Franklin Park's Scarboro Pond

Franklin Park Biodiversity Project

As an organization committed to conservation, we want to educate and inspire people of all ages that we all play a role in healthy ecosystems. And, this starts right in our own backyard.

-Dr. Eric Baitchman, Vice President of Animal Health and Conservation

Long considered the crown jewel in Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, Franklin Park is a 527-acre oasis right in the center of Boston. With rocky outcroppings, woodlands, expansive pastoral vistas and small wetland areas, the park is home to a wide array of flora and fauna.

Under the leadership of Dr. Eric Baitchman, Zoo New England Director of Animal Health and Conservation Medicine, staff from Zoo New England and Grassroots Wildlife Conservation have conducted seasonal surveys to record observations of wildlife within the “Wilderness” section of the park, outside of Franklin Park Zoo’s gates. Each survey, or bio-blitz, is conducted over nine days during which time staff catalogues observations of mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, plants, and even fungi. In total, over 300 species have been identified thus far.

How to join the Project using the iNaturalist app

Download the iNaturalist app to explore the team's findings and share your own wildlife observations!

Step 1. Download the iNaturalist app and create an account.

Download the app (easiest): Android App (Google Play) iOS App (iTunes), or use iNaturalist online.
iNaturalist "Getting Started" Guide

Step 2: Join the Project.

Join the Biodiversity Project

Step 3: Start observing! Take and upload your photos in the app to share with the community.

Step 4: Check back for activity on your observation from the community.

Through the use of camera traps, the team was able to capture photos of animals (pictured here) that would otherwise not be encountered during the day. In the future, cameras will be used to monitor habitat niches and to observe how natural resources like tree holes, rock formations and water sources are used by wildlife.

While a multitude of species have been recorded, the team also discovered that invasive plants, particularly knotweed, are causing detrimental effects to wetlands and areas that support vernal pools. Observations made through the Biodiversity Project will help inform plans to remove invasive species and restore or replace native plants.

Recording Bat Calls to Fight Extinction

Late last year, Zoo New England was awarded a Scientific Product Grant from Wildlife Acoustics Inc., which will provide EchoMeter Touch bat detectors, recorder and analyzer systems for staff and volunteers to collect and analyze bat vocalizations within the park using their smart phones. The Echo Meter Touch allows bat echolocation calls to be viewed on a spectrogram and tagged with bats’ exact locations using GPS. Zoo New England was one of five grant recipients from a pool of 80 applicants covering 25 countries and six continents. 

With over 1,200 species, bats make up one fifth of the earth’s mammals. They are also among the most endangered of the world's creatures, primarily due to habitat loss and further threatened by a fungal disease devastating many bat colonies in North America. Often considered a “keystone species,” bats play a critical role in the ecosystem in terms of insect control, plant pollination, seed dissemination and fertilization. Their loss would have serious consequences for the ecosystems to which they belong and health ramifications for humans as well. A single little brown bat, the most common bat species in the U.S., can eat up to thousands of insects in one night, providing protection against mosquito-borne illnesses and potential crop pests.

Through the Franklin Park Biodiversity Project, Zoo New England will play an important role in monitoring native species and developing better understanding of how they can coexist in an urban landscape, as well as encouraging collaboration of the local community and inspiring future conservationists. As the project continues to evolve, Zoo New England will work with community partners as well as develop citizen science opportunities for people of all ages to get involved, learn how to observe and record wildlife as well as preserve local habitats.

“As an organization committed to conservation, we want to educate and inspire people of all ages that we all play a role in healthy ecosystems. And, this starts right in our own backyard,” said Dr. Baitchman.