Botany Pond Restoration Prioritizes Expansion and Improvement of Habitat

The project is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2023, during which the pond and its WebCam will remain closed.


Angelina Torre

Each spring, turtles, birds, fish, and clutches of ducklings arrive at Botany Pond.

By Gustavo Delgado

A picturesque staple of UChicago’s main quad, Botany Pond will remain closed to the public from October until summer 2023 because of a restoration project. During the construction process, the bridge through Botany Pond that connects to Hutchinson Courtyard will be closed, but the north-south quad path through Cobb Gate will remain open.

The project aims to increase accessibility to Botany Pond. “The new design will eliminate the temporary fencing that has been installed at the pond annually, making the grassy banks fully accessible to human visitors,” Associate Director for Public Affairs Gerald McSwiggan told The Maroon. This mesh fencing borders the area near the bridge to prevent visitors from getting too close to the pond edge and falling in.

The project also aims to improve the pond’s habitat and better incorporate the surrounding area. “A new water filtration system will be among the improvements intended to promote the health of the pond’s flora and fauna,” McSwiggan said.

Each spring, turtles, birds, fish, and clutches of ducklings arrive at Botany Pond. When the campus was closed during the pandemic, professor emeritus Jerry Coyne frequented the pond to feed and check on the wildlife that resides there. Two female ducks, Honey and Dorothy, have called Botany Pond home since at least 2017 and have raised over 20 ducklings. They nest atop window ledges at Erman Hall, which faces the pond.

The much-loved ducks have been relocated for their safety. (Angelina Torre)

The much-loved ducks have been relocated for their safety. Faculty experts in the Department of Ecology and Evolution were consulted for this work. “A certified wildlife habitat has agreed to care for the wildlife from Botany Pond,” McSwiggan wrote. “All entities involved in the wildlife removal process are licensed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.”

Additionally, a 24/7 livestream that was set up for visitors to watch the ducks will not be active during the course of the construction.

Although Botany Pond has been drained and cordoned off, the University has not yet chosen a contractor or finalized a design plan. “A contractor for construction has not been determined; the University will run a competitive bidding process to select a contractor and Facilities Services will oversee the project,” McSwiggan wrote.

Construction will occur between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The fencing that surrounds Botany Pond will remain until the conclusion of the project.