Scripta Varia

Fostering Community Engagement with Nature at the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

Gregory B. Pauly, Brian V. Brown, and Lori Bettison-Varga[*]


With expertise in education, outreach, and research, natural history museums are ideally suited to be core sites both for invigorating local communities in understanding, appreciating, and helping study urban nature as well as for building collaborative research networks that can help make urban areas more welcoming for wildlife and for people. Spotlighting ways to boost and sustain Los Angeles’s biodiversity, the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) seek to create a new interdisciplinary model for understanding and connecting to urban nature. Through on-site exhibitions, sustainable gardens, programming, bioblitzes, publications, social media, and innovative research programs, our community is engaging with nature while contributing specimens and observations to an extensive collection documenting the region’s changing biodiversity. NHMLAC believes that cultivating an understanding of local biodiversity in urban residents may directly lead to improvement in biodiversity outcomes, both locally and in conservation efforts globally. Three museums comprise NHMLAC; the majority of the work described in this paper stems from the research, collections, education, and exhibitions at the Natural History Museum (NHM).

Focusing on urban nature research is not only a successful approach for interacting with the public, but it is also of global conservation relevance. With the human population exceeding 7.6 billion, and with the majority of people now living in urban areas, documenting and mitigating the impacts of urbanization are critical for urban conservation, planning, and land management. Here, we outline our education, exhibition, outreach, and research efforts focused on urban nature, and how these have 1) established NHM as a core site invigorating the community around urban nature and 2) promoted the development of research networks and collaborative partnerships that apply urban biodiversity data to urban land management and planning issues.

Note that throughout this overview, we use the phrase “community science” as a synonym for “citizen science.” Community science is an essential approach in our urban nature research and therefore a significant component of our outreach. However, we find the phrase “citizen science” to be problematic. Proponents of this phrase often emphasize that we are all part of a global citizenry that can contribute to biodiversity discovery, research, and conservation. Nevertheless, the word “citizen” can be polarizing and even alienating to some, especially those who may not be naturalized citizens of a given country where a research project is being conducted. Thus, at NHMLAC we use the term “community science,” in hopes that it is more inclusive when reaching out to and serving a diverse audience.

From Natural History to Living Nature

To create a new interdisciplinary model for understanding and connecting to urban nature, NHM developed exhibitions to get local residents excited about the incredibly diverse biota that can be found all around them, all the time. In the terminology of the Museum, the goal of these efforts was to get people “to put their nature eyes on.” The hope was to make people aware that there is no magic line where nature stops and city begins, and that interesting biodiversity discoveries can be made anywhere, even in the most urban parts of a city.

At NHM, the diorama halls are among the finest in the world, and beloved by visitors of all ages. Yet, audiences seek experiences that move beyond passive observation to active engagement, extending the relevance of museum collections and research. The move from “viewing to doing” inspired NHM scientists and exhibition developers to create the Nature Lab, a 600-square meter permanent hub of investigation where visitors of all ages can participate in real science research, learn scientific methods, and engage in hands-on activities that build their observation skills. The Nature Lab features live animals, touchable specimens, community science projects and discoveries, and multimedia. The Nature Lab transcends traditional natural history exhibitions by focusing on a new relevance and connection to living nature. This exhibition invites visitors to get up close and personal with live animals, to meet real scientists doing real science, and to interact with observations generated daily by community scientists through real-time images submitted through iNaturalist, a free community science app and platform for reporting personal observations of any species.[2] The Nature Lab presents a unique new approach to the interpretation of urban ecosystems and the creatures that live in our cities and communities, offering a detailed look into the interesting lifestyles, adaptations, and challenges facing urban wildlife. This interactive exhibition also creates a bridge between the Museum’s indoor research and collections, and its new outdoor space: the Nature Gardens.

