UNRC Discoveries

We asked, you helped, and now we are tallying the wondrous wildlife of our city. On this page, we’ll spotlight some notable observations and recount how citizen scientists found them.

Citywide Fly Diversity Patterns

UNRC entomologists Dr. Brian Brown and Emily Hartop have reported on patterns they've discovered from a year of BioSCAN fly samples collected across Los Angeles. They identified 99 species of flies in the family Phoridae from the traps, after sorting and examining 42,480 specimens. They found that five species were collected at all sites, but that the entire fauna was dominated by a common fungus-feeding fly,  Megaselia agarici, which made up a quarter of the entire catch. Other fungus-feeding species were also abundant, and flies with this life history made up 40% of all phorid flies collected. The map shows the BioSCAN trap sites, with red circles indicating high diversity and blue low diversity.


Citizen Science Outcomes

Citizen science is a fantastic tool for studying urban biodiversity, but does it help with conservation? UNRC herpetologist Dr. Greg Pauly and Citizen Science Manager Lila Higgins collaborated with scientists from UC Davis, the Natural History Museum, London, and the California Academy of Sciences to find out.  They categorize and compare citizen science programs at three natural history museums, and confirm that they do enhance conservation efforts, including contributions to management, policy, research, and education.  Their study also highlights ways to improve citizen science projects, and discusses how Natural History Museums are ideal places for citizen science and engagement.

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Snail on Campus

Citizen scientist and UCLA undergraduate Cedric Lee searches for snails and slugs on campus. One day, he found Lauria cylindracea, the "common chrysalis snail