Central Park Reservoir

New York City

When you think of New York City, you typically think skyscrapers and crowded sidewalks not bird sanctuaries and ecosystem services. But in reality we have both. First, New York is more than Manhattan, in fact, New York City covers 305 square miles and has 28,000 acres of municipal parkland and 14 miles of public beaches. Within this parkland we have zoos, gardens, kayak docks, wetlands, and protected natural areas including one of the world’s largest natural harbors. These amenities allow everyone access to nature – it’s a dream for those interested in learning from nature.

New York City is at the mouth of the Hudson River, which feeds into a naturally sheltered harbor and then into the Atlantic Ocean, has helped the city grow in significance as a trading city. The Hudson River flows through the Hudson Valley into New York Bay. The Hudson separates the city from New Jersey to the west. The East River—a tidal strait—flows from Long Island Sound and separates the Bronx and Manhattan from Long Island. The Harlem River, another tidal strait between the East and Hudson Rivers, separates most of Manhattan from the Bronx. The Bronx River, which flows through the Bronx and Westchester County, is the only entirely fresh water river in the city. Surrounded by water, the City has a unique relationship with the tidal basin and the biodiversity that exists within it.

The City’s Park system is extensive and world renown. The jewel, Central Park, is an 883 acre bucolic setting for citizens to retreat into a nature whether for a leisurely stroll of a bike race. Within the park there are many options to engage with nature including the Central Park Zoo and the Jackie Onassis Reservoir. But there are many amazing parks throughout the city including Prospect Park, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Washington Square Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. Beyond the City’s park system there is also the Gateway national Recreation area which includes the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and the New York State Riverbank State Park along the Hudson River.

New York City has a mixed climate with hot humid summers and cold winters. Summers are typically hot and humid with a July average of 76.5 °F (24.7 °C) with occasional heat waves over 100°F. Winters are cold and damp, and prevailing wind patterns that blow offshore minimize the moderating effects of the Atlantic Ocean; The average temperature in January, the area’s coldest month, is 32.1 °F (0.1 °C). The city receives 49.7 inches (1,260 mm) of precipitation annually, which is fairly spread throughout the year. Average winter snowfall for 1971 to 2000 has been 22.4 inches (57 cm), but varies considerably.


Natural History

Mannahatta  and The Welikia Project

The Manhattan ecosystem of 1609 contrasted with the skyscrapers of today. Courtesy of Dr. Eric Sanderson of WCS, all rights reserved.

The Welikia Project expands upon the extensive research of the Mannahatta Project to uncover the original ecology of the entire city and compare it what we have today.  A project of the Wildlife Conservation Society and led by Dr. Eric Sanderson, Welikia (pronounced “WAY-lee-ki-a” ) means “my good home” in Lenape, the Native American language of the New York City region. The Welikia Project embraces the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the waters in-between, while still serving up all we have learned about Mannahatta.  Welikia provides the basis for all the people of New York to learn and discover the rich natural heritage wherever you live or visit in the city. The interactive website provides detailed explanations of the original ecosystems and habitats.


American Museum of Natural History

Located adjacent to Central Park on the Westside of Manhattan, the American Museum of Natural History offers an amazing collection of natural artifacts for inspection and inspiration for biomimetic investigation. In addition, there exhibits, ranging from Hall of Biodiversity and the Milstein Hal of Ocean Life to the butterfly house and the Hayden Planetarium offer endless inspiration.


Wildlife in the City

Zoos and Aquarium

Flamingos sunbathing at the Bronx Zoo, Creative Commons – therichbrooks

The Wildlife Conservation Society, founded in 1895, is an international wildlife protection organization that works throughout the world to save unique habitats. WCS bring this grounded knowledge from their international efforts to the management of the city’s four zoos (Central Park, Bronx, Prospect Park, Queens) and New York Aquarium. These living institutions serve to educate and inspire the communities throughout the city are great for reconnecting to nature. Biomimetic inspiration abounds in these institutions due to the carefully developed habitats and well attended wildlife. In addition, the City owns a small zoo in Staten Island so that every borough has some resources to engage with wildlife beyond the mice in the basement.

Bronx Zoo –

Central Park Zoo –

New York Aquarium –

Prospect Park Zoo –

Staten Island Zoo –

Queens Zoo –


Botanical Gardens

Lily Pond at the Brooklyn Botanical garden, Creative Commons – cherrylet

Botanical gardens are an urban oasis providing a unique opportunity to see flora and fauna in dizzying beauty. They also allow for careful examination of flora not usually accessible to the biomimicry enthusiast. In New York we are blessed with four botanical Gardens, one in each borough except Manhattan. Each of these gardens is unique and special providing educational and research opportunities for New Yorkers of all backgrounds and interests. Opportunities to learn gardening and composting skills as well as more rigorous explorations into ecological sustainability issues exist as well. Each garden has its own unique character from a classical botanical garden with exotic specimens to a traditional English perennials and a Chinese Scholar’s garden.

Brooklyn Botanical garden –

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)-

Snug harbor Botanical Garden –

Queens Botanical Garden –


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