Community Science

Community Science

Community science is the term used to describe research projects conducted in collaboration by the general public and researchers to answer real-world questions. UHZ runs several community science programs that you can get involved with.

All you have to do is pick one that looks interesting to you and sign up with our conservation team! Check out what we have going on for 2022:

Boreal Toad Surveys
Jordan River Restoration
Wasatch Wildlife Watch
Monarchs and Milkweeds
Caterpillars Count
FrogWatch USA
Christmas Bird Count
Other Projects in the Salt Lake Area

Please reach out to our biologist Kayleigh ([email protected]) if you have a group (wildlife club, hiking club, book club etc) that would be interested in conducting some community science in the area and we can work together to find some projects that suit you!

All events are subject to change with the developing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

We are following updates from the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Salt Lake County Health Department, and other federal, state and local authorities to protect our community and reduce the spread of the virus.

Boreal Toad Surveys

Utah’s Hogle Zoo has been conducting boreal toad surveys for almost a decade now. Working in close partnership with Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, sites across the state of Utah are monitored for boreal toad. This is no small feat and we need all the man power we can get to conduct successful surveys each summer.

Through our community science program volunteers will help survey sites all across the state for boreal toad and other amphibians. We run day trips and longer multi-day camping trips in remote and beautiful alpine settings. These surveys run from May-September.

All data collected on this elusive amphibian is used in setting conservation priorities. Working with Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the U.S. Forest Service we aim to gather data to delineate this species range, find breeding populations, track movements and growth and keep an eye on population sizes. We also work to restore habitat through building beaver dam analogs, planting willow, and erecting cattle diversion fencing around critical wetland habitat.


This work in the field complements our on grounds work. We house an assurance colony of boreal toads from a genetically distinct population in southern Utah. When these toads are old enough we will breed them and reintroduce toadlets back into their native range.

Check out our online training webinars:


You can sign up to survey with our biologist here

Email our wildlife biologist Kayleigh [email protected] to find out more information, and sign up for a survey trip!

Jordan River Restoration

The Jordan River connects Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake wetlands, carving ground through the Salt Lake Valley. As an urban waterway it faces unique problems and provides vital services. It is a habitat for fish, deer, beaver, and fox offering water, food, and refuge from the surrounding urban areas. It is also an important connection to nature for those living in the surrounding areas

Long loved and long used, it has recently been acknowledged the Jordan River needs a little help in getting back to its former glory. You can join Utah’s Hogle Zoo and The Jordan River Commission in helping it get there by joining us for our Jordan River conservation and restoration events. From May-September we will host monthly outings to different portions of the river to perform a variety of conservation and restoration projects from tree planting, to water trail maintenance, to removal of invasive weeds. These are family friendly events and a great way to get outside and become more familiar with our unique and beautiful urban river. If you have questions about these events please contact our Conservation Action Coordinator, Tori Bird, at [email protected].

Jordan River Restoration Project Dates for 2022 

Sign up for any one of these events HERE

Saturday, May 21st 9-11AM– Endangered Species Day is upon us and we will celebrate with a Party for the Planet: Spring into Action pollinator planting event. Pollinators are essential for all of the plants that we enjoy along the river and beyond. Planting pollinator friendly gardens creates beautiful spaces for humans and animals to enjoy. This planting event will take place at the Jordan River Peace Labyrinth in Salt Lake City.

Monday, May 23rd 6-8PM Monarch Waystation maintenance–  Can’t make it to the pollinator planting on the 21st but still want to get out and do your part for monarch butterflies and other local pollinators? Join us at Roi Hardy Park in Riverton where we have planted Monarch Waystations for the last two years. An essential part of a successful planting is follow up and maintenance. We will be removing weeds that have grown into the gardens, replanting plants that didn’t survive the winter, and possibly expanding the current gardens.

Saturday, June 18th 9AM-12PM Floating cleanup- Join us on the river to celebrate World Ocean Day in our own land locked way. This Party for the Planet: Spring into Action event will get us onto the river in canoes to remove trash and snags from the river. Attendance is limited by the number of canoes that we can provide so sign up early. It is extra important to do one sign up per group member for this event. If you have your own boat that you would like to bring, please contact Conservation Action Coordinator Tori Bird at [email protected]. Location TBD based on need.

Monday June 20th 6-8PM Bank cleanup—Want to help our waterways from the relative dryness of the shores? Come out with us and help to tackle one of the persistent challenges along the river, trash. Litter in the environment isn’t just bad to look at, it can also be harmful for our local wildlife. Join us at a site along the river to help clear up the habitat and make the river a more pleasant place for our animal and human residents. Location TBD based on need.

Saturday July 16th 9-11AM Puncturevine weeding– Help us tackle those pesky puncturevines, also known as goats head, on a portion of the Jordan River Trail. Removing this invasive species helps other natives grow as well as keeps the trail safe and clear for people and animals. Location TBD based on need.

