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Nature Gardens at NHM: LA's Urban Nature

Showing posts from : 2011

December 28, 2011

Opossums Love Tin Foil!

A few weeks ago, Sam Easterson followed a trail of tin foil and discovered the den of a Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginiana, underneath one of the Museum's storage sheds. Since then he set up camera traps around the den to see what was going on. This is what we found...

A night of tin foil escapades.
What on Earth are they doing with all the tin foil? Tin foil hats to ward off alien thought control maybe?


All kidding aside, it seems that this opossum has extracted a tasty morsel from inside the shiny package and is taking it down into the den.



Afternoon stroll?
The next day, one of the opossums...

December 23, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas the North Campus gave to me...

Twelve skippers skipping
 


Eleven pill bugs pillaging
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas the North Campus gave to me...

Twelve skippers skipping

 

 


Eleven pill bugs pillaging

 

 

 

 


Ten fritillaries...


December 16, 2011

First Raccoon Recorded in North Campus

Last week, while I was away in Costa Rica finding amazing bugs of all varieties, Sam's camera trap discovered a new species of mammal for our North Campus list!

Raccoon found under bridge in North Campus

Opossums, squirrels, dogs, and cats have all been spotted in the North Campus since we planted the space, but until recently we had only suspected that raccoons were part of that mix too. Raccoons, Procyon lotor, are common urban mammals often found in the urban core. These nocturnal mammals are notorious for destroying new lawns as they try to reach the tasty grubs and other insects that come to the surface after heavy watering. They are clever little creatures and will neatly roll up the new turf to get to the tasty invertebrate morsels they are craving. Another pestiferous trait is their proclivity for dumpster...

December 6, 2011

Piranhas Found in L.A.!

Piranhas are the stuff of B-movies, sensationalized nature television, and the tropical rainforest. Most would think they have little bearing on life here in L.A., however as I learned last week, this is not the case.

Taxidermied Red Piranha, Pygocentrus nattereri 
"lips" removed to accentuate teeth


Piranhas are here in L.A.! They are sometimes confiscated from pet stores and, on occasion, they are even found in our waterways. The Museum's Ichthyology collection houses over 30 confiscated piranha, and at least one that was caught in the "wild." According to the collections record, this Red Piranha (see below) was netted from "Simi Valley Public Golf Course, Lake B." It was collected on April 28, 1988 and measured 275mm (almost 10 1/2 inches)! Most interestingly the...

November 30, 2011

Scat: Owls and Opossums Oh My!

Mystery abounds in the North Campus, for who's been leaving scat under the footbridge? I discovered a vast array (about 10 pieces) of scat while I was searching for fungi a few weeks ago, and of course I snapped some pictures to try and identify our most recent visitor.
 

Who does this scat belong to?


My gut told me the scat belonged to either a Virginia Opossum,  Didelphis virginiana, or a Raccoon, Procyon lotor. To get a definitive answer I did two things. Firstly, I sent this picture to Jim Dines, the Museum's Mammology Collections Manager. Secondly, I put Sam Easterson on the project to set up a camera trap.

 

 

...

November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving for Mushrooms!

We're never going to spot a Wild Turkey in the North Campus, but I still wanted to post something related to the Thanksgiving holiday this week. Ah ha! Mushrooms, I thought. Not the Campbell's soup kind, but real honest-to-goodness wild mushroomslike the ones that are popping up all over L.A. after our recent autumnal rains.

In preparation for this blog post I went out searching for mushrooms in the North Campus. What I found was this:

Unidentified little brown mushroom (LBM)

Not being a mycologist, I had no idea what this small non-descript brown mushroom was, so I took it to the experts. Last night, the L.A. Mycological Society (LAMS) held their monthly meeting at the Museum. The meeting is a place for all things fungithere's a lecture (last night...

November 18, 2011

First Owl Recorded in North Campus

 
 
Yesterday ,we recorded the first owl in the North Campus. This adorable Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia, was observed perching on the footbridge surveying the patrons in the Museum Cafe. However, this is not the first time a Burrowing Owl has been recorded at the Museum. A few years ago, a Burrowing Owl actually roosted in a T. rex skull that was stored on our fourth floor patio. According to Kimball Garrett, the Museum's Ornithology Collections Manager, "these owls are migrants that are coming in from more northerly or interior breeding areas the breeding population in Los Angeles Basin is gone, or virtually so."  
 
...

