Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated. Once funding has been reestablished, online operations will continue. On-going operational updates will be posted here (https://www.fs.fed.us/shutdown) as we are able to provide them.


Ecological Monitoring

Various species volunteers monitor


Ecological monitors are trained to survey various species and habitats throughout restored and remnant habitats at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.  The data collected by volunteers is used to evaluate management needs and effectiveness, resulting in better ecological management practices.  Multi-year commitments are best for these positions since field experience is best acquired over time.  Some programs accommodate independent schedules (bird, frog, butterfly) while others take place on scheduled dates with a team of volunteers.  Ecological monitors help directly with part one of our mission to conserve, restore and enhance the native populations and habitats of fish, wildlife and plants.


Bird monitors will record all bird species they recognize by sight or song.  Designated areas will be assigned and monitors will be asked to survey the area 3-5 times over the breeding season (May - July).


Butterfly monitors will record all butterfly species they recognize along their route.  Monitors are required to survey their area 6 times during the butterfly monitoring season (June 1 - August 7) and within weather parameters. 


Frog monitors will record all frog species they recognize by their distinctive mating calls.    Designated wetland sites will be assigned and monitors will be asked to survey the site, at minimum, 3-5 times during the mating season (March - July) and within weather parameters. 


RiverWatch is a state-wide monitoring program in Illinois that trains volunteers to collect high quality data and stream insects (macroinvertebrates).  Macroinvertebrates have different tolerances to water pollution and can help determine a stream's quality.  A designated stream site (200-foot stretch) on Midewin will be assigned to a team of volunteers to survey once a year (May 1 - June 30).  Additional time is required to identify the insects in Midewin's lab. 


Water quality monitors work as a team to collect data such as stream velocity measurements, water height measurements, measuring in-stream water quality parameters including temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and turbidity.  Additional parameters may include conductivity, nitrate and phosphorus.  Dates are scheduled twice per month, one weekday and one Saturday, during the season (April - October). 


Plants of Concern (POC) engages volunteer teams to monitor the Chicago Wilderness region's rarest plants, assess trends in their populations, and provide important data used to conserve our rapidly declining floral heritage.  Plants of Concern is coordinated by the Chicago Botanic Garden, having strong partnerships with local, state, federal and non-profit agencies.  POC monitoring dates are scheduled multiple times a week, currently weekdays, during the season (May, June, August, September). 


Floristic quality monitors work as a team to identify native and non-native plant species present in each of Midewin’s restoration areas and compile a species list.  Each native species is associated with a floristic quality index value and these calculations can be compared to a high quality remnant.  A staff member or experienced volunteer will lead the monitoring team and assist with or confirm identification.  Monitoring dates are scheduled for most of July on every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (weather permitting). 

Additional resources can be found at the following links: Class notes/homework assignments and botany class extras (articles on fun related topics/events).

Key Contacts


Allison Cisneros

Volunteer Coordinator

(815) 423-2149

Kathryn Gorman

Assistant Volunteer Coordinator

(815) 423-2148