Past Projects

While the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) are not currently working on these projects, they have influenced our current community science projects.

Crab Shack

In October 2015, NHMLAC joined with WeDigBio for an international two-day effort to make research data about museum collections available to the world.

Inside the museum, the Marine Biodiversity Center is capturing data (“digitizing”) information from the preserved specimens of crabs in the family Cancridae—there are thousands of specimens in the museum’s collection (which, all together, has millions of specimens).

During our event, participants help transfer data from the paper labels in the specimen jars into our database.

We took photos of all the labels in the jars of our crab specimens. Our collaborators at Notes from Nature designed a special interface to make that job easier.

At the WeDigBio event, we gave a brief orientation to the project, got visitors started on digitizing crab data (and yes, that included prizes and games), and gave visitors a peek into the research “back end” of the museum collections and research space (places the public never sees).

Some of this work was summarized in a poster presented at the 2016 international meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Specimens in Berlin, Germany.

Thanks to all the participants who turned out for the Crab Shack event at the Natural History Museum!

Parrot Project

Researchers at NHMLAC have taken the lead in studying the populations of various species of parrots and parakeets in California since the early 1990s.

All of the 10 or more established parrot species in California were originally brought here for the pet bird trade. Naturalized populations (some numbering hundreds or even thousands of individuals) now thrive in urban and suburban landscapes, taking advantage of a variety of exotic trees and shrubs that provide fruit, seed, and nectar resources throughout the year.

More information about wild parrots in California, including identification guides, summaries of our research, and an online submission form for sightings, may be found at the California Parrot Project.


The ButterflySCAN project began in the spring of 2015 as an offshoot of the BioSCAN project.  

ButterflySCAN was a community science project aimed at understanding more about how butterflies are distributed throughout the city of Los Angeles. ButteflySCAN data was collected by trained volunteers, many of whom started out with little or no prior butterflying experience.  These community scientists spent about one hour every two weeks walking a regular route through a Los Angeles neighborhood, observing and identifying the butterflies they see, and recording their data on the eButterfly, web database. These data were then used to augment the data collected via BioSCAN, as well as becoming available to anyone wishing to use eButterfly to learn more about butterfly species’ distributions. One paper has been published about this research.

While ButterflySCAN was originally intended to run for only 4 months (March – June 2015), people may still upload their observations of butterflies to the eButterfly website. eButterfly doesn’t require a regular commitment—you can report as many or as few butterfly sightings as you wish, upload photos, or get help with identification.