November 9, 2011

Niña de la Tierra: Children of the Earth

No it's not the title of a horror film, Children of the Earth is actually one of the many common names for Stenopelmatus fuscus. Other names lovingly given to this insect are Jerusalem Cricket, Potato Bug, Skull Insect, and my personal favorite, Devil's Baby!

Earlier this week Sam Easterson found one in his front yard and captured this picture and footage.

Are you Looking at Me?






These crickets are very common in Los Angeles. Consequently, my colleague Brian Brown, the Museum's Curator of Entomology, and I get calls about them all the time. I most often get calls after heavy rains, when these crickets come up from the depths of their soily abodes. They are stellar diggers (Check out their fossorial front legs, modified for digging) and live most of the...

November 4, 2011

Praying Mantis

Earlier this week I saw my first praying mantis in the North Campus! I was walking back from lunch at USC and there she was right in front of me on the path.

Female Mediterranean Mantid, Iris oratoria, running for cover

I knew she was a female because of her enlarged abdomen, males have much narrower abdomens and also longer wings. As I got really close to her to capture this picture, she went into her defensive posture. She reared up on her hind legs, extended her raptorial (modified for capturing prey) front legs, and flashed her brightly patterned black and yellow hind wings. She stayed in this posture for about 15 seconds and then ran for cover in the plantings. Hopefully she'll lay an egg case and we'll have baby mantids in the spring!

...

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween: Bats!

To help celebrate Halloween here are some bats!

The Big Brown Bat, Eptesicus fuscus, is the most common bat in our area. They are easily seen at dusk flying around parks and water sources as they search for their insect food. We're putting up a  bat box in the North Campus in hopes that some of these bats will move in.

The Hoary Bat, Lasiurus cinereus, is another species often found in L.A. This specimen was collected at the Museum on the cafe patio a few years ago.



Last but not least here's the ghost-like Pallid Bat, Antrozous pallidus. Even though this species of bat is rarely found in the urban core, it is found in the desert regions surrounding Los Angeles....

October 27, 2011

Dirty Work: Dead Birds, Skulls, and Macerating Flesh

Today a small group of volunteers showed up at the Museum to gut, skin, flense, and macerate birds (flensing is the process of stripping an animal of its skin).  It isn't because Halloween is next Monday; they actually do this every week.

Kimball Garrett, Ornithology Collections Manager, runs this unique volunteer program and supervises all gutting, skinning, and skeletonizing. Dead birds are acquired by the Museum through salvage on a regular basis and this group does the very dirty work of  turning the limp lifeless carcasses into scientifically useful specimens that will live in the Museum's collection.


This Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus, has just been gutted and had the carcass removed. Next it will be stuffed with cotton, mounted on a small wooden dowel, and ...

October 24, 2011

Today on the North Campus

I went out for a walk around the North Campus today and this is what I saw:

They are filling the pond to make sure there aren't any leaks and that the waterfall cascade is level.
 

I went out for a walk around the North Campus today and this is what I saw:

They are filling the pond to make sure there aren't any leaks and that the waterfall cascade is level.
 


Underneath the pedestrian footbridge is the best spot for mushrooms. I think this is a morel, Morchella esculenta. I am consulting with some mushroom experts to see if they can make a positive identification.

 

 

...

October 20, 2011

Flesh Flies and CSI!

Since it's October I decided to focus the rest of this month's posts on Halloween inspired themes. Wracking my brains for topics, I realized something I saw last week in the basement would fit the bill nicely. Flesh flies!

Generally the Live Animal Program doesn't keep flesh flies but Shawna Joplin, Coordinator of Animal Care and Education, brought them in as a new food source for our spiders in the Spider Pavilion (open through November 6). The species we are keeping are grey flesh flies, Sarcaphaga bullata, which get shipped to us a pupa. After about a week and a half the adult flies emerge from the puparium and are ready for us to release into the pavilion.

Grey flesh fly pupae

...

October 13, 2011

North Campus Monarchs

Yesterday afternoon myself and number of other staff members braved the heat to continue our survey of North Campus insects. On the heels of last week's Gulf Fritillary discovery, I found the site's first Monarch butterfly caterpillar, Danaus plexippus!
 
Monarch butterfly caterpillar
 
As soon as I saw the caterpillar I knew it was a Monarch: There isn't another caterpillar in our area with such yellow, black, and white banding. Also, the caterpillar was found on a narrow-leaved milkweed plant, Asclepias fascicularis, which is one of the food plants of this well-known species.
 