NHM’s 1.5-hectare nature and teaching garden outside the doors of the Nature Lab extends the museum experience outdoors to an exploration of living nature. Inside this urban wilderness, visitors spot birds and butterflies, learn to observe and track species with our scientists, engage in gardening workshops and nature walks with our educators, and poke around a new civic green space that is all too rare in Los Angeles. It is a purposely layered experience to attract all ages, with more than 600 different plants, a pond, an edible garden, a living wall constructed of rocks and plantings that attract wildlife, a water feature representing Los Angeles’s water system, a pollinator garden, and ground trumpets that tap into tree roots to hear the sounds a tree makes. Interpretive signs throughout the Nature Gardens provide visitors with seasonal information; programming for school visits and the public takes place in the edible garden; and a get dirty zone allows kids to learn through play about compost and plants. The Nature Gardens also serve as a research site for Museum scientists studying urban biodiversity. For example, a Malaise trap and weather station are installed in the Gardens to monitor insect diversity as part of the Biodiversity Science: City and Nature (BioSCAN) project discussed below. A bat detector is also installed near the Gardens’ pond, as part of a larger urban survey of the region’s bat diversity. Together, the Nature Lab and Nature Gardens provide the backdrop for an annual weekend-long Nature Festival, with raptor flight demonstrations, conversations with scientists and nature experts, performances, and hands-on activities.

These two public exhibits and their associated interpretive activities all focus on the key message that nature is all around us at all times. Angelenos do not need to leave the city to experience nature; these exhibits highlight that they can observe nature anywhere, including in their own neighborhoods.

The Urban Nature Research Center and Community Science

During the process of conceptualizing the Nature Lab and Nature Gardens, scientists at NHM realized the potential for extending their research to focus on the local, urbanized environment. The Museum’s collections provide evidence of where species were found in the past, and if these historical records could be compared to modern-day species occurrence records, then the researchers could assess how species are responding to urbanization. Critically, such a research effort would increase the relevance of the Museum’s historical collections, especially for members of the public who rarely experience the treasure trove of objects maintained in museum research collections.

Los Angeles is also a major hub of transportation and industry. Many people and goods move through the region daily, and, unfortunately, many non-native plants and animals are introduced as well. Los Angeles’s Mediterranean climate, in combination with the high levels of water available in urban areas, makes the area agreeable to many species of plants and animals, allowing them to survive and thrive in their new home. Being able to document and track the spread of these introduced species could have important conservation, ecological, and economic impacts. For both the above research efforts (i.e., studying responses to urbanization and tracking introduced species), the key was to identify survey methods that could efficiently generate species occurrence data in a heavily urbanized environment.

Los Angeles spans an enormous geographical region with heavily urbanized areas that are mostly private property. Scientists could not adequately survey the region on their own and most traditional biodiversity survey methods are not effective when the habitat to survey is a patchwork of private properties. The NHM team realized that developing an accurate picture of which species are living in L.A. would require partnering with the region’s residents.

With the realization that community science is the most effective way to survey urban biodiversity (Spear et al., 2017), several community science projects were launched and a staff position was created to manage community science efforts. With growth in the interest and number of community science projects promoted by NHM researchers, this single staff position was expanded into a Community Science Office, which, as of 2019, includes four full-time and two part-time staff members. In 2015, the Urban Nature Research Center (UNRC) was formalized, resulting in the first integrative research center in the United States dedicated to urban biodiversity. UNRC scientists use the entire city of Los Angeles to extend scientific research and investigation beyond the perimeters of the Museum’s 1.5 hectares of Nature Gardens habitat (Parker et al., 2019). This integrative center spanned the traditional taxonomic sections of a natural history museum, uniting a diverse set of scientists under the common goal of understanding urban biodiversity. The UNRC began with two curators and a postdoctoral researcher as the lead researchers and has now grown to include five curators, two postdoctoral researchers, and two full-time and two part-time staff scientists.

This focus on urban biodiversity not only resonates with Museum visitors and Southern California residents, but it has also proven to be an incredibly productive research focus. From 2013 to 2019, UNRC scientists published 29 peer-reviewed manuscripts as well as six popular press articles. Eight of the peer-reviewed publications were authored or co-authored with community scientists (e.g., Bernstein and Bernstein, 2013; Pauly et al., 2015; Pauly and Borthwick, 2015; Pauly and Gavit, 2019; Vendetti et al., 2018a,b). These publications focus on diverse topics including discoveries of species new to science (Hartop et al., 2015; 2016a,b) and of non-native species never previously documented in the area (Larson et al., 2015; Pauly and Borthwick, 2015; Pauly et al., 2015a,b; Pauly and Gavit, 2019; Vendetti et al., 2018a,b).

