Ecological Stewardship volunteers help increase native biodiversity and protect threatened plant and wildlife habitat in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Volunteers learn about plants and animals, gain hands-on experience in ecological restoration and develop leadership skills.
On this page:
What Will I be Doing?
The ecological restoration work you’ll be doing depends on the season and the needs of the site. Some common tasks include:
- Removing weeds and invasive vegetation—often using hand saws, loppers or gardening tools
- Burning cut brush
- Collecting or spreading native seed
- Transplanting seedlings
- Collecting trash
Be prepared for variable weather, uneven terrain, standing and/or walking for two or more hours, working near a fire and hazardous insects and plants. All necessary tools, safety gear and instruction will be provided on-site.
What is Restoration?
Ecological restoration is the process of returning landscapes to health using scientific knowledge and recognized techniques to create an ecosystem filled with a diversity of native plants and animals.
Ecological Stewardship volunteers are an important part of the Forest Preserves’ restoration efforts.
Bringing Light to Amphibians
This video from our partners at Shedd Aquarium gives a good overview of the ecological restoration process and highlights some of the techniques volunteers use:
What Should I Wear/Bring?
Needs vary by season, but here’s a good place to start:
- Clothes that can get dirty:
- Multiple layers
- Non-synthetic materials (cotton, wool, etc.)
- Long pants and long socks
- Sturdy, closed-toe shoes
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, etc.)
- Water bottle
- Healthy snack
- Insect repellent
DO NOT Wear/Bring:
- Open-toe shoes
- New or synthetic clothes
Find an Opportunity
Ecological Stewardship Days are scheduled throughout Cook County on every weekend of the year. Many locations schedule Ecological Stewardship Days during the week too.
You can always reach out to the contact listed on an Ecological Stewardship Day opportunity to find out more about the site or what work will be done on a specific day.
Volunteers looking to become Ecological Stewardship leaders, or simply learn a new skill, can attend a variety of training classes provided by the Forest Preserves and/or partners:
- Brushcutter Training
- Brush Pile Burn Boss
- Chainsaw Safety
- First Aid/CPR
- Group Leadership
- Managing Invasives
- Practical Herbicide & Herbicider Test
- Prescription Burn
- Tree Health Monitor
Have you ever left an Ecological Stewardship Day feeling so inspired that you thought about playing a bigger role? We have the greatest need for:
- Apprentice Stewards
- Aspiring Stewardship Days Leaders
- Brush Pile Burn Bosses
Stewardship Day Resources & Forms
Find all waivers, supply forms and Stewardship Day resources: