The Natural History Museum in LA County just launched the Urban Nature Research Center to promote the study of wildlife in densely populated Southern California. This is a new twist for the 103 year old institution and it is the first project of its kind in the United States.
The new initiative will combine the work of NHM’s Nature Garden and Nature Lab, which focus on plants and animals on museum property, with its various citizen-science projects and animal surveys, all with a budget of $250,000 a year.
The ultimate goal is to increase knowledge and understanding of the ecosystems in L.A.’s mountains, parks, streets, backyards and even medians.
There have been many exciting new species discoveries right in LA, including 43 new species of fly. And with this new program the ability to catalog and use that data increases immensely.
NHM will also have the ability to utilize the “citizen science” program. Basically, every day people get to participate in plant and animal surveys and submit that data using their smartphones to platforms like iNaturalist. Although many aren’t familiar with the program, Lila Higgins, NHM’s manager of citizen science “is working to change that by reaching out to communities across the region and asking them to look at the animals around them.”
NHM is also launching what it’s calling the world’s largest biodiversity project, dubbed the SuperProject, that will examine 200 urban-nature sites from the coast to the desert.
All in all, NHM’s new focus is part of a larger shift from museums and how they are setting about redefining their role in the community and beyond.
Lila Higgins says, “we’re really trying to push it forward and see how we can work with our communities […] and I think the Urban Nature Research Center is the perfect example of that.”