Monday July 18th 5:30-8PM floating cleanup – Beat the summer heat with a cool evening float of the Jordan River while also helping wildlife. We will float a short portion of the river cleaning up as we go. Attendance is limited by the number of canoes that we can provide so sign up early. It is extra important to do one sign up per group member for this event. If you have your own boat that you would like to bring, please contact Conservation Action Coordinator Tori Bird at [email protected]. Location TBD based on need.

Monday August 8th 6-8PM Puncturevine weeding—Have you ever felt the satisfaction of pulling up huge matts of invasive puncturevine, or goat’s heads? Removing this weed helps to keep our Jordan River Trail safe for people and pets while also clearing needed habitat for new native plants to flourish. Come over to a portion of the Jordan River Trail and see what a difference a few hours can make. Location TBD based on need.

Saturday August 20th 9-11AM Planting Site Maintenance – The lot by TNT Auction off of Redwood Road is one of the areas that Hogle Zoo has worked on a few times in the last two years. Follow up maintenance of restoration sites is essential for their success. Join us in this next step of the project at this site as we ensure that it can go on to provided needed habitat for our local wildlife and a beautiful place to see for our local human residents.

Saturday September 17th 9-11AM Bank cleanup- Celebrate Get to the River Festival with Hogle Zoo this month at a bank cleanup along a portion of the river. This festival encourages all of our residents to get out to the river and enjoy all that it has to offer. One of those things is habitat for our local animals that rely on it. We can help to improve this habitat for them by removing trash that is thrown or blown onto the banks. Location TBD based on need.

Monday September 26th 5-7PM Cleanup– A last hurrah for this year’s Get to the River Festival with Hogle Zoo! Join us for one more cleanup for the year at a section of the Jordan River Trail. Enjoy the last bit of warm evenings for our last evening event at the river for the year. Location TBD based on need.

Saturday October 15th 10AM-12PM Tall pot tree planting—Kick off tree planting season with us by planting peachleaf willows and Freemont cottonwoods at a site along the Jordan River. These trees create essential wildlife habitat and help with bank stabilization. Location TBD based on need.

Saturday November 19th 10AM-12PM Tall pot tree planting—And just like that the planting season window is closing. Come out to the river for the Zoo’s last planting event of 2022. These tall pots are grown until they have root structures about 30 inches long! This helps them to reach down to the water in the ground and they will spend all winter getting established in order to take full advantage of the growing season in spring. Location TBD based on need.

Saturday December 17th 10AM-12PM Walking trail cleanup and walking tour—Even with unpredictable winter weather the Jordan River trail is a beautiful place to be. Come out with us to learn more about the river, its history and importance, the wildlife that rely on it, and the work of Hogle Zoo and the Jordan River Commission to protect and restore it. As we walk and talk we will clean up the trail to make it better habitat for animals and people alike. Location TBD based on need.

Wasatch Wildlife Watch

Wasatch Wildlife Watch kicked off in 2018 with the goal of addressing a lack of information about how urban development is affecting wildlife in the Central Wasatch Range. Run out of the University of Utah’s Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology Lab in partnership with Wild Utah Project, Natural History Museum of Utah, and Salt Lake City Parks and Public Lands, the project trains community scientists to deploy and maintain trail cameras throughout the Wasatch from April-August. In 2019 this project collected and analyzed 100,000’s of trail camera images to help understand the Wasatch’s wildlife populations and movement corridors. This information can be used to inform future development planning to benefit both wildlife and people.

This year, Hogle Zoo is joining the team!

With your help we will be maintaining 25 cameras along the Jordan River.

You and your family can join us as we go out to check and maintain groups of these cameras. You will learn about trail cameras, their maintenance, and the benefits they provide to scientists.

Come once or “adopt” a site and maintain it for a few months, the choice is yours. Check back here for more details on how to sign up soon.

You can also participate in this project through the identification of trail camera photos on the eMammal project Wasatch Wildlife Watch.

Check our these training videos created by Austin Green, the principal investigator on this project, and our partners Wild Utah Project.

Monarchs and Milkweeds

About Monarchs (Danaus plexippis)

Like other butterflies, monarchs undergo complete metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis and finally to the adult from we are familiar with, and amazingly this isn’t their greatest feat!

One of the most amazing wonders of the monarch is its migration from North America to overwintering sites in Mexico, a migration which takes four generations to complete.

As human settlements develop and expand, our cities may create  “dead-zones” for butterflies and other wildlife. There are small things you can do to help create little havens for insects and birds, as well as beautify your surroundings and aid food production!

Monarch Decline

It has been estimated that the monarch population in North America has declined by around 90% over the last two decades. During the 2018 annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, the longest running and most comprehensive effort to monitor overwinter monarchs in the West, less than 30,000 monarchs were reported- an all-time low.

Currently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing data collected on monarchs and whether the information warrants them becoming listed on the ESA as an endangered species. This decision is set to be made in December 2021.

Why are we losing Monarchs?