The following are examples of UNRC research projects that engage community scientists in the collection of data:

BioSCAN (Biodiversity Science: City and Nature).—BioSCAN is a large-scale survey of backyard insect diversity, which has already yielded 43 species new to science and several improbable new species distributions. Community scientists allow a weather station and a Malaise trap, a tent-like trap that catches insects, to be installed in their yards for up to one year; these site hosts monitor this equipment and help change out collecting bottles. The resulting insect samples are sorted by volunteers, undergraduate students, and NHM scientists, and much of this sorting takes place in front of the public inside the Nature Lab. Since its inception in 2015, the project has resulted in training more than 80 work-study students from the University of Southern California and more than 30 volunteers, all of whom participate in sorting trap samples to more manageable taxonomic units. These samples are then provided to the BioSCAN scientists who sort them further, including to species for select taxa. In addition to the discovery of species new to science, BioSCAN scientists have also examined seasonal trends in insect abundance (Brown and Hartop, 2016) and documented major range extensions, potentially due to the introduction of non-native species (Grimaldi et al., 2015). By combining the insect data with weather data and GIS analyses, the BioSCAN team is also examining impacts of urbanization on the insect fauna (Adams et al., in review, McGlynn et al., 2019). As of summer 2019, BioSCAN has been run for four rounds, with about 80 sites surveyed.

GeckoWatch.—This project was inspired by the early success of the RASCals project (see below) at documenting non-native geckos in Southern California. Multiple species of house and wall geckos (Hemidactylus and Tarentola, respectively) have been introduced to the United States, but these usually show up in residential neighborhoods or industrial districts where professional biologists are unlikely to quickly detect the new arrivals. To improve detection times, GeckoWatch was created to more effectively track the expanding range of non-native geckos across the United States, with a special focus on the Mediterranean house gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus, which is a research focus for NHM Herpetologist G. B. Pauly and GeckoWatch co-creator Dr. Robert Espinoza of California State University, Northridge.[3] The project has resulted in more than 750 observations from more than 250 contributors.

L.A. Spider Survey.—This project was one of the Museum’s early forays into using community science to study urban biodiversity. Since 2002, more than 1,500 participants have provided observations and specimens that present a detailed and profound glimpse into how L.A.’s spider fauna has changed over the past 100 years and how it continues to change today. More than 5,000 spiders, representing 217 species and 119 genera in 36 families, have been added to the Museum’s collection by community scientists. Impressively, this project has largely been overseen by a dedicated and talented volunteer, who has led the identification and preservation of the spider specimens. Further, this volunteer and UNRC scientists visit the BioSCAN site hosts several times a year and conduct spider surveys of these sites. An important early discovery for the Spider Survey was the first occurrence of the brown widow spider (Latrodectus geometricus) in Los Angeles, which was recorded in 2002; this invasive species has expanded rapidly across the Los Angeles Basin and appears to be displacing the indigenous black widow spider.

RASCals (Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California).—RASCals was designed to improve knowledge of native and non-native reptiles and amphibians across Southern California.[4] This project is housed on the iNaturalist platform and was specifically created 1) to generate modern-day species occurrence records that could be compared to historical museum records to assess how species have responded to urbanization and 2) to document and track non-native species. Since its inception in June 2013, RASCals has received more than 48,000 observations from more than 6,000 community scientists. Community science observations include five new state records and 21 new county records documenting the introduction and spread of non-native species in California. These discoveries have resulted in six peer-reviewed publications authored or co-authored by community scientists (e.g., Pauly and Borthwick, 2015; Pauly et al., 2015; Pauly and Gavit, 2019).

SLIME (Snails and Slugs Living in Metropolitan Environments).NHM’s collection of land snails includes thousands of specimens from locations throughout the Los Angeles Basin and spans the past 100 years, but very little is known about this mollusk diversity today. SLIME was created to fill in this data gap.[5] Like RASCals, SLIME was developed in part to generate modern-day species occurrence records from urban areas, with the recognition that this approach would likely dramatically improve detection times for non-native snails and slugs introduced to Southern California. Since August 2015, more than 2,000 community scientists have contributed to this project housed on the iNaturalist platform, yielding more than 14,000 observations. These observations include three new state records and seven new county records, with two publications co-authored with community scientists to date (Vendetti et al., 2018a,b). Of special note is that Vendetti et al. (2018a) used a novel approach to recognizing the contributions of community scientists, listing “citizen science participants in SLIME and BioSCAN” as co-authors in the author by-line of the resulting manuscript. UNRC scientists have termed this approach “group co-authorship” and have modeled it after the now commonplace idea of “group authorships.” UNRC scientists are promoting this approach as an important new way of recognizing community scientist contributions (Ward-Fear et al., in press).

