Discover why wetlands, which are home to nearly two-thirds of the endangered species in Illinois, are so important to our everyday lives in Mysteries of the Marsh.
See live, local, and endangered species – including Blanding’s turtles and an alligator snapping turtle – in this wetlands-focused exhibit. Explore the interactives to see how our scientists are working to help local wetland wildlife, see preserved specimens from our institution’s history, and learn about some of the original contributors to the Chicago Academy of Sciences’ collections.
We often host our daily 11:30am Critter Connection and 12pm Animal Feeding in and around the Mysteries of the Marsh and the Istock Family Look-In Lab. Be sure to check with our Guest Experience staff for locations. These daily programs are included with admission.
A Closer Look
Endangered Species of Illinois
A wetland is a habitat that is very wet or submerged for long periods of time each year, including swamps, marshes, and bogs. Beavers, frogs, snakes, and turtles are just a few of the animals you could find in Illinois wetlands. Unfortunately, some native wetland species are getting harder and harder to find as more are classified as threatened or endangered in Illinois and nearby states.
The spotted turtle is an aquatic turtle that lives in sedge meadows linked to prairies and marshes. These turtles tend to prefer clear, shallow water where many aquatic plants are present. Although they are aquatic, they are also often found on land near ponds or streams.
There are three known populations of spotted turtles in Illinois, and two of them are protected. Spotted turtles are most threatened by habitat loss due to the growth of urban areas. Their numbers in the wild are diminished by collectors who gather adults and juveniles for individual use or the pet trade. Spotted turtles also tend to be highly sensitive to pollution in the bodies of water where they spend their time.
While visiting Mysteries of the Marsh, you can meet our resident spotted turtles, August and October, in their nearby tank.
Blanding’s turtles depend on both wetland and open canopy upland habitat for survival. They are most commonly found in areas with shallow, slow-moving waters and lots of vegetation. They overwinter down in the mud in the bottom of wetlands, ponds, or streams.
Blanding’s turtles are at risk due to human activities. Like spotted turtles, the Blanding’s numbers in the wild are diminished by collectors who gather adults and young for individual use or the pet trade. Additionally, their habitats have been degraded and fragmented, and the presence of homes and roads makes them susceptible to road mortality and egg predation by human-sponsored animals like raccoons. Habitat fragmentation has also led to a loss of genetic diversity in their populations.
While visiting Mysteries of the Marsh, you can meet some of our resident Blanding’s turtles in their nearby tank.
Want to learn more about the Nature Museum’s Blanding’s turtles? Check out this special episode of Curious By Nature to meet our resident Blanding’s ambassador, Bob the turtle!
Our scientists are deeply involved in conservation efforts with several endangered and threatened local species, including snakes, turtles, and butterflies. Get a peak into Dr. Allison’s work with endangered and threatened amphibians species in this special video.