Zoo Site Habitat and Landscape
- Documented the presence of 226 native wildlife species on Zoo site: 136 bird, 18 mammal, 4 amphibian, 4 reptile, 48 butterfly, and 16 dragonfly species.
- Documented the on-site presence of the northern long-eared bat, which is has been proposed for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species List. The bat’s presence was reported to MNDNR.
- Created a website (http://mnzoo.org/conservation/zoo/biodiscovery-project/) that highlights some of the animals found on Zoo site and provides tips for discovering native wildlife.
- Directly engaged more than 3,800 people in discovering Minnesota’s native wildlife through programs at the Zoo, Google Hangout (online), and the project’s Facebook group.
- In collaboration with researchers at the University of Minnesota, collected biological samples from 276 amphibians on Zoo site and tested them for chytrid fungus and ranavirus (potential threats). Results are being analyzed and will form the basis of a scientific manuscript.
Biodiversity Project Measureable Outcomes
- Pilot wildlife surveys took place from June to October 2013. Methods used included bird surveys, bird mist netting, insect hand netting, small mammal live trapping, trail cameras, and visual encounter surveys. Monitoring continues on an on-going basis.
- Project participants have included Zoo volunteers, area college students, boy scout troops, young professional associations, and more. In January 2014, the first public education program will take place.
- Public awareness of the program has included five presentations, including a Google+ hangout in partnership with Zoo Atlanta as well as presentations at the Minnesota School of Environmental Studies. Social media pages for the BioDiscovery Project have been launched.
Prairie Restoration Measurable Outcomes
- The Zoo prairie was successfully developed in 2013. Featured plants included: black-eyed Susan, long-headed coneflower, pale purple coneflower, prairie phlox, spiderwort, prairie smoke, lobelia, pussy toes, fragrant giant hyssop, prairie onion, rattlesnake master, wild bergamot, white prairie clover, purple prairie clover, stiff tickseed, showy penstamon, hoary vervain, blue grama, side-oats grama, prairie June grass, wild Canada rye, and prairie dropseed.
- In 2013, the Zoo placed graphics adjacent to areas where the visitors congregate as they approach the entrance. Visitors and zoo education program participants frequently visited the project by stopping to read the information. The signs discuss prairie ecology, certain species of plants and animals in the prairie, the status of today's prairie in Minnesota and the Midwest compared to their historical range, as well as discuss modern prairie conservation and the agencies/NGOs that are most active in this work.
- Over 169 hours of volunteer time were contributed to the project in 2013. Presentations were given in the field and classroom to the Minnesota Master Naturalist: Prairies and Potholes course, School of Environmental Studies, Great River Chapter of the American Society of Botanical Arts, Zoo staff, and Zoo Board of Directors. Two classes from the School of Environmental Studies helped seed prairie grasses and plugs in the fall. Seeds were collected from blooming plants and are currently being grown in the greenhouse in preparation for planting in 2014.
The Minnesota Zoo’s site – 485 acres of land in Dakota county – is a state treasure that includes a diverse array of habitants including vernal pools, sedge meadows, oak woodlands, and northern rich fens. More than half of this is undeveloped wildlife habitat which, thanks to Legacy funding, is now being explored by zoo staff and guests in order to educate citizens about the wild animals and wild places native to our state and the importance of caring for and conserving these resources.
This project surveyed and studied the native biodiversity found on the Minnesota Zoo’s undeveloped lands, with help from numerous volunteers, interns, researchers and public participants. The project interacted with the public through the Zoo’s “Be the Biologist” and “Meet a Wildlife Biologist” programs by introducing people to Minnesota’s wildlife and teaching them how to discover biodiversity in their own neighborhoods. Using the Zoo’s website and social media outlets, the BioDiscovery Project shared its discoveries with the public, and provided tools to help Minnesotans discover and learn about local wildlife species.
Tallgrass prairie once stretched from Oklahoma to the Red River Valley. Today in Minnesota, less than one tenth of one percent of the original prairie is left. Tallgrass prairie is the only functionally extinct ecosystem on the continent. These grasslands that wildlife depends on provide both habitat as well as a number of ecosystem services. This ecosystem has the potential to remove and store tons of carbon dioxide per acre per year, mitigating climate change. Grasslands also store water, reducing erosion and downstream flooding. The wildflowers in these areas provide habitat for a diversity of pollinators that can pollinate nearby agricultural lands.
The goal of this project is to rehabilitate the mown, dysfunctional parking lot berms at the Zoo site to represent one of the three biomes that covered pre-settlement Minnesota; encourage Zoo guests to interact with the Prairie; and educate visitors about this unique ecosystem.
Program at a Glance:
Zoo Site Habitat and Landscape
• BioDiscovery Project
• Prairie Restoration