Based on its size, this caterpillar is in the second to last caterpillar stage (4th instar). Over the coming weeks it will molt to the last and...

October 5, 2011

First Caterpillar Record for North Campus!

The last few weeks I have been spoiled with bloggable stories, but this week I needed inspiration. I took a stroll out to the North Campus to see what I could find, and was excited to happen upon the first North Campus caterpillar.

The caterpillar I found was in the last and final "J stage" of its larval lifecycle, just about to pupate. 

Easily recognizable, Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are striped and spiny.

24 hours later the caterpillar had metamorphosed into the pupal stage, aka chrysalis.

If you look close, you can see the developing wings.

This pupa is a...

September 29, 2011

Men's Restroom in Long Beach is Voted Best Spider Collecting Site

Over the past few weeks myself and Shawna Joplin, Museum Coordinator of Animal Care and Education, have been madly working to get the Spider Pavilion ready by collecting hundreds of spiders for display. This involved a trip to the swamps of New Orleans to collect the largest orb weavers in North America and also multiple collecting trips around Los Angeles for our local spider species.
 
Cajun Swamp Adventure
The spiders Shawna and I collected in New Orleans are golden silk spiders, Nephila clavipes, also known as banana spiders because of their banana-ish abdomen. These spiders are common in and around swampy areas and are easy to spot on their largeup to 3 feed in diameter!golden webs (...

September 29, 2011

Bird Crashes into Museum Building and Dies For Science

Soras, Porzana carolina, seem to be really poor fliers. So much so that last week one flew into the side of the Museum and killed itself. This brings the Exposition Park Bird List, maintained by Kimball Garrett, our Ornithology Collection Manager, up to 167 species. "But wait," I hear you crying, "what about bird number 166?" In my previous post New Bird For North Campus List, it clearly stated that the Rufous Hummingbird was species 165. No I didn't forget to tell you about bird 166, and no Kimball didn't miscount, funnily enough bird 166 was documented the same exact day the Sora died. Bird 166 is in fact a Swainson's Hawk, Buteo swainsoni, that Kimball saw migrating overhead.
 

Sora,...

September 23, 2011

Vaux's Swifts and Ghetto Birds

This past Monday a few of us embarked on a real urban nature adventure. We traversed the city streets of Los Angeles to witness one of the coolest nature spectacles I have ever seen in downtown Los Angeles, 6,500 Vaux's Swifts, Chaetura vauxi, spiraling into an old building shaft!

Ghetto bird and swifts share L.A.'s skyline alike!

According to Kimball Garrett, NHM's Ornithology Collections Manager, these swifts stop in L.A. during their spring and fall migrations to and from their breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest and their overwintering sites in Mexico and Central America. While in L.A. they gorge themselves during the day on flying insects found in areas such as the L.A. river and Griffith Park, and roost at night in various shafts and chimneys around the city.

...

September 12, 2011

Paper Wasps Sting Museum Taxidermist!

When Tim Bovard, the Museum's taxidermist, told me about getting stung by wasps on the fourth floor patio, I had to investigate, especially since I sometimes eat lunch up there. During a much needed afternoon break from my computer, I went in search of the offenders.

What I found on my afternoon foray were some large and impressive nests, definitely worthy of a blog entry. So of course I asked Sam if he would take pictures for me, and I went to work identifying them. 

Common paper wasp nest, Polistes exclamans

The species living on our patio are Common Paper Wasps, Polistes exclamans, which have a widespread distribution through much of the southern United States. These insects construct a papery nest from fibers they gather off dead wood or plant stems. Next time...

September 1, 2011

Dog's Vomit in the North Campus!

Why would I write about finding dog's vomit in the North Campus? Because it is, contrary to what you might think, an awesome type of fungus, a slime mold!

Slime molds are a type of non-gilled fungi that often appear on mulch. What I find really interesting about them is their unique lifecycle! Most of their lives, slime molds are hidden in rotten logs or buried in leaf litter. However, when it's time to reproduce, they have to move to an appropriate site for spore dispersal. To do this they propel themselves over considerable distances (well considerable for a fungus), up to three feet for Fulgio septica, aka dog's vomit. Unfortunately, this usually happens at night when it is cool and moist, so I've never seen it happen in person. Watch out for a time-lapse video if I can convince Sam Easterson to spend a night in the North Campus.

