How we Research and Conserve to Preserve tomorrow.

Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land… Land health is the capacity for self-renewal in the soils, waters, plants, and animals that collectively comprise the land… A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.”

-Aldo Leopold

Research and Conservation Projects at Riveredge Nature Center

Riveredge has a proud legacy of research and conservation. This work plays a major role in what goes on in at the center every day behind the scenes. Our expert staff, interns, and an impressive force of volunteers work in collaboration along with partner organizations to sustain a variety of conservation programs and projects both on and off our site. From rare species management to ensuring high diversity in our habitats, we are committed to making a positive impact.

Engaging our community in these efforts, is important too–our mission of healthier human and natural communities reminds us that human success is contingent on the health of our ecosystems. Events like our Sturgeon Fest and Birdathon Bandathon invite the public in to learn about our work and cultivate a sense of wonder around our native habitats and species.

Above all, our work honors the desire to preserve the diversity and health of this haven for generations to come. We have done a lot of good work since our establishment in 1968, but there is much good work yet to do. Want to get involved? Check out opportunities to join us below.

Riveredge Research and Conservation Success Stories

Returning the Sturgeon to the Milwaukee River

Riveredge Nature Center is home to the Milwaukee River Lake Sturgeon Rehabilitation Program in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Our Streamside Rearing Facility has been in operation since 2006. In that time, over 19,000 fingerling sturgeon from our facility have been raised and released back to their native waters in Lake Michigan. Now that the fish from the project’s earlier years are starting to reach breeding maturity, they have been observed returning to the Milwaukee River as a spawning site. Each individual fish from our project has a PIT tag to identify them, similar to a pet’s microchip, which allows them to be tracked if caught or scanned. As of May 2023, 180 sturgeon from Riveredge’s facility have been recaptured or detected in the Milwaukee River during a DNR survey. This is just the beginning of the reward we hope to see as a result of our work to restore this rare keystone species.

Habitat Healers – Decades of Ecological Restoration Progress

Our Habitat Healers Volunteer Crew has been working since 1990 to preserve and improve the health and biodiversity of Riveredge Nature Center’s natural sanctuary. This dedicated volunteer force has made a giant impact on preserving the Riveredge sanctuary, serving as a regional resource for teaching effective stewardship methods and managing invasive species. Without them, we would not be able to maintain and manage Riveredge’s diverse ecosystems to the level of care and attention that is needed. A diverse and healthy habitat is a cornerstone to our education and helps to stoke the fires of conservation in the minds and hearts of those who enjoy this land. Every major restoration project undertaken at Riveredge involves the Habitat Healers.

Bird Banding and Monitoring: Over 30 Years of Data

The pulse of a landscape can be hard to feel, but it can be understood through study. Our river corridor makes us uniquely poised for this work: we are designated as a Priority Migratory Stopover Site for birds by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Riveredge Nature Center and the surrounding land parcels are estimated to host more than 10,000 landbirds during spring and fall migration. Our researchers and scientists have documented more than 150 migratory species, including 27 Species of Greatest Conservation Need utilizing Riveredge. Since 1999, our volunteer bird banding program known as MAPS (Measuring Avian Productivity and Survival) has made great strides in understanding the dynamics of how bird populations thrive on our landscape. Collaboration with the Bird Genoscape Project (starting in 2022) further connects Riveredge to a research network across the Americas. Through MAPS banding, the Christmas Bird Count, Birdathon Bandathon, local breeding surveys, bluebird box monitoring, song meters, bird walks and more, Riveredge’s ongoing avian research contributes significantly to the field.

The Power of Partnerships

There are many incredible organizations who are our mission-sharers, supporters, and collaborators. They come from all different settings, whether academic, corporate, nonprofit, or volunteer. Our growing list of research and conservation partners includes the following groups.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Pheasants Forever

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum


We Energies

Johnson’s Nursery

Savanna Institute

American Transmission Company (ATC)

Bird Genoscape Project

Midwest Migration Network

University of Wisconsin-Madison (Gratton Lab)

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (CES Department)

Milwaukee Audubon Society

Become a Member

Take advantage of all the benefits of a Riveredge membership year round!

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