Ruggiero Trust Funds Lesley University Biodiversity Study for Citizen Science at Mount Auburn Cemetery

January 4, 2017


The A. J. and M. D. Ruggiero Memorial Trust has awarded an $85,000 grant to the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery to collaborate with Lesley University faculty on a biodiversity study of the 175-acre Cemetery, recognized as an arboretum for its horticulture and as an urban wildlife refuge and a Mass Audubon Important Bird Area. The project will include a comprehensive assessment of the Cemetery’s biological diversity and of its restoration of wildlife habitats through research on insects, bats, birds, and physical features of water and air; a study of the effects of human-environmental interactions through surveys on visitor usage, attitudes and perceptions; integration of research findings with Mount Auburn’s educational materials; and active engagement with the public through self-guided and naturalist-led tours as well as citizen science initiatives.

screech-owl“Lesley’s approach to urban ecology is in step with the latest ways to educate people about their local environment,” says Dave Morimoto, Director of Lesley’s Natural Sciences and Mathematics division. “More researchers, natural and social scientists alike, are looking at the important role of natural environments in cities for conservation and nature immersion. With 80 percent of the world’s population currently living in urban areas, places such as Mount Auburn offer us the opportunity to learn more about how to sustain a healthy ecosystem for both people and wildlife.”

By establishing baseline data and protocols for monitoring wildlife populations and providing citizen science training programs, the Cemetery and Lesley University will allow bird watchers, students, and others among its over 200,000 annual visitors to provide important contributions to the growing knowledge of how humans and urban ecosystems interact with each other. The knowledge gained from the project will lead to recommendations for stewarding Mount Auburn’s habitats as well as enhancing its value for visitors. The goal is to help Mount Auburn Cemetery become a model of urban nature preservation and a center for citizen science research and education.

Mount Auburn’s President, Dave Barnett, discussed the broader impact of the project goals, noting, “This is one of the most popular places to see migratory birds in Massachusetts. It’s also internationally renowned for its beautiful landscape and significant horticultural collections. Many scientists believe that urban ecosystems such as Mount Auburn are the last frontier of ecology, and that ordinary citizens can contribute to the growing area of study of how people and nature can benefit one another within an urban environment.”

About Lesley University.   Founded in 1909 for aspiring kindergarten teachers, Lesley University prepares socially responsible graduates with the knowledge, skills and understanding for a more just, humane, and sustainable world.

Photos by Al Parker, Mount Auburn Cemetery Security & Visitors Services



  1. Jane Lopez says:

    I would like to be part of this project. Marilee took me out to show me how to mark the forms for an hour on Sunday. I went back for another hour on Sunday to do another route. I would like to be in the next training, if it works for my schedule.

    • Jennifer Johnston says:

      Hi Jane, Someone should be in contact with you shortly. Thank you for your interest in this project!

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