Volunteer Monitors

A female ruby meadowhawk dragonfly at Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve

The Forest Preserves recruits volunteer citizen scientists to participate in long-running plant and animal monitoring programs.

On this page:

Bird Conservation Network

The Bird Conservation Network (BCN) works to raise awareness of the conservation needs of birds throughout our region by educating the public and working with policy makers and landowners to improve bird habitat. The BCN Survey is an ongoing, year-round monitoring of bird populations intended to inform conservation and restoration efforts.  Volunteer monitors work independently using professional designed protocols; point counts and transect counts.  Volunteers should be able to recognize most birds by sight and sound. Results are reported to the eBird database.

Calling Frog Survey

The Calling Frog Survey monitors frog and toad populations in northern Illinois and northwest Indiana. Volunteers are trained to listen to the breeding calls of 13 local species and monitor three specific time periods in the spring. Our goal is to establish survey routes throughout the region, resulting in amphibian abundance and distribution data. The CFS provides valuable information to scientists, researchers, and land managers.

Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network

The Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network is a diverse group of volunteers who identify and count butterflies on more than 3,000 routes on sites in Illinois. Volunteers collect data that are valuable to scientists, researchers and land managers in evaluating how restoration practices and other changes affect butterfly populations.

Illinois Odonate Survey

Volunteers monitor dragonfly and damselfly populations at public and private sites in the tri-state area. The data is shared with local naturalists and landowners.

Plants of Concern

The Plants of Concern  trains volunteers to monitor populations of rare plants that are threatened or endangered in Illinois and is administered by staff and volunteers of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Information about habitat quality and disturbance levels helps reveal the factors that influence rare plant populations.


BeeSpotter is a partnership between citizen-scientists and the professional science community designed to educate the public about pollinators by engaging them in a data collection efforts. It is a web-based portal at the University of Illinois for learning about honey bees and bumble bees and for contributing data to a statewide effort for baseline information on population status of these insects. The best way to get involved is to get out there with your camera and capture some good pictures of bees! In order to get your bee pictures on our website, create an account and then add your bee spotting.


Mission: Project BudBurst is on a mission – to get you outside taking a moment to observe how plants in your community change with the seasons. When you share your observations with us, they become part of an ecological record. Spending time outside with plants is calming, educational, and just plain fun.
Project BudBurst participants make careful observations of the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting phases of plants (plant phenophases) throughout the year. Spring, summer, fall, and winter phases are all valuable. We have two protocols, Single Reports and Regular Reports that you can follow to record your observations. Scientists and educators can use the data to learn more about how plant species respond to changes in climate locally, regionally, and nationally.

Chicago EcoFlora Project

Now more than ever we need to understand urban flora—both native and invasive species. The Chicago EcoFlora project is collecting observations of plants in Cook County, Illinois to learn more about local plant life and contribute to conservation planning. With your help, we will collect data on the important native species and troublesome new invaders that call our city home. 

This project will inform Chicago Park District, the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and other land managers about native plants that need protection and invasive species that need control. Each month we will post an EcoQuest, where we ask you to find and report particular species of interest.

Project Squirrel

Join Project Squirrel, a citizen science program for all ages. Participation only takes a few minutes, simply log on to tell us about the squirrels in your neighborhood. Join people all across Chicagoland as we learn more about the ecology of our neighborhoods through the eyes of squirrels.

Singing Insects Monitoring Program

Volunteers will learn to listen for songs of katydids, crickets, cicadas, and grasshoppers in northern Illinois. Volunteers will collect data for 12 common species and depending on their location, additional species whose ranges are being researched. Ability to hear or record the high-frequency songs of certain species is important to success. Volunteers will report data through singinginsects.net.