Southern California Squirrel Survey.—Like RASCals and SLIME, the Southern California Squirrel Survey was set up on the iNaturalist platform to document squirrel species across the region, and especially to document the expanding range of the non-native eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) and the declining range of the native western grey squirrel (Sciurus griseus). Since September 2013, the project has amassed more than 5,500 observations from over 1,000 contributors.[6]

The SuperProject.—Although community science has proven exceptionally effective at generating urban species occurrence records (Spear et al., 2017), there are regions across Los Angeles that have lower participation resulting in little biodiversity data for some neighborhoods. In 2016, UNRC scientists developed the SuperProject to recruit and train community scientists from specific geographic areas that are of interest for biodiversity studies. These participants then conduct surveys of core sites (typically their backyards or a common area of their apartment complex) as well as surveys of their own neighborhoods, contributing photo-vouchered species occurrence records to iNaturalist as well as submitting online survey forms describing the ecological conditions of their neighborhoods.[7] The SuperProject participants contribute records of diverse organisms living in the urban environment, and when taxonomically appropriate, they also contribute records to RASCals, SLIME, and the Southern California Squirrel Survey. These surveys take place for one full year. The SuperProject has been especially useful at generating species occurrence records used for large-scale urban biodiversity studies, such as the Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) initiative discussed below. In SuperProject 3, which was conducted September 2018 through August 2019, 97 “site hosts” contributed more than 26,000 urban species occurrence records from southern Los Angeles, a heavily urbanized region for which there was previously very little biodiversity data available.

A key ingredient for maintaining high levels of participation in the SuperProject is providing participants with unique resources and opportunities. Over the course of the year, SuperProject participants can attend four bioblitz events for which they have priority registration as well as a mid-year and end-of-year party. Participants can also interact with each other and NHM staff on a SuperProject Facebook page, and they receive a digital newsletter twice a month, highlighting exciting discoveries and informing them of interesting nature to watch for in the coming weeks (e.g., fungi, snails, slugs, and salamanders in the winter months and hatchling lizards in late summer).

Increasing Urban Nature and Community Science Outreach

While people can certainly learn about urban nature and community science while visiting the exhibitions at NHM, we believe it is also important to meet people in their own neighborhoods, going to them, instead of asking them to always come to the Museum. Most of the approaches discussed in this section are used to reach people in their own neighborhoods. These efforts also provide opportunities to recruit new community scientists to participate in the various community science projects highlighted above.

Bioblitzes and Community Science Meet-Ups.—The Community Science Office coordinates 6-12 bioblitzes and community science meet-ups each year. Scientists from the UNRC frequently provide biological expertise at these events. Events sometimes include training sessions in which attendees can learn how to use the iNaturalist app before heading off to make observations. At other events, the focus is on building community amongst existing iNaturalist users, and attendees participate in a bioblitz, trying to document as many species as possible in a fixed amount of time. Frequently, these events are conducted in partnership with local parks that are interested in the species occurrence records resulting from the bioblitz or meet-up. Here again, the Museum’s focus on urban nature is helping to develop partnerships with parks and land-management organizations throughout the region.

City Nature Challenge.—In 2016, NHMLAC and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco co-founded the City Nature Challenge. This program, which originally was a friendly competition between two rival cities, was launched for the first ever Citizen Science Day in order to draw attention to urban nature. Encouraging residents of these large urban regions to “put their nature eyes on” resulted in more than 1,000 participants making nearly 22,000 observations of approximately 2,800 species, with several noteworthy records. Enthusiasm for the project spread rapidly and additional cities began participating, with 16 US cities participating in 2017 and 64 cities around the world in 2018. The City Nature Challenge in 2019 engaged residents and visitors of 159 cities around the world. More than 35,000 participants logged more than 960,000 observations of more than 31,000 species during the four-day competition period ( Since its inception, the City Nature Challenge sets new activity records each year on the iNaturalist platform. Critically, the media and outreach associated with this event inspires new community scientists to join the iNaturalist platform, making more observations after the Challenge has ended.

