Chicago Innovation Blog

Lincoln Park Zoo’s new lion habitat wins Chicago Innovation Award for development and features

by | Nov 16, 2022

From the roar of a lion to the roar of a crowd.

The folks at the Lincoln Park Zoo who were behind the creation of a new cutting-edge lion habitat were honored Wednesday with a Chicago Innovation Award.

“To be receiving an award alongside other winners like startup companies and other for profit companies, this feels like just a great recognition for the Lincoln Park Zoo,” said Maureen Leahy, who works as vice president of animal care and horticulture and helped design the Pepper Family Wildlife Center’s lion exhibit.

The exhibit, which opened in the fall of the 2021, features temperature-regulated rock formations, zip lines and pulleys that deliver meals in a way that allows for stalking and hunting behavior, climbable trees that were sustainably harvested and an enclosure that allows visitors a nearly nose-to-nose experience.

The award honors the zoo’s “state-of-the-art, data-driven lion habitat enhanced for natural wildlife behaviors and improved customer engagement.”

Staff at Lincoln Park Zoo developed an app called “ZooMonitor” that allows volunteers to chart animal behavior by observing and entering data into a tablet that’s used to analyze trends and preferences.

“Compared to the previous habitat, the space use is just amazing,” Leahy said. “They are using every nook and cranny and feature, which is an incredibly wonderful feeling.”

Four years of data collection and two years of design preceded construction, which ran through the pandemic.

Folks from the zoo will be feted at the 21st Chicago Innovation Awards alongside other Chicago companies such as Pluie, which was selected for its patented UV-C light technology that sanitizes specially designed changing tables for public bathrooms.

A table for 10 was reserved for the Lincoln Park Zoo for the awards ceremony Wednesday at Morgan Manufacturing.

But Leahy noted there are dozens of names on a plaque near the lion exhibit that honors everyone at the zoo who had a hand in creating the exhibit.

“Lincoln Park Zoo is one of oldest, but really we’re one of the most modern and leading the way and redefining what it means to be a modern zoo,” Leahy said.

In all, 20 programs and products were recognized by Chicago Innovation, a group that seeks to empower the Chicago innovation ecosystem by educating, connecting and celebrating innovators.

Other Chicago Innovation Award winners:

  • Discovery Partners Institute for a wastewater surveillance system that gathers data to monitor infectious disease spread.
  • Hope Chicago for providing college scholarships to low-income, first-generation undergraduates and their parents on a scale that has never been done before.
  • Quillbot, an AI writing platform helping more than 23 million monthly active users hone their writing skills and improve access to high-quality English writing.
  • Ocient, a hyperscale data analysis service that allows businesses to export, load and transform data seamlessly; 31 patents assigned to the innovation.
  • REUSO, a platform that empowers businesses to achieve sustainability goals by using food and beverage containers that can be reused over 1,000 times while providing environmental impact data through miniaturized sensors.
  • Ladder Up for providing services to alleviate poverty through tax assistance and debt negotiating services.
  • Male Mogul Initiative for providing a gap year program for over 3,000 young men that includes crucial social-emotional support through leadership and character development.
  • Crushers Club, a youth employment and job training program providing over 200 justice-involved and acutely high-risk youth with legal, paying jobs.
  • Milwaukee Tool for the ONE-KEY Bluetooth Tracking Tag that lets users seamlessly add any product to a digital inventory system.
  • QualSights, whose Product Consumption System delivers accurate and detailed consumer behavior post-purchase.
  • Level Ex for Top Derm, a video game for dermatologists that uses interactive entertainment to train them how to address common and rare skin conditions.
  • Valqari, for its drone delivery lockers, mailboxes and software to coordinate drone delivery operation and management.
  • Epicore BioSystems and The Gatorade Co. for codeveloping wearable cloud analytics tech that captures personalized hydration results in real time from sweat.
  • Patient IQ, an integrated digital platform that collects, measures, and analyzes patient outcomes data.
  • Joe & Bella Inc., an adaptive apparel brand for older adults that improves the ease of dressing for the adult and caregiver with attributes such as CareZips and other accessibility-enhancing features.
  • Pluie, a self-sanitizing diaper changing table for public restrooms that uses a patented UV-C light when the table is closed to kill bacteria and viruses.
  • H2NOW Chicago, the first real-time water quality monitoring project in the U.S. to measure microbial pollutants in an urban waterway.
  • Let’s Talk Womxn, an action-led movement of 600+ women restauranteurs aimed at increasing visibility and collaboration.
  • WasteNot Compost, the only zero-emissions waste management fleet in the country.

Read more on: Chicago Sun Times

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