Community Science

Science belongs to everyone.

Want to explore the natural world and simultaneously contribute to science? Then join the global community science movement. Museum scientists, independent naturalists, and outside organizations have created numerous projects aimed at helping scientists better understand our world.

Many projects use iNaturalist, a free website and app that invites anyone with a computer or smart phone to document plants and animals. Don't recognize something you've seen? That’s OK, because when you share a photo to iNaturalist, fellow nature lovers can help you ID it.

Why document plants and animals in our region? Understanding what is found where and when, is an essential tool that aids species conservation and guides future development of our region.

If you have plant or animal expertise, you can view and identify natural history observations from around the world without leaving the comfort of your home. It’s like a crowd-sourced way to determine what lives where.

Get started with our quick guide to iNaturalist (PDF). Most of these projects occur year round–you can join at any time.

Want to learn more about community science at The Nat? Email education@sdnhm.org and ask to be on our mailing list.

Happening Now

Birds of Prey at Batiquitos Lagoon
Through July 2021

We need the community’s help documenting raptor nests in the Batiquitos Lagoon Ecological Reserve and the surrounding neighborhoods. The Nat and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are gathering information on birds of prey that are nesting in the area midwinter through the middle of summer. We are specifically interested in the Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, and American Kestrel. The data we gather will help inform conservation efforts at the Reserve. Learn more about the project here.

If you live in this area and know of any nests or nesting raptors in your back yard or neighborhood, please email raptors@sdnhm.org or post your observations to the iNaturalist app using the Birds of Prey at Batiquitos Lagoon Project.

Upcoming Events

Border BioBlitz
April 1-30, 2021

During the month of April, help us record as many species as possible along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Nat, Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers and collaborating organizations invite you to join us in documenting the stunning diversity of plants and animals of the borderlands. Learn more. All you need is a smartphone with the iNaturalist app (free for Android and iOS) and to join our project. eBird users are also welcome to participate! Please contact us with any questions at nextgensd2012@gmail.com.

City Nature Challenge
April 30-May 1, 2021

Join us April 30-May 3 as we celebrate the healing power of nature by documenting all the species we can find! This year, the City Nature Challenge is a worldwide collaboration you can participate in from inside of or outside of your home. Use the iNaturalist app to make observations. Learn more.


Ongoing Projects

Amphibian and Reptile Atlas of Peninsular California

Take photos of reptiles and amphibians you spot in Southern California and Baja California and upload them to iNaturalist. Suggest an identification or have them identified by the iNaturalist community.

Learn more

San Diego County Plant Atlas

Take photos of wild plants you come across in San Diego County and upload them to the San Diego County Plant Atlas project on iNaturalist. Suggest an identification or have them identified by the iNaturalist community.

Learn more

Flying Squirrels of Southern California

Help The Nat and regional scientists learn more about the charming and elusive California flying squirrel. Participants residing in the San Bernardino Mountains may be eligible to install a camera in their yard to capture images of this nocturnal creature.

Learn more

Bumblebees of San Diego County

San Diego County's bumblebees are threatened—but you can help. Take photos of bumblebees you see locally, and upload to the Bumblebees of San Diego County project on iNaturalist. Suggest an identification or have them identified by the iNaturalist community. Your observations will help museum scientists better understand these important insects.

Learn more

Imperial County Plants

We need your help documenting Imperial County plants. Take photos of wild plants you come across while in Imperial County and upload them to the Imperial County Plant project on iNaturalist. Suggest an identification or have them identified by the iNaturalist community.

Learn more

View results and project summaries of past citizen science projects, inlcuding City Nature Challenges and Border BioBlitz. Learn more.

Baja projects

Our research is binational. We need your help in Baja, too.

Flora de Baja California

Help improve knowledge of Baja California plants. Snap photos of wild plants when on the Baja California peninsula or its adjacent islands. Upload your photos to the Flora de Baja California iNaturalist project.

Learn more

Arachnids of Peninsular California

Spiders, scorpions, sun spiders, and more. If it has eight legs and you spot it in Baja California or Baja California Sur, then take a photo and post it to the Arachnids of Peninsular California iNaturalist project.

Learn more