Here are some images of the...


August 25, 2011

Bug Wars: Spider Attacks Grasshopper and Disappears Down Black Hole

This week I have renamed Sam (NHM's media producer for Nature Lab) Spider-Man! He's been out and about carefully sticking a mechanic's device into spider homes, so visitors to our Spider Pavilion can get a view into spider lives, like never before.

Funnel web spider, family Agelenidae

Why you may ask? It's all in an effort to offer something new and interesting to Spider Pavilion visitors, and to test out ideas we have for media content in our upcoming Nature Lab exhibit. So Sam has been trekking around hillsides in the Santa Monica Mountains trying to find inhabited funnel webs.

...

August 16, 2011

Gecko Hunting!

Instead of spending a cozy night in, reading Biology of Spiders (did I mention we're opening our Spider Pavilion at the end of September?), I went to Chatsworth on a gecko hunt!

At 8:30pm I parked on a dark street to meet up with a bunch of other lizard geeks (or Herpers, as they much prefer to be called). Among the party was my Museum colleague, Leslie Gordon (a self-proclaimed lizard lady and manager of our live vertebrate program), and Dr. Bobby Espinoza, Cal State Northridge's professor and researcher in the Laboratory of Integrative and Comparative Herpetology.  

Mediterranean House Gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus, trying to hide in a crack

We were here in deepest, darkest suburbia, looking for...

August 5, 2011

Waiter There's a Wasp in my Fig!

A couple weeks ago we had the second round of our North Campus insect survey. Fifteen Museum staff tromped around the North Campus to see what insectuous wonders we could collect. Although we found some notably large specimens, the largest being a 3-inch bird grasshopper (Schistocerca sp.), the most interesting find was actually something a lot smaller. Much, much smaller in fact: a minute fig wasp about 2 millimeters in length!
 

Female Fig Wasp, Pleistodontes sp.
 
Fig wasps belong to the wasp family Agaonidae and as their name implies, they have a life history intricately linked with fig trees, family Moraceae. In fact fig trees can not produce figs without the wasps, and the wasps can't reproduce without the figs! The way this mutually beneficial...

July 29, 2011

Feral Parrots

Have you ever seen a wild parrot in L.A.? Like many other North American cities, Los Angeles has a healthy population of many species of parrots, the most commonly seen of these species in Exposition Park is the Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Brotogeris chirri.

Yellow-chevroned Parakeets feeding on coral tree nectar

Jail Break!
People like to keep parrots as pets. To satisfy this demand, literally hundreds of thousands of parrots have been imported legally (and untold numbers illegally) into the United States over the past 50 plus years. In some...

July 20, 2011

Is This Your Dog?

Sam moved the camera trap last week. We wanted to see what else we might find in the North Campus. Here's what we found.


I guess the Opossum was like the rest of us totally unaffected by Carmageddon!


How did this dog get into the North Campus at 9:02 on a Sunday morning, when all the gates are locked until 9:30?

July 14, 2011

Dinosaurs Open Part of North Campus!

Unless you're living in a cave somewhere (no offense to the troglobites out there), you've heard that we're opening a new Dinosaur Hall next week. In anticipation of this meteoric occassion all Museum staff were invited to preview the hall, which began with a jaunt through the soon to be open sections of the North Campus (car park, transition garden, entrance plaza, and footbridge). Even though these areas of the North Campus were only recently planted, we're already noticing wildlife visiting, including a ladybug that landed on me during the preview and another cat caught on camera trap!

Lost Ladybugs?
The ladybug that landed on me during the staff preview was a Multicolored Asian Ladybug, Harmonia axyridis. It's an introduced species from Japan, which has become very common in our area. This is the first ladybug of its kind that I've found in...

July 8, 2011

Dumpster Diving Gulls

It never fails. Every year we have the same problem with dumpster divers. No it's not the hipster artist looking for obscure objects for his next sculpture, and it isn't the local freegan looking for her next luncheon. It's actually Western Gulls, Larus occidentalis.

Here's an image I captured on my way back from lunch on my smartphone.


It follows the same routine every weekday. Soon after the field trippers have exited the building they descend to the lawns and eat their lunches. About this time the gulls appear in a massive flock, like a reenactment of Hitchcock's, The Birds. The gulls around here are not as aggressive as others I've seen on my high school campus in the Inland Empire, or those at Seaworld that literally snatch burgers out of patrons' hands! Instead the gulls of Exposition Park wait for our school children to "finish" their packed lunches and...