Partnerships with other County Departments.—Since 2017, the Community Science Office, in collaboration with the NHM’s Education Division, has been involved in supporting curriculum writing and training staff of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation (LADPR) for a new summer camp program termed the ESTEAM (environment, science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) Summer Camp Program. ESTEAM builds upon the well-known concepts of STEM and STEAM by adding a significant focus on the environment. The curriculum for the ESTEAM Camps was co-created through an NHMLAC/LADPR partnership, in which the goal was to integrate community science curricula into diverse communities through programming. NHM staff trained camp staff in the use of iNaturalist as well as other nature activities to connect youth to urban nature. The community science team visits many of the camps and also participates in the County’s Parks After Dark program, which focuses on building a sense of community around residents’ local parks. The ESTEAM Summer Camp Program began with eight county parks and then expanded to 17 parks. The NHMLAC/LADPR collaboration also expanded to include after school programs at 46 parks in the month of April focused on the City Nature Challenge. These efforts help to raise awareness about urban nature as well as to recruit new community scientists who might then join us in studying urban biodiversity.

In 2018, the Community Science Office began a new partnership by collaborating with the Los Angeles County Libraries to pilot community science tool kits available for check out. The community science kits were designed to provide children and parents a resource to help them explore nature in and around Los Angeles. The prototype kits include an instructional guide, a journal, and specific tools to encourage outdoor exploration and nature investigation. People with library cards check the kits out from librarians and may take them home, to local parks, to their school, etc. Checkout period is two weeks. Librarians review the kits at checkout and upon return to verify all materials are returned and in good condition. Kit testing has been conducted at six libraries (4-6 weeks per location; 5 kits at each library) over the course of 1.5 years. Kits are currently getting ready to be museum-branded and then launched on a permanent basis at five libraries across the county.

Wild LA: A New Model for Urban Nature Guidebooks.—Because natural history museums have personnel with expertise in local biodiversity, informal science education, and communication, they have many of the key ingredients for producing nature guides. In spring 2019, Wild LA: Explore the Amazing Nature in and Around Los Angeles was released. The book was co-authored by Lila Higgins, Sr. Manager of Community Science, and Greg Pauly, Co-Director of the UNRC and Curator of Herpetology, as well as two professional nature writers. Further, many of the Museum’s researchers assisted by providing information and then reviewing select parts of the manuscript to ensure scientific accuracy across diverse topics. Wild LA presents Los Angeles’s natural history, while serving as a field guide and trip planner for local nature excursions. Wild LA introduces readers to Los Angeles nature in three parts: 1) short, fun chapters introducing readers to the local ecology; 2) 101 species accounts; and 3) 25 recommended excursions spread across the region where people can see the species and themes presented in the book. The book is intended to be very accessible, with fun facts and callouts on every page, in addition to numerous photographs and drawings.

Media, Media, Media.Meeting people in their own neighborhoods can also be done through social and traditional media. Social media platforms (e.g., Facebook and Instagram) can be used to share exciting urban nature observations as well as to announce research efforts that might be of particular interest at that time of year. Many museums also have member publications in which community scientists, community science events, and research discoveries can be shared. At NHMLAC, we routinely feature community scientists and their discoveries in our member magazine, the Naturalist, which reaches more than 30,000 households. Traditional media can also be used to reach a broad audience, providing opportunities to highlight both community science efforts and also to advertise for the museum. Further, a standard “best practice” in the community science field is to ensure that community scientists learn of the results and publications arising from their contributions. Strategic media can simultaneously inform the public of interesting urban nature research as well as inform past participants of the research they have helped facilitate.

