Chicago Region Conservation Tools


(free, photo-based, educational guides designed to help individuals quickly and accurately identify species in the natural world)

Keys to Nature thumbnail

(on-line forum and toolset for scientists and volunteers to develop and share photo-based keys to any group of plants, animals, or fungi in the Chicago Region)


(data and images of 80,000 plant and fungi specimens from three institutions with rich Chicago Region collections: The Field Museum, The Morton Arboretum, and the Chicago Botanic Garden)

This set of conservation tools is part of the Field Museum's Division of Environment, Culture, and Conservation (ECCo) effort to provide inexpensive tools to advance the process of learning and identification of organisms for everyone who is interested, from beginning students to professional biologists. The larger wild mammals, birds, and trees in the Chicago Region are well-known, but the thousands of smaller or less conspicuous species are certainly not. While there are many illustrated field guides for plants and animals in North America, these typically cover a huge geographic range and are both expensive and heavy for field work. Our experience in the tropics has shown that there are real advantages to guides that focus on a small region, not to mention far fewer species to cause confusion. These guides are not intended to replace the many excellent books available, but to open doors to learning and identification that will in fact lead interested naturalists to books and other more complete sources of information.

The Color Guides (available for free download) are inexpensive guides you can print, laminate, and take into the field or view on your computer. Keys to Nature and vPlants are on-line tools that can help reinforce field study and disseminate the museum's collections and expertise.

We welcome corrections, suggestions, and interest in collaboration to make other Color Guides or Keys to Nature at: Additional identification tools can be found in the Field Museum's Botany Department and at Tropical Plant Guides and Tropical Animal Guides.

Disclaimer: The information here is provided "as is," with no guarantees.