There are several digital resources available for people who want to connect with others and learn more about the natural world. Whether you are a student considering a career in restoration, an avid birder or volunteer looking to share your sightings with the wider community, a teacher looking for classroom resources, or a natural areas professional trying to ensure you have the proper permits for your work, this list is for you. Developed as a starting place, this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the resources available, nor an endorsement of any one website.
There are field guides and databases available online for free to grow your knowledge of the natural world. Below are just a few of the more popular field resources that are commonly used by both novice volunteers and expert professionals.
Illinois Endangered Species List
The Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board (Board) reviews and revises the Illinois List of Endangered and Threatened Species (Illinois List) as warranted and no less often than every five years. The Board completed its most recent review in 2014 and the following checklist includes all species designated as endangered or threatened by the Board from that review. Species are listed by taxonomic group and alphabetically by scientific name.
The Field Museum Rapid Color Guides
This website allows you to download a variety of color field guides to help with identification of a variety of native species and wildlife. You will also find a template and instructions to make your own color field guide.
An online community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing their observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures.
A website that gives community scientists an opportunity to share and discuss their findings with other community scientists. "We share your findings with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data. All you have to do is observe."
A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds.
A guide to the singing insects of the Chicago region, singing insects are defined here as the cicadas, crickets, katydids, and members of two grasshopper subfamilies with sound displays that people can hear.
The Stewardship Network Webcasts
The Stewardship Network presents monthly webcasts from noon to 1 p.m. EST on the second Wednesday of each month, covering a variety of conservation and land management topics.
Universal Floristic Quality Assessment Calculator
This web-based tool calculates site inventory and transect Floristic Quality Assessments (FQAs). FQA databases published for a number of geographic regions have already been imported into the website and users can import and customize other FQA databases as needed.
Eastern Illinois University Native Seed Guide
An online resource for photos of native plants in flower and setting seed, this website provides digital images of seeds, seedlings, and fruits for selected tallgrass prairie species.
An online resource for current herbicide labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).
In addition to field guides and data tracking tools for monitors, there are a variety of blogs that explore and discuss the natural world and how we relate to it.
An online community of stewards, monitors, advocates, educators, Chicago Wilderness members, volunteers, and staff, all working together to promote and protect the prairies, woodlands, wetlands, wild yards, and natural parks of northeast Illinois, northwest Indiana, and southeast Wisconsin.
A weekly blog kept by The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Science in Nebraska Chris Helzer. This blog offers conservation information, photos, photo techniques, and stories about what is happening in our natural world.
The Center for Humans and Nature partners with some of the brightest minds to explore humans and nature relationships. We bring philosophers, ecologists, artists, political scientists, anthropologists, poets and economists, among others, to think creatively about how people can make better decisions – in relationship with each other and the whole community of life.
ChicagoNatureNow! Is a webpage that offers a map of Chicago's natural areas and events. The website offers a free subscription and information on what is happening in Chicago nature and featured preserves.
Strategies for Stewards: from Woods to Prairies Blog
A blog by Stephen Packard dedicated to the exchange of information on eco-restoration in tallgrass savanna, prairie, woods and wetlands, inviting input from all, especially people participating in this newborn discipline of ecosystem healing.
There are many ways for people to connect with nature in the communities where they live. Listed below are some examples of community organizations that are committed to spending time in and caring for the great outdoors. This is by no means a comprehensive listing of groups, but can be a great starting point to what may be offered in your community!
AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country.
This innovative Council spans two states, serves more than 26,000 youth members, and includes 9,000 volunteers, seven camp properties, and four Service Centers! While Pathway to Adventure Council is new in name, it is rooted in over 100 years of distinguished history, talent and culture.
Environmentalists of Color is an interdisciplinary network of leaders who are passionate about the environment and promoting diversity in the environmental sustainability.
Faith in Place inspires faithful people to care for the Earth through our four program areas: Energy & Climate Change, Sustainable Food & Land Use, Water Preservation, and Advocacy.
We're a global movement that thinks big and acts locally. Our programs and experiences are designed to help every girl discover her sparkle. How cool is that?
We're on a mission to engage, mobilize and inspire kids and their families to strengthen Chicago's communities through public service. Since 2011, more than 6,500 volunteers have shared their time, talents and boundless enthusiasm with Honeycomb.
The Illinois Native Plant Society focuses on promoting the study and appreciation of Illinois' natural vegetation and providing educational resources for all those that wish to learn or share in their enthusiasm.
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
LVJEO strives to organize with their community to accomplish environmental justice in Little Village and achieve the self-determination of immigrant, low-income, and working-class families.
Outdoor Afro has become the nation's leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature. They help people take better care of themselves, their communities, and their planet!
The Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab is a Chicago based, non-profit organization dedicated to sustainability and environmental service learning, youth driven social philanthropy and connecting our youth to nature and indigenous cultures.
South East Environmental Task Force
The South East Environmental Task Force seeks to inform and educate all members of the southeast Chicagoland community, including residents, businesses, and leaders, in areas related to the improvement of their neighborhood’s environment. They strive for sustainable development of residential facilities, environmentally friendly and green business practices, and preservation of natural areas that improve the quality of life in the Calumet region.
Student Conservation Association
The SCA is an organization that offers both paid and volunteer conservation opportunities across the nation. Every year they deploy motivated workers and volunteers to parks and public lands and urban green spaces to make improvements and learn conservation and sustainability practices.
Touch of Nature Environmental Center
Touch of Nature Environmental Center is Southern Illinois University’s outdoor education and recreation center serving SIU, the region and the nation as an outdoor laboratory for experiential learning, a field site for research, and a provider of therapeutic recreation, environmental education, adventure education, personal and interpersonal growth experiences and facilities services.
Wild Ones continues to lead the natural landscaping movement as they explore, teach, and change the practice of gardening in their communities and around the country to using native plants.
Permits and Policies
Whether you are a volunteer or a natural areas professional, it’s important to make sure you are following the proper policies and guidelines in order to maintain the integrity of the site you are working on. These links will provide you with important information to help you properly manage your natural area.
Illinois Nature Preserves Stewardship Program Guidelines
The Stewardship Programs are designed to help restore and maintain the natural resources found within the Illinois Nature Preserves, Illinois Registered Land and Water Reserves, Illinois Natural Heritage Landmarks and other natural areas within the State of Illinois for now and the future.
Illinois Nature Preserves Invasive Species Management Guidelines
Conservation Career Resources
Navigating a new career path can feel confusing at times, so we've collected some resources to help make your career planning a little less stressful. From schools that offer environmental-related careers to tips on starting your career, these resources are meant to help you navigate your journey into the natural resources and environmental field.
Interactive Map of Universities and Colleges in Illinois with Environmental Programs
This link will take you to an interactive map that shows all the universities and colleges in Illinois that offer programs in Environmental Studies and related fields. Note: This Link will not allow you to access the hyperlinks in the college descriptions. This can be accessed by clicking "Open in My Maps", which is located at the top of the list on the left side of the map. If you don’t see this option, you can still copy and paste the links in order to access each college’s web page.
5 Things You Can Do to Jumpstart Your Environmental Career
Chicagoland Environmental Network
The Chicagoland Environmental Network is a resource for anyone in the greater Chicago area interested in nature or conservation-related activities in northeastern Illinois and surrounding areas. CEN organizations are involved in important work, including habitat restoration; wetland, prairie, and watershed projects; urban gardening; energy conservation; composting, wildlife conservation; and recycling.
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Job Board
Texas A&M University compiled this database of current job listings in conservation and related fields throughout the United States.
An official United States Government website designed to help you find and apply for government jobs throughout the nation. This website allows you to create a free profile in which you can create or upload resumes, and apply for jobs.
This is your starting place for learning more about and finding great volunteer opportunities around the globe—whether you're looking to get involved in your own neighborhood or thousands of miles (or kilometers) away. Along with global volunteer opportunities, Idealist has listings for both jobs and internships as well.
Associated Colleges of Illinois
ACI is a collaboration of 22 private, nonprofit, residential colleges and universities. The organization works with business and community leaders to help first-generation, minority and low-income students succeed, and it works to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of independent higher education.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is a helpful resource for those looking for any job. This guidebook includes information such as average salary, job growth percentage, descriptions, and requirements for any particular job.
Environmental Education Resources and Programs
There are many resources available that provide educators with environmental education materials and support. Listed below is just a sample of a few programs.
North American Association of Environmental Education
eePRO is an online community to connect environmental education (EE) professionals around the world. Anyone can join eePRO, and by joining, you gain access to job opportunities, webinars, online courses, discussion forums, and many more resources, and you can share your own news and content with others.
The Children & Nature Network is leading the movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership.
Nature is the fantastic factory that makes the building blocks of all our lives—food, drinking water, the stuff we own, and the air we breathe. Nature Works Everywhere provides teachers, students and families everything they need to start exploring and understanding nature around the globe alongside Nature Conservancy scientists—interactive games, and interactive lesson plans that align to standards and can be customized for each classroom.
Mighty Acorns is an environmental education program that connects students to multiple, meaningful and sustained interactions with their local ecosystems in the Chicago Wilderness region. The program is designed for 3rd-5th grade students.
The Center for Conservation Leadership Certificate Program
This year-long program is targeted to students completing 8th and 9th grades in the current school year who love being outside, exploring the natural world and becoming stewards of the environment.