Demonstration Tables and Pop-up Exhibits.—Much of this section has focused on outreach efforts directed toward people in the community. However, it is also critical to provide new opportunities for regular museum patrons to have new experiences at the museum. Urban nature discoveries are especially well-suited for short-term exhibits because members of the public can easily relate to discoveries from the local area, made by local residents. For example, in 2017, scientists and exhibit developers from NHM partnered with scientists from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to develop a temporary exhibit focused on the mountain lions that manage to survive – and in some cases to thrive – in the mountains immediately to the north of the Los Angeles Basin. Los Angeles and Mumbai, India are the only two major cities in the world with populations of big cats inside the city, and the Museum’s goal was to highlight this interesting nature fact. This exhibit also showcased P-22, an internationally recognized male mountain lion inhabiting Griffith Park, where he hunts deer and other mammals adjacent to the famous Hollywood sign. The Demonstration Table inside the Nature Lab also provides a unique opportunity for outreach; undergraduates and volunteers staff this table during the Museum’s busiest hours. They sort insects for the BioSCAN project, discuss their work – including the latest discoveries – with the public, and also promote other community science projects of potential interest to the visitor.

Community Science Establishes NHM as a Hub for Urban Biodiversity Research

Urbanization has numerous ecological impacts, and among the most consequential are the loss of habitat and introduction of invasive species, which both have serious consequences on native biodiversity. Although urbanization presents one of the greatest global threats to biodiversity, urban biodiversity is markedly understudied. In large part, this is because it is so challenging for biodiversity scientists to work in urban areas. Biological survey techniques used for decades in diverse ecosystems around the world often cannot be used in urban areas where researchers find themselves on a new piece of private property every dozen or so paces. Research methods using community science get around this problem by partnering with the community members who do have the ability, access, and local knowledge to gather urban species occurrence records. With their diverse expertise in education, outreach, and research, natural history museums can develop effective community science projects allowing them to gather tremendous amounts of urban biodiversity data. As a result, researchers at local universities, nonprofits, and governmental agencies often seek to partner with museums in hopes that productive collaborations can be developed to address specific research and management questions.

As one example, consider the RASCals project, which has resulted in its lead scientist, Greg Pauly, developing numerous collaborations with other researchers in California. Dr. Amanda Zellmer of Occidental College and Pauly are collaborating to use urban salamander records to understand the distribution of two species across the Los Angeles region. Records are also used to develop strategic field sampling protocols for a landscape genomics project examining the impacts of urbanization on gene flow. Similarly, Dr. Jeanne Robertson and master’s student Sarah Wenner of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), are collaborating with Pauly to examine the current distribution and genetic connectivity among populations of the declining Blainville’s Horned Lizard. Robertson and Dr. Robert Espinoza, also of CSUN, are using community science records to understand the distribution of non-native geckos. Further, biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife coordinate with Pauly to document the introduction of several restricted species, many of which are arriving in California through the nursery plant trade and are only being detected in the yards of local homeowners who then report their discoveries via iNaturalist or directly to the Museum. Most importantly, the above examples are just for one project and include some but not all such collaborations; similar collaborations could be enumerated for SLIME, BioSCAN, and the various other projects. While NHMLAC has been an important resource for biological expertise since its inception in 1913, the focus on urban nature has greatly increased the number and diversity of collaborations.

The shared interest in urban biodiversity led to an especially productive collaboration between NHMLAC and The Nature Conservancy (hereafter “the Conservancy”). As stated in Parker et al. (2019; p. 16),

the Museum’s scientists brought expertise and experience conducting research and leading community science projects that are providing new insights into the distribution and abundance of native and non-native species across the metropolitan area…(while)… the Conservancy’s scientists brought experience and expertise in conservation planning and practice…along with a history of working with a variety of stakeholders to achieve conservation successes.

Scientists from the two institutions launched a collaborative effort termed Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) that used nearly 60,000 species occurrence records from more than 10,000 community scientists to map species across the Los Angeles region. Results of this effort are now published in in the peer-reviewed literature (Li et al., 2019) and as a separate report that provides additional information about the process (Parker et al., 2019).

Is there value to the community science efforts beyond collecting observations for our scientific programs? Ballard et al. (2017) analyzed 44 community science programs across three museums to assess whether and how community science efforts contribute to conservation-relevant outcomes. They found evidence that these programs support conservation both directly, through site and species management, and indirectly through research, education, and policy impacts. This study has implications for understanding the role natural history museums can play in maximizing the socio-ecological impacts of community science, including bringing community science to new audiences, mobilizing volunteers to collect and analyze data to study species invasions and impacts of global changes, and conducting locally-relevant research in urban systems. This effort also highlights that natural history museums engaging in community science work can develop collaborations focused specifically on biodiversity research as well as collaborations evaluating community science as a research method as done in the Ballard et al. (2017) study.