  • Loss of breeding habitat- monarchs rely on a specific type of plant to lay their eggs- milkweed (genus: Asclepias). Milkweed grows well in wet areas and were commonly found growing among crops on agricultural lands- until the farming industry more intensely managed land- ridding ‘weeds’ like milkweed expanding agricultural land into more wild areas. Urban sprawl is further declining the quality of breeding habitat for monarchs.
  • Loss of overwintering habitat- degradation of overwintering habitat in Mexico from illegal logging, land conversion for agriculture and the diversion of water for human use which affects both the monarchs directly and puts increased pressure on the oyamel fir stands on which they rely. In overwintering habitat in California, municipal and commercial expansion and development are the greatest risk to monarch overwintering habitat.
  • Pesticides- an increased use in herbicides across agricultural margins, roadsides and on private land has eradicated milkweed from both urban and rural areas. Areas such as this are often sprayed throughout the growing season to keep weeds a bay. Insecticides used in agricultural and municipal practices to control pests often negatively affect monarchs and other butterflies, usually lethally.

What can we do?

In April 2020 the Zoo joined the Monarch SAFE program, meaning we will commit to monarch conservation, through actions on grounds, education and partnerships with other SAFE institutions across the country.

  • Plant native plants in your garden- especially milkweeds! By planting native wildflowers you are helping supply adult monarchs and other pollinators with nectar sources. You can even follow the guidelines of Monarch Watch and create a certified Monarch Waystation!
  • Avoid using pesticides in your garden- using chemicals designed to keep insects away from your plants will poison and kill monarchs.
  • Use FSC certified sustainable wood, to protect overwintering habitat from illegal logging practices.
  • Community Science! More information is needed on both monarch habitat and habitat use throughout the state of Utah. The aim of this project is to collect more data on monarchs and milkweeds in Utah, to help the Western Alliance of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to make the best and most informed conservation decisions for the western monarch population.

Report your monarch and milkweed sightings here: iNaturalist: Monarch Conservation in Utah

Monarch researchers need your help to help ensure we can maintain a viable population of monarchs west of the Rockies!

Please click here for identification tips for milkweed commonly found in Utah

Please click here for identification tips for monarch butterflies, caterpillars and eggs

Caterpillars Count

This year, we are launching a brand new community science project you can take part in here on grounds:  Caterpillars Count!

As our climate changes, the timing of leaves budding, birds migrating and other seasonal phenomenons are affected. We wonder- are plants, insects and birds behavior changing to the same degree?

If these species are not adapting to the phenological shifts of the species they depend on, we may see delines in numbers of these different species.

There is little information on when our local insects first appear each year and that is where you come in!

We will hold short trainings (with ambassador animals!) in Discovery Theater during the summer months, where yuu and your family can learn more abut our local insects, why they are so important and how you can contribute to a national scientific program.

We have marked trees around Zoo grounds where you can help staff inspect the branches for caterpillars and other great insects and contribute to this brand new national database.

If you can’t join us here on grounds, this is a great project you can take part in at home. Learn how you can take part in your own backyard or neighborhood HERE.

FrogWatch USA

FrogWatch USA is a nation-wide community science program run by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Volunteers learn the calls of local frog and toad species, identify them by song in the field, and record their findings. By collecting data, volunteers not only contribute to knowledge about wetlands and which frog species are found in their area, but they will also be able to educate members of their community about wetland conservation. To date, the data gathered by citizen scientists throughout the country has provided information about frog distribution, wetland health, and climate impacts on wildlife. You will help determine:

  • which species of frogs and toads are in an area
  • if there are rare or invasive species in Utah
  • where each species is found
  • when different species breed at what time of the year

The state coordinator for FrogWatch works here at UHZ and so we are lucky enough to run several training nights at the beginning of the survey season.

We hold free in-person training at the Zoo throughout February and March, and can travel to you to train a group of 10 or more around Salt Lake City!

When programming can resume safely we will hold short trainings (with ambassador animals!) in Discovery Theater during the summer months, where you and your family can learn more about our local insects, why they are so important and how you can contribute to a national scientific program.

To tide you over here is a link to the anurans you are likely to hear around the state of Utah: Anuran Calls

UPDATE: During this time AZA is releasing FrogWatch training online for free to individual volunteers! Check it out: https://www.elearning.aza.org/frogwatch-usa

Email our wildlife biologist Kayleigh [email protected] to find out more information


Christmas Bird Count

At over a century old the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest running community science projects in the world. From December 14th to January 5th thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas sign up to spend a day out in their area counting every bird they see. These data are used to assess the health of bird populations and guide conservation action.

Every year we hold Christmas bird counts on grounds as part of the Salt Lake City circle, check back in when the days get shorter to join us on a christmas bird count!

Other Projects in the Salt Lake Area

Check out some other local projects you can be involved in with our friends and partners:

Wild Utah Project – https://www.wildutahproject.org/volunteer

Tracy Aviary – https://www.tracyaviaryconservation.org/overview

HawkWatch – https://hawkwatch.org/participate/volunteer

Natural History Museum of Utah – https://nhmu.utah.edu/citizen-science

Great Salt Lake Institute – https://westminstercollege.edu/campus-life/centers-and-institutes/great-salt-lake-institute/pelicam

Great Salt Lake Audubon – https://www.greatsaltlakeaudubon.org/calendar

Utah State University Extension – https://extension.usu.edu/utahwaterwatch/index