Projects

The Birds and Mammals Department is involved in many projects on the study of Birds and Mammals in the southern California region.

San Diego County Bird Atlas

The San Diego County Bird Atlas is one of the most ambitious research projects the San Diego Natural History Museum has ever undertaken. It establishes a new benchmark for knowledge of birds in the region of the United States with more species than any other: 492 natives, migrants, and well-established exotics. Learn more.

San Diego County Mammal Atlas

Mammals are an integral part of the rich ecology in San Diego County—a recognized biodiversity hotspot. Despite the critical role mammals play in our environment, there has been no synthesis of their identification, distribution, natural history, or the conservation challenges they face—until now. Learn more.


Post-Fire Studies of Birds

In 2002 and 2003, over 1500 square miles of southern California burned in firestorms unequaled for over a century, the largest fires since accurate records have been kept. Because of the fires’ unprecedented size, their effects on the ecosystem were unknown and unpredictable. Learn more.

Post-Fire Studies of Mammals

In 2002 and 2003, over 1500 square miles of southern California burned in firestorms unequaled for over a century, the largest fires since accurate records have been kept. Because of the fires’ unprecedented size, their effects on the ecosystem were unknown and unpredictable. Learn more.


San Jacinto Resurvey

In 1908 the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley mounted an expedition to the San Jacinto Mountain region, pioneering the exploration of southern California’s biology. On the 100th anniversary of this expedition, from 2008 to 2010, the San Diego Natural History Museum is retracing its path to see how the area’s wildlife has changed over the last century. Learn more.

Flying Squirrel Study

The San Diego Natural History Museum is launching a new study in collaboration with citizen scientists, the U.S. Forest Service, Big Bear Zoo, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to determine the distribution and habitat use of the San Bernardino Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus californicus), specifically along the urban edge where residential properties meet the natural environment. Learn more.


Grinnell Desert Resurvey

In 1908, pioneer ecologist Joseph Grinnell inaugurated the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) at the University of California, Berkeley, with an expedition to the San Jacinto Mountains. Until his death in 1939, he continued his mission to document the fauna of western North America before it was forever transformed by human population growth and land-use changes. Learn more.


What We’re Up To

San Diego is synonymous with seafood—especially tuna. Museum volunteers are preparing two specimens that will allow people to see these impressive animal skeletons in incredible detail. The specimens also serve as a useful tool in understanding the lives of native people.  Read more.


Natural Selection in Action

Posted: April 20, 2020

In the past 80 years, the plumage of the Horned Lark has undergone a relatively rapid color change, which scientists believe is due to the conversion of Imperial Valley desert into farmland, which has caused the landscape to change from light to dark. This could represent the first example known among birds evolving different colors within recorded history. Read more.


Helping Save the Ringtail

Posted: March 6, 2020

We don’t know much about our native ringtail cats, but we can say two things for certain: they are not actually cats (they are in the raccoon family), and they love strawberry jam. The Nat is working with the San Diego Zoo to study these elusive creatures and understand why they keep ending up as roadkill in our foothill areas. Read more.


Some bird species museum scientists have been studying are spreading in a more southerly or downslope direction over time, which is contrary to the expectations of climate warming. Why is this happening? They attribute these shifts to three main factors, all directly resulting from human influence. Read more.


Scientists from The Nat have documented range shifts—changes to where an organism lives or occurs—of numerous animals, which are being analyzed in the broader context of climate warming and habitat change. One of these is the expansion of the nesting range of the Zone-tailed Hawk into California. Read more.