Adams, B. J, E. Li, C.A. Bahlai, E.K. Meineke, T.P. McGlynn, and B.V. Brown. In review. Local and landscape scale variables shape insect diversity in an urban biodiversity hotspot. Ecological Applications.
Ballard, H.L., L.D. Robinson, A.N. Young, G.B. Pauly, L.M. Higgins, R.F. Johnson, and J.C. Tweddle. 2016. Contributions to conservation outcomes by natural history museum-led citizen science: Examining evidence and next steps. Biological Conservation 208:87-97.
Bernstein, W.L., and R.W. Bernstein. 2013. Geographic distribution. Hemidactylus turcicus (Mediterranean Gecko). Herpetological Review 44(3):474.
Brown, B.V., and E.A. Hartop. 2016. Big data from tiny flies: patterns revealed from over 42,000 phorid flies (Insecta: Diptera: Phoridae) collected over one year in Los Angeles, California, USA. Urban Ecosystems 20(3):521-534.
Grimaldi, D., P.S. Ginsberg, L. Thayer, S. McEvey, M. Hauser, M. Turelli and B. Brown. 2015. Strange little flies in the big city: Exotic flower-breeding Drosophilidae (Diptera) in Urban Los Angeles. PLoS ONE 10(4):e0122575.
Hartop, E.A., B.V. Brown, B.V., and R.H.L. Disney. 2015. Opportunity in our ignorance: Urban biodiversity study reveals 30 new species and one new Nearctic record for Megaselia (Diptera: Phoridae) in Los Angeles (California, USA). Zootaxa 3941:451-484.
Hartop, E.A., B.V. Brown, and R.H.L. Disney. 2016a. Flies from L.A., The Sequel: A further twelve new species of Megaselia (Diptera: Phoridae) from the BioSCAN Project in Los Angeles (California, USA). Biodiversity Data Journal 4.e7756.
Hartop, E.A., M.A. Wong, and C.S. Eiseman. 2016b. A new species of Megaselia Rondani (Diptera: Phoridae) from the BioSCAN Project in Los Angeles, California, with clarification of confused type series for two other species. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 118(1):93-100.
Larson, G.C., C. Huntley, G.B. Pauly, T. Wolfmeyer, B. Singh, and R.E. Espinoza. 2015. Geographic distribution. Hemidactylus turcicus (Mediterranean Gecko). Herpetological Review 46:59.
Li, E., S.S. Parker, G.B. Pauly, J.M. Randall, B.V. Brown, and B.C. Cohen. 2019. An urban biodiversity assessment framework that combines an urban habitat classification scheme and citizen science data. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7:277.
McGlynn, T.P., E.K. Meineke, C.A. Bahlai, E. Li, E.A. Hartop, B.J. Adams, and B.V. Brown. 2019. Temperature accounts for the biodiversity of a hyperdiverse group of insects in urban Los Angeles. Proceeding of the Royal Society, B 286:20191818
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Pauly, G.B., and P.D. Gavit. 2019. Geographic distribution. Trachylepis quinquetaeniata (African Five-lined Skink). Herpetological Review 50:103-104.
Spear, D.M., G.B. Pauly, and K. Kaiser. 2017. Citizen science as a tool for augmenting museum collection data from urban areas. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 5:86.
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Vendetti, J.E., E. Burnett, L. Carlton, A.T. Curran, C. Lee, R. Matsumoto, R. McDonnell, I. Reich, and O. Willadsen. 2018b. The introduced terrestrial slugs Ambigolimax nyctelius (Bourguignat, 1861) and Ambigolimax valentianus (Férussac, 1821) (Gastropoda: Limacidae) in California, with a discussion of taxonomy, systematics, and discovery by citizen science. Journal of Natural History 53(25-26):1607-1632.
Ward-Fear, G., G.B. Pauly, J.E. Vendetti, and R. Shine. In press. Authorship protocols must change to credit citizen scientists. Trends in Ecology and Evolution.


[*] Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, California, 90007, USA; Corresponding author is Lori Bettison-Varga (




Scienza e azioni per la protezione delle specie – Nuove Arche di Noè per il XXI secolo

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