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Wild Toledo at the Toledo Zoo

Wild Toledo is a Toledo Zoo conservation initiative which goals include increasing the habitat for native plants and animals not only on Zoo grounds but in the entire Toledo area, while conserving native biodiversity.  Wild Toledo is a fast growing department that encompasses many conservation projects including prairie restoration, meso-predator monitoring, native butterfly and hellbender rearing and release, reptile and amphibian surveys and native bird initiatives. These initiatives are designed and implemented  by full time Zoo biologists and are generally supported by government organizations, donations, Zoo revenue and grants. In addition, Wild Toledo has many education and outreach programs to engage the community in conservation and those programs include the Junior Field Researching Camp for ages 10-14, various on grounds family programs throughout the year, monarch releases, conservation presentations, volunteer opportunities and much more.

Kent Bekker, M.Sc. – Director of Conservation and research at the Toledo Zoo. Kent earned his masters of science degree from Bowling Green State University in 2007. Kent worked at the Toledo Zoo Department of Herpetology prior to his relocation to Director of Conservation and Research. His local conservation work began with native reptiles and amphibians, initiatives which have continued over the past several years.

Dr. Ryan Walsh, PhD. – Wild Toledo Coordinator at the Toledo Zoo. Ryan earned his Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University in 2013 studying the ecology, population dynamics and evolution of the state-listed small white lady’s slipper orchid, Cypripedium candidum. Ryan’s current research interests and duties in Wild Toledo include urban prairie restoration, rare plant conservation, vegetation sampling and pollinator conservation, as well as butterfly sampling, rearing and conservation.

Dr. Matt Cross, Ph.D. – Wild Toledo conservation biologist at the Toledo Zoo. Matt has two masters degrees from Central Michigan University in Conservation Biology and Geographic Information Sciences (GIS), and earned his Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University in 2016 studying the spatial ecology of Eastern Box Turtles. Matt’s work for the zoo includes surveys for reptiles and amphibians, radio-telemetry of local turtles, monitoring bird use of restored prairies, and distribution modeling for rare species.

Justin Grubb, B.Sc. – Communications biologist at the Toledo Zoo. Justin earned his B.Sc. in biology with a specialization in marine and aquatic science from Bowling Green State University. For the Zoo, Justin’s Wild Toledo works includes everything from assisting with hellbenders releases to the wild, setting and collecting trail camera data, reptile surveys, and turtle trapping and processing. Justin also manages conservation communications, creates videos and manages citizen science initiatives. 

Conservation Initiatives

Wild Toledo Outreach Initiatives