Forest Exploration Ecosystem Investigators | Exploring Biodiversity and the Health of our Forests

Trees are almost everywhere we look outside.

Pennsylvania at one point was almost entirely covered in trees, making up a part of a great forest that stretched over most of Eastern North America. Today, most of that land isn’t covered by buildings or pavement, and is slowly working towards becoming a forest again. These trees provide food and shelter to many other species of insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and other animals.
Trees in the fall
Trees on a sunny day

Despite the number of buildings, roads, and other structures in urban areas like Pittsburgh, there are still natural areas in the process of becoming forested, or areas that already are forested (in the case of some of our larger parks).

These patches of forest provide habitat for animals, help cool our cities, absorb stormwater, and provide places for the city’s humans to explore and relax.

To find a forest close to you to explore on your own, check out this interactive map of Allegheny County’s parks. Within it, parks are identified by the green shaded regions, and tree cover is shaded darker within those parks. ​

While there are many patches of forest to explore in Pittsburgh, you can also get a glimpse of what a forest is like without leaving your home.

Below, you’ll find lessons to teach or learn about the relationships between trees and animals found within our city parks. ​

Frick Park Forest Food Webs

In this activity, you’ll explore the relationships that exist between some of the many plants, insects, mammals, and birds that live in Frick Park. To do so, you’ll be looking at a model food web and answering questions on an accompanying worksheet.   
Ecosystems are incredibly complex. Representing the processes and relationships that are part of ecosystems can get a little messy. If this model is confusing or overwhelming, know that you aren’t alone. Sit with it for a bit and try to follow individual paths through the ecosystem before trying to absorb the whole thing. ​