BGSU, Toledo Zoo partner to expand Wild Toledo conservation program

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Bowling Green State University and the Toledo Zoo have forged a new strategic partnership to expand learning and research opportunities to students and faculty and protect and increase conservation efforts of the region’s wildlife and natural habitats through the zoo's Wild Toledo program.

Through the partnership, the zoo and BGSU will increase the production of native plants on 14 acres of land on the University’s campus along Poe Road near Mercer Road. Students will have expanded opportunities to learn valuable, real-world skills in habitat restoration, plant nursery management and small business management.

“This partnership formalizes a longtime collaborative relationship between the Toledo Zoo and Bowling Green State University,” said BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers. “The Toledo Zoo is an anchor of our region and across the Midwest, respected for its breadth of offerings and commitment to community engagement, which is absolutely aligned with our work as a comprehensive public university for the public good. We look forward to the expanded opportunities for our students and faculty through this partnership, as well as the collective ways we can create good together in our region.”

The Wild Toledo program transforms turf grass and non-native ornamental plantings into thriving, biologically diverse prairie ecosystems and formal native landscapes. These native plantings create pollinator habitats and reduce property management costs, nutrient run-off and sequester carbon. The program maintains a state-licensed native plant nursery and performs full-service native landscaping and native prairie installations.

The Wild Toledo expansion project on the BGSU campus will take place in multiple stages, all of which will greatly increase the overall production capabilities of Wild Toledo. 

The initial phase of work will include site development and the addition of nursery benches, in-ground trees and shrubs, harvest area and irrigation. Construction of an expandable greenhouse and greenhouse benches, as well as additional outdoor benches will follow. The final phase of work will include the construction of a monarch greenhouse and construction of office and indoor space for employees.

"We are very appreciative of the opportunity BGSU has provided. The expansion of our Wild Toledo initiative will allow us to increase the production of native species of plants, ultimately allowing for more habitat creation. These habitats and plantings have a very beneficial effect on resource use and ecosystem function,” said Kent Bekker, Chief Mission Officer and Senior Vice President of the Toledo Zoo. “This is something both institutions should be proud of.”

Since its inception in 2014, Wild Toledo has installed more than 70 native plantings in Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio. Partners include private businesses, local city and county governments, school districts and local landowners. In 2022 alone, they sold more than 13,000 plants through their nursery and landscape installations.

By the end of 2023, the zoo will have completed 86 landscape installations, including Project PRAIRIE installations, half of which are in schools in northwest Ohio.

Updated: 04/25/2023 01:37PM