June 23, 2011

Camera Trapping

Last week Sam got an awesome package in the mail, our new camera trap! On Monday afternoon he set it up behind the Butterfly Pavilion to see if it worked. We were also curious to see if we'd capture any interesting images. Boy were we in for a surprise!

Night 1: Monday pm-Tuesday am


Our first cat tail caught on camera! We've known for a long time about the feral cats, Felis catus, that live in Exposition Park, but we weren't expecting to capture one of them on camera so quickly.


Just over an hour later this Opossum, Didelphis virginiana, sidled into view. Again we knew they were around as we'd seen their tracks in...

June 15, 2011

Squirrel Stew

What's For Dinner (and the Unintended Consequences of Every Introduction)?
 
The Eastern fox squirrel, Sciurus niger, was imported to Southern California in 1904 by veterans of the Civil War and Spanish American War, at the time living at the Veterans Home in West Los Angeles.  The war veterans mostly came from the southern US (e.g., Tennessee, Kentucky) and kept as caged pets tree squirrel native to their home states. Perhaps it is apocryphal, but I've heard that the squirrels weren't just pets, they were also used in that old-time favoritesquirrel stew!


Whatever the reason for keeping the squirrels, eventually an overzealous hospital administrator noticed that they were being fed table scraps and, deeming this illicit provisioning a misuse of government...

June 9, 2011

We're Building a Pond

This morning I got to work and did my usual cursory look out of the office window. This is what I saw:
 
Breaking ground on the pond
 
I know a hole in the ground doesn't get many people excited, but it definitely made my day. Working with the North Campus design team, we spent many months designing a pond that could increase the biodiversity of the North Campus and be a fun and engaging place for visitors. The pond will be teeming with wildlife such as fish, freshwater invertebrates, visiting birds, and hopefully a colony of Western Pond Turtles, Actinemys marmota. Here is a rendering created by Mia Lehrer + Associates, so you can get a sense of what the pond might look like.
 
...

June 7, 2011

Bee Hotel California

Bee Hotels

We here at the Museum really like bees, so much so that we are building them a hotel! This hotel will contain over 200 deluxe suites for native bees. We've specifically designed the hotel to accomodate various solitary bees found in L.A. We'll keep you posted as we see what moves in. Thanks to exhibit fabricator, Jerome Brown, the hotels are nearly ready to be put out in the Butterfly Pavilion yard.

Cedar log with pre-drilled bee holes
Swarm!

It seems that other bees have heard how luxurious our accomodations are and stopped by to check them out! Last Friday we got reports of a European honey bee, Apis mellifera, mass in one of the Magnolia trees on the west side of the Museum. Brent "the Bug Guy" Karner, went to...

June 1, 2011

I Love My Job

So I get back to work yesterday morning after the long weekend, and this is what I find on my desk!


Yes, that is indeed a dead lizard and a peanut can full of mushrooms! To be more precise it is an Alligator Lizard, Elgaria multicarinata, and shaggy parasol mushrooms, Chlorophyllum rhacodes. I am not sure exactly how they turned up on my desk, but in this line of work it's pretty common for people to drop off interesting things for you to identify. 

This is especially true when you start to survey urban biodiversity through citizen science projects like Lost Lizards of Los Angeles (LLOLA). Myself and a number of other Museum staffers frequently return to our desks to discover dead lizard specimens. However, don't be compelled to follow suit. It is much more valuable to the...

May 26, 2011

The Birds, the Bees, and the Fecal Sacs

I know you've seen a lot of still images from the Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans, nest, but I just had to share this footage. Honestly, it is too good not to post.

At the beginning of the video you'll see one of the adults (hard to tell if it's the mom or dad, they both help to care for the nestlings) feeding a European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, to one of the young. This in and of itself is pretty awesome to see, but it gets even better! Remember the Bushtit post? I told you all about how some species of birds produce fecal sacs, to make it easier to keep the nest clean and disease free. Well, Black Phoebes also produce fecal sacs, and this video gives you an insight to this behavior. I'll let you judge for yourself whether you think it's gross, cool, or just plain interesting.





May 26, 2011

Hummingbirds: Born to be Sword Swallowers!

