Conservation work from Shedd Aquarium restores Chicago area wetlands, native species

ByZach Ben-Amots WLS logo
Monday, July 19, 2021
An Ocean on the Lake: Shedd Aquarium in the Wild, Part One
An Ocean on the Lake: Shedd Aquarium in the Wild, Part OneHow does Shedd research help animals thrive in the wild? This episode highlights Shedd conservation work in Chicago's neighboring forest preserves with native reptiles and amphibia

Cook County, Ill. (WLS) -- Conservation work at Shedd Aquarium happens both within and outside of the walls of its 10-acre campus. While some of that work takes Shedd staff as far as the Great Barrier Reef and other far away parts of the world, much of the conservation happens in the local Chicago area.

"These wetlands are sort of biodiversity hotspots in our own backyards," said field biologist Melissa Youngquist, whose works in the Cook County Forest Preserves. "And so it's really important that we preserve these... natural wonders."

In the wetlands that surround Chicago, native species have been forced to adapt to a man-made environment. Youngquist is focused on monitoring the health of amphibians and reptiles in the regional forest preserves.

Beyond monitoring, Shedd is also home to several headstarting programs to rebuild animal populations for threatened species. The Forest Preserves of DuPage County are currently rebuilding Illinois's state-endangered Blanding's turtles population, through headstart programs at Shedd and other area zoos.

"I grew up in the Chicago area. I grew up with the DuPage river in my back yard," said senior veterinarian Dr. Matt O'Connor, who is part of the Blanding's turtle headstart program. "So it's amazing to kind of give back to the community and help raise some of these turtles."

This is only Part 1 of the Shedd in the Wild episodes; Part 2 will take viewers into the Chicago river to look at local fish species.

'Shedd In The Wild' is episode four of of 'An Ocean On The Lake,' the multi-part behind-the-scenes series from ABC 7 Chicago and Shedd Aquarium. This segment looks into the local conservation work that researchers and veterinarians do to revive native species and support entire ecosystems. Find every episode on our homepage for "An Ocean On The Lake," or watch on our ABC 7 Chicago connected TV App.