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Nature Gardens at NHM: LA's Urban Nature

Showing posts with label : Blog

September 9, 2013

Nature's Tiniest Potters

Did you know there are small wasps here in Los Angeles that are potters? No, I don't mean some sort of weird waspish Harry Potter fan club—although that sounds like something I'd be totally into—I mean wasps that use mud to make miniature pots. Take a look at the craftsmanship, the sharply narrowed neck and that wide fluted rim, exquisite!

Photo taken by NHM Head Gardener Richard Hayden, with my fingertip for some perspective!

This "pot" was constructed by a small wasp (one of those solitary wasps that are not prone to stinging us humans), which entomologists call potter wasps. However, this wasp wasn't just being artistic, she constructed this pot for a purely utilitarian function—it is actually a nest for an egg!

A few weeks ago during a California Naturalist training, I spotted this...


August 21, 2013

Take a Moment to Listen to the Trees

Trees don't have heartbeats. You can't put a stethoscope up to a tree trunk and expect to hear that familiar dull thumping that gently insists, "I am alive." At least I'm pretty sure you can't, no matter what hardcore LOTR fans say, Ents do not exist! However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't try putting a stethoscope up to a tree and listening.

What do you think you would hear?

Alex Metcalf knows.

Okay, so I know that silver trumpety thing isn't a stethoscope, but it would be really gross for a Museum to let thousands of school children and other visitors use the same stethoscope to listen to a tree. Since we're so considerate of our visitors and we really wanted everyone to be able to listen to the inner workings of a tree, we worked with British artist, ...


August 15, 2013

Los Angeles Meet Hollywood the Mountain Lion

Check out this never before seen image of our now famous Griffith Park mountain lion, Puma concolor, referred to by scientists as P-22.

P-22 (aka Hollywood) caught on camera by L.A. City Park Ranger Adam Dedeaux

Here's what Miguel Ordeñana, a field biologist and colleague of mine here at the Museum has to say about P-22:

"For those of you who don’t know, there is a mountain lion living in Griffith Park.  You may have seen some of his pictures on the Nature Lab [our latest Museum exhibit] screen.  My research team (Griffith Park Connectivity Study) first discovered him with one of our camera traps about a year and a half ago.  This was the first photographic evidence of a mountain lion in Griffith Park.  He was captured, collared, released, and named (P-22/Puma 22) soon...


August 9, 2013

L.A.'s Endangered Nature: Giant Flower-loving Flies

Ever heard of a fly that is big enough to be mistaken for a small hummingbird? Don’t worry this is not some horror movie featuring an overly large arthropod (think The Fly, Them, or the upcoming Big Ass Spider movie) this is real-life nature! Also, this is rare nature for Los Angeles; these flies are very, very uncommon in our region.

Ever seen this exhibit?

Some of you may have heard of the Delhi Sands Flower-loving Fly, Rhaphiomidas terminatus abdominalis, a federally listed endangered species. In fact, this is the only fly on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) endangered species list for the continental U.S. (there are a bunch of listed flies from Hawaii). We even have a whole exhibit dedicated to these flies in a somewhat hidden stairwell (close to...


July 26, 2013

Roadkill Science and the Dangers of Biking in L.A.!

What is the grossest thing that can happen to you while you are biking? Give up? Being splattered by freshly killed roadkill juice that’s what—did I mention it was a skunk?

This was my luck the other day as I was heading over to a picnic at the newly opened Echo Park Lake. Needless to say this trauma has caused me to extra vigilant and observant of roadkill of late. So much so, that I’ve even taken to participating in roadkill science—see it’s not creepy to get up close and personal with roadkill—it’s science!

Tuesday, on my day off, I drove around town looking for roadkill. I found two unfortunate animals who tried to cross the road (okay one of them was crossing a parking lot, but that makes for a terrible joke). I took pictures of them and submitted them to the California Roadkill Observation System (CROS). It was really easy, and I liked the...


July 12, 2013

Fire in the L.A. River

Many of you know I am a huge L.A. river fan. As a fan of the river and an advocate for river access, I was of course shocked and worried to hear about the fire that took place in the pilot recreation zone last Saturday.

The fire raged on a sandbar adjacent to the river bike path (image courtesy of Anthea Raymond).

The fire was caused by a gasoline tanker that crashed in the interchange tunnel between the 2 freeway and Interstate 5 (incidentally causing some of the most heinous traffic some of us have experienced in a long while). After it overturned, some of the 8,500 gallons of gas it was transporting leaked into a storm drain and traveled about half a mile into the river. The resulting fire was thankfully constrained to a...


July 1, 2013

June Beetles and Night Lights

This last weekend I stayed at Table Mountain campground in the Los Angeles National Forest and was visited by a group of beetles. No, not the British pop group out on a time-travelling-night-time-forest jaunt – though that would be blog worthy indeed. My camp buddies and I were visited by a gang of 40 adult male scarab beetles!

Three of the gang, hanging out on our picnic table. No they're not eating our hot dogs, they prefer pine needles

But what are they, you may ask? They are Ten-lined June Beetles, Polyphylla decemlineata, one of California's largest and most conspicuous scarab beetle species. And how did I know they were all males? This species exhibits sexual dimorphism (a fancy way for saying males and females look differently), which is most noticeable in the antennae (sure you could look at...


June 19, 2013

Bee Sex in the Nature Gardens

In July 2011, our Curator of Entomology, Dr. Brian Brown, brought in some old redwood he had lying around his yard. He wasn't just trying to pawn off some lumber he didn't need anymore, we wanted it to make some bee hotels.  Jerome Brown, one of our amazing exhibit technicians, fabricated two hotels and Phil Bouchard personally drilled the over 200 quarter inch holes (about an inch deep). Thanks guys!

Bee hotel in its new home by our hummingbird feeders.

This spring we finally saw the first bees using the hotels! I was so excited, I jumped up and down, Brian did not, he just smiled. We watched as bees checked out the little holes and then I saw two fall to the ground. "Oh look they're fighting," I exclaimed. "No," Brian responded, "they're using the hotel like they...


June 6, 2013

Memory Mapping Los Angeles @ Leo Politi Elementary

This Sunday our brand new Nature Lab opens for every Angeleno to enjoy. Aside from all the other fun stuff that will be in the exhibit — live animals, camera trap footage, awesome taxidermy — it's going to be a place to tell stories about L.A.'s surprising biodiversity. During the development of the Nature Lab we would often find ourselves sitting around a table telling stories of the crazy nature encounters we'd had. Like the time my friend Kristin left her favorite bar in downtown and saw a deer walking down the street! Seriously.

Kristin's L.A. nature memory illustrated by Martha Rich:

To encourage visitors to recount their own L.A. nature memories we captured 16 unique stories (including Kristin's) and had six amazing illustrators (Brian Rea, Mark Todd, Martha Rich, Liz Burrill, Lizzie Swift, and Anne...


June 4, 2013

Rattlesnakes Like the Los Angeles Times

There are only ten days left until our new exhibit, Nature Lab, opens. Last week, I introduced you to some babies that are moving in, and this week I want to introduce you to rescued contraband!
 
This is Obsidian, our new Southern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus helleri.
 

Obsidian chilling with his morning paper!
 

Snakes, particularly rattlesnakes, are often maligned and misunderstood. But hold on a minute, any creature that is cultured enough to enjoy the Los Angeles Times should be given a second chance – surely.
 
Let me give you the back story first; Obsidian is a rescued pet from a drug bust that took place in Riverside. Although, his previous owners were...