We've got more bird babies at the Page Museum (you know the one at the La Brea Tar Pits)! We were informed about an Allen's Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin, nest in the atrium about two weeks ago, and jammed over to scope out the scene. When we arrived we found two tiny eggs in a beautifully crafted nest, suspended about ten feet up in one of the plants.

This past weekend Sam Easterson captured the footage below. I really like the way you can see the nest stretch as the nestlings move around. This is because the nest is partially constructed from spider webs! When constructing the nest, the female hummingbird collects materials such as plant fibers, moss, lichen, and small bits of bark or leaves. She also collects the spider silk for its elasticity. As the nestlings hatch and grow the nest can stretch with them! Check out the video to see it and then be wowed with feeding time. The first time I watched this footage, I couldn't help thinking about a sword...



May 13, 2011

Lizards Galore

It has been a week of lizard happenings at NHM! We've had a confirmed sighting of another Western Fence Lizard in Exposition Park, we're installing underground lizard tubes in the North Campus, and over the weekend we held our first Lost Lizard Spotting field trip.

Lizarding at Malibu Creek

This past Saturday morning a group of NHM staffers, and our good friend Dr. Bobby Espinoza, from Cal State University Northridge, led the first ever Lost Lizard field trip. Malibu Creek turned out to be the perfect location for this event and the group of kids and their families had a great time catching and identifying lizards. We found a number of species including Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis), Side-blotched Lizards (Uta stansburiana), and Western Whiptails (Aspidoscelis tigris). Hopefully the trip inspired all the participants to become Lost Lizard Citizen Scientists. If you're interested, find out more at the...

May 6, 2011

Black Phoebes Build Nest

More Nest Surveillance

This week we found another active bird nest! This nest belongs to a pair of Black Phoebes, Sayornis nigricans, and is built under the eaves of the Rose Garden maintenance shed. Once again this find is thanks to Kimball Garrett, who noticed the nest Monday morning on one of his regular Expo Park bird surveys. 


 Footage of the phoebe landing on her nest


Naughty Neighbors

This is the second nest Kimball has found in this location this year, but it is a site that has been used by phoebes in past years. Unfortunately, this year's first nest was disturbed by unknown causes, but it is possible that a squirrel is to blame. Eastern Fox Squirrels, Sciurus niger, are very common in Expo Park, and they are known nest predators. When they locate a nest they will eat any eggs or young birds they...

April 29, 2011

Bushtits Move In

New Neighbors

 

 

A pair of Bushtits, Psaltriparus minimus, just built their nest in the live oak tree behind the Butterfly Pavilion. Kimball Garrett, our resident bird expert, found the nest this Monday and promptly sent me an e-mail detailing the nest's location. As soon as I got into work on Tuesday morning, I headed out to the Butterfly Pavilion to check it out.

 

 

 
Adult Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
 
Nest Hunt

 

Thankfully Kimball had given clear instructions to find the nest, as it was very well hidden in the oak foliage. The effort was well worth it, as it was one of the coolest nests I've ever seen in the...

April 22, 2011

North Campus Insect Survey

Survey Fun
 
 
As mentioned in an earlier post New Fly for North Campus, we've been trapping insects on the North Campus for a while now. This week however, is a milestone for NHM as we held our first quarterly insect survey. Our aim was to go after the insects that our Malaise trap wasn't sampling, like large flying insects such as crane flies and bumble bees and ground dwelling insects like earwigs and beetles.  Since this was our first time and the site is still an active construction zone, we limited participation to NHM staff and partners. As the specimens get prepared and sorted, I'll keep you all up to date on the species we identify.
 
Brent "the bug guy" Karner demonstrates...

April 22, 2011

North Campus Pill Bugs

Finding Pill Bugs

I always knew we'd find pill bugs in the North Campus, but until recently I didn't know what species, or that they'd have such an interesting story.

In the North Campus there are two species of terrestrial isopods, what we at the Museum call pill bugs and their relatives. The Common Pill Bug (aka roly poly), Armadillidium vulgare, rolls up into a tight little ball when disturbed. We also find a closely related species, the Common Rough Woodlouse, Porcellio scaber, a more agile creature. In North America most of the people I've talked to refer to both as pill bugs, whereas in England, where I grew up, we called them all woodlice! Regardless of what one calls them, they both share a similar story of how they come to live in North America.

Common Pill...

