SuperProject

What is the SuperProject?

The SuperProject is a one year long FREE program run by the Urban Nature Research Center (UNRC) at the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County. It is the world's largest urban biodiversity survey. NHMLAC scientists partner with and teach participants to make nature observations using smartphones in their own neighborhoods to better understand nature in Los Angeles. It is now in its third year.

A Big Idea

A few years ago, NHMLAC scientists were struggling to learn more about nature in L.A. Because Los Angeles County is spread over an enormous geographical region, with heavily urbanized areas that are mostly private property, it was impossible for a small team of NHMLAC scientists to survey all of it on their own. This densely populated city is a major hub of transportation and industry, with new plants and animals arriving daily. L.A.'s Mediterranean climate is agreeable to many species of plants and animals, allowing them to survive and thrive in their new home. How could scientists possibly get an accurate picture of which species are living in L.A.?

UNRC Scientist Miguel Ordeñana with SuperProject participants in 2017

UNRC scientists knew that there were many significant nature observations to be made in Los Angeles, but how could they find them? Then they had an exciting idea: if they joined forces with local residents who were willing to survey their own neighborhoods at regular intervals, it would become possible to gain a much deeper understanding of nature in Los Angeles. In 2016, they trained the first group of SuperProject participants and designed an easy way for them to report their findings.

It Worked! 

Using their own smartphones and cameras that could automatically record the date, time, and precise location of their observations, the SuperProject participants submitted photos of nature in their own neighborhoods twice a month for one year. Their observations were then used by museum scientists as data points to answer real scientific questions.

girl taking picture with phone in nature gardens

By using technology, access, and local knowledge, the SuperProject participants became invaluable to the study of nature in L.A. The museum scientists successfully expanded the SuperProject in 2017, and are making it even bigger in 2018.

This exciting new form of crowdsourcing data has forever changed the way we study nature in big cities.

Many SuperProject participants reported that they had gained a deeper appreciation of wildlife and were surprised by their local biodiversity. Previous SuperProject participants have helped collect new species, discover new records, and map fascinating location data. They have inspired us with their finds and coauthored scientific publications based on their discoveries. We hope you are interested in joining this exciting community!

The SuperProject is now in year three of its study.  Sign up to get on our notification list for year 4.

As a SuperProject participant, you will:

  • CONTRIBUTE to NHMLAC’s research by learning how to collect scientific data in your neighborhood while learning more than you ever imagined about your local wildlife
  • CONNECT with an amazing group of community scientists and NHMLAC researchers through SuperProject events and social media
  • RECEIVE special invitations to field trips and meet-ups throughout the year
  • LEARN observation and photography skills with the help of NHMLAC experts
  • ATTEND fun “thank you” events for SuperProject participants and their families

E-mail unrc@nhm.org with any questions.