Volunteer Wildlife Monitors contribute to ongoing scientific field studies by collecting data that document species population distribution and trends. Volunteers record their wildlife observations by sight and sound to help our wildlife biologist study populations. Opportunities are available for both new and experienced observers. The data is collected according to standardized scientific protocol and is used to gain a long-term picture of ecologist health that will help land managers assess the effectiveness of restoration efforts.

A research permit is required for all wildlife monitoring that occurs on District properties including partner agencies.

Must be 18 or older and a registered volunteer of the District. Volunteers must be responsible, reliable, and physically capable of carrying out the duties of the position. Hiking and fieldwork are essential to all wildlife monitoring, so monitors should be able to hike their assigned routes off trail, often through unmowed and uneven terrain. New volunteers must attend a training workshop and commit to monitoring an entire season, and report results to the sponsoring agency. 

TIME COMMITMENT/SCHEDULE: Days of the week and times are flexible. The total number of hours required depends on the chosen monitoring opportunity. Data reports must be reported to the sponsoring agency at the end of each monitoring season.

For more information, contact the Volunteer Coordinator at (815) 338-6223 or

Bluebird Monitors

No experience necessary to become a bluebird monitor. Volunteers monitor bluebird trails and nesting boxes at conservation areas located throughout the county to collect data on population trends.

Beginning in late spring, monitors maintain and clean bluebird boxes, if necessary. From April through August, monitors walk their designated trail every 1-2 weeks to record the bird species nesting in each box and how many eggs or young are present. The trail length and terrain varies from site to site. There are a limited number of trials available. Monitor may work individually or in small groups. Boxes are located off trail, so walking through thick vegetation and uneven terrain is required.

Butterfly Monitors

No experience is necessary to become a butterfly monitor. Volunteers record any butterflies observed along a pre-defined route at least once per month. Monitors may work individually or in small groups, and off-trail hiking through thick vegetation may be necessary. The monitoring commitment includes: conducting at least 6 site visits between May – September; spending 1 to 2 hours walking the route per visit; submit data at the end of the season.

Grassland Bird Monitors

We are looking for individuals with a moderate to advanced knowledge of bird ID to help our wildlife biologist monitor priority grassland bird species once per month between May – August. Volunteers must be able to confidently identify or learn 10-15 grassland bird species by sight and sound. Multiple sites are available throughout the county, and off-trail hiking through thick vegetation may be necessary. 

Frogs Monitors
The frog monitor program is conducted in collaboration with the regional Frog Calling Survey initiative led by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Monitors attend an orientation and learn the 13 species frog calls in order to listen for them March through July (surveys begin 30 min before sunset) at specific points along existing District trails. To participate, they must be a registered District volunteer and complete an orientation with the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.  The data volunteers collect help in understanding the long-term trends in the breeding distributions of local frog species and their response to habitat restoration and land management.

Partner Organizations

Our partner organizations provide additional wildlife monitoring opportunities, often using the data for regional or state-level population trends. Monitoring for an outside agency is only allowed on sites that are open to the public. A research permit is required for any off-trail wildlife monitoring occurring on District sites, even if it is being done through a partner agency.

If collecting data for a partner agency on District sites, we ask that you please provide a copy to the District wildlife biologist for our records. Although we may not have an active citizen science project, this long-term data is useful for assessing population trends and informing our land management decisions.

I-Pollinate is a citizen science research initiative through the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign designed to collect state-wide pollinator data on monarch egg and caterpillar abundance, pollinator visitation to ornamental flowers, and bee demographics.

The Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network (IBMN)
IBMN monitors collect data about butterfly populations and offers spring training workshops. For additional information, visit

Bird Conservation Network (BCN)
BCN is a coalition of bird-focused organizations, including Audubon, that share an interest in the conservation of birds and their habit. BCN invites experienced birders with a minimum three years of experience and the ability to recognize Illinois birds by sight and sound to monitor birds. To learn more about BCN, visit

Illinois Odonate Survey (IOS)
IOS volunteers monitor dragonfly and damselfly populations and report their data at the end of each season. To learn more, visit or contact Gareth Blakesley, Survey Director at