New Research Shows Certified Wildlife Habitats Help Animals Thrive

Steffenie Widows is a native of Orlando, Florida, where she received her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Rollins College. A few years ago, she moved to Madison,Wisconsin, to pursue a Master’s Degree in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, Steffenie is working to publish results of her research and pursuing funding to start a PhD in the field of wildlife ecology. She recently shared with us the following summary of her Master’s research.

As a Masters Degree candidate in the Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my research evaluated the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat® program. The main objective of my research project was to determine if yards certified by NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat® program offered wildlife habitat not available in non-certified yards in the same neighborhood.

Gardens certified by the National Wildlife Federation as wildlife habitat

My project focused on neighborhoods within the Orlando, Florida, metropolitan area, covering both Orange and Seminole Counties. I visited:

  • 50 certified yards
  • 50 neighboring, non-certified yards
  • 50 randomly selected non-adjacent, non-certified yards in the same neighborhood.

To evaluate the yards, I used an ecological check-list to determine the quality and quantity of wildlife habitat in each yard. Based on the results of my study, there were significant differences between both the quantity and quality of habitat found in certified versus non-certified yards.  These differences were observed in all of the key habitat components (food, water, shelter) outlined in the certification program. Yards certified in the program offer wildlife habitat that is not available in non-certified yards.

Yards not certified by NWF

Certify Your Garden as a Wildlife HabitatHowever, to improve the Certified Wildlife Habitat program, it is essential that neighbors talk to each other and influence other neighbors to create more certified yards in their neighborhoods. The more wildlife habitat in suburban areas the better! Additional details about my research will be featured in an upcoming issue of National Wildlife magazine.

Photos courtesy Steffenie Widows