April 5, 2011

New Fly for North Campus

Insect Trapping

To better understand the insect diversity of the North Campus, we've started surveying the insect fauna on the construction site. A few months ago, Dr. Brian Brown, the Museum's Curator of Entomology, set up a Malaise trap. This type of trap is commonly used by entomologists to capture small flying insects, and so far we've collected hundreds! One of the coolest (at least in Brian's opinion, and now mine too) is the Boatman Fly.
  
Dr. Brian Brown setting up a Malaise trap in his backyard
(yes Entomologists take their work home with them too!)

The Boatman Fly, Pogonortalis doclea, is a small (1/4 inch) fly originally from Australia. It was first recorded in California in 1963, and to date has not been recorded in any other state.  These flies are quite...

April 1, 2011

New Bird For North Campus List

165 and Counting...

Earlier this week, Kimball Garrett, NHM Ornithology Collections Manager, spotted a not-so-common sight, a pair of Rufous Hummingbirds, Selasphorus rufus, in the Rose Garden. This hummingbird species is now number 165 on Kimball's Exposition Park Checklist. Over the last 28 years, Kimball has been keeping track of all the birds he sees in Exposition Park, even those that are just doing a fly-over!
Male Rufous Hummingbird

An Annual Migration

Most of the year Rufous Hummingbirds cannot be found in our region, but in March and April they are often seen passing through. Every year this bird makes an over 3,000 mile migration from its overwintering grounds in Mexico to the Pacific Northwest. It is easily confused with one...

March 23, 2011

North Campus Interactives

Inter-whats? Interactives are what we at the Museum call cool gizmos and hands-on experiences in exhibits. We are planning to have some really great outdoor interactives in the North Campus. Right now we are getting ready to test prototypes in the Butterfly Pavilion yard. I'll post more about them when the Pavilion goes live on April 8, but as a teaser, check out this article posted on LA County Board of Supervisor, Zev Yaroslavsky's website.


This is the first round prototype of our proposed Butterfly Counter. Stay tuned for the version that visitors will try out in the Butterfly Pavilion.

March 22, 2011

Ladybug Central

New Ladybug Record For North Campus

On a recent jaunt around the Museum I found a new ladybug record for the North Campus. Yes, I do get paid to walk around outside and look for insects (awesome job)! I also get paid to keep track of all the creatures we find out there and make sure they are added to our ever expanding North Campus species list. Including this new record, we have found seven different species of ladybugs in the North Campus!

This is Adalia bipunctata, also known as the Two-spotted Ladybug. One of the many things I love about ladybugs is they are so aptly named! Just refer to our Lost Ladybug Field Guide for Los Angeles and you'll find fantastically named species ...

March 16, 2011

New Trees for Transition Garden

This week we have been planting trees in the Transition Garden.
 
Before I launch into an animated discussion on the individual plants we've chosen for the space, let me give you a basic primer on what the Transition Garden is all about. Firstly, this is the space that ramps you up from the lower level of our new Car Park to the Entrance Plaza where you'll get your tickets. It is a nice gentle slope, so it will be easy for people of all abilities to make their way into the North Campus. It is also a stepped garden on a fairly severe slope. With these points in mind Mia Lehrer + Associates (ML+A) had to design a garden that would function physically, biologically, and thematically (we wanted more than just a random selection of plants). Thanks to ML+A this garden tells a great story.
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March 9, 2011

Community Science (aka Citizen Science)

If you read the previous post, you already know the basic idea of the North Campus. Now let's talk more about citizen science. We have three citizen science projects, what we like to call Community Science, that anyone can participate in. They are the Los Angeles Spider SurveyLost Lizards of Los Angeles (aka LLOLA), and the Lost Ladybug Project which we host in partnership with Cornell University. All these projects help us collect data about what's living here in L.A. today. For instance, recently a LLOLA participant found a new lizard lounging in the Chatsworth area of L.A. Now when I say this lizard was lounging, I'm serious, they hang out by porch...

March 1, 2011

What are the Nature Gardens?

We're taking the Museum outside! A new outdoor nature area is sprouting up around the Natural History Museum, bringing a fun and interactive park and habitat area right into the heart of the city. Think of it as the city's new backyard, filled with a range of garden environments and interactive opportunities for visitors of all ages to watch birds and search for bugs, stroll along a creek, ramble through a grove of trees, and gaze at butterflies and bees in a new Pollinator Garden.
For more details about the Nature Gardens project check out our website.

To get you as excited as I am, here's a rendering of the pond by Nature Gardens landscape designers Mia Lehrer + Associates