors to more than 40 species of frogs, salamanders and rarely seen caecilians. Visitors will learn about the vastly different types of habitats in which the amphibians live, as well as provides the visitors with audio and hands-on experiences that focus on three themes: amphibians’ changing bodies, how they evolved to survive, and how they are facing challenges in today’s world. Visitors will be surprised to learn that some of the featured amphibians are native to the Chicagoland area.
Be sure to head to Shedd Aquarium to check out the Amphibians exhibit, on display now through 2017, and learn more about participating in Amphibian Great Lake Action Days. Visit our Volunteer Page for more information on other opportunities in the Forest Preserves.
Featured photo: Golden Mantella Frog provided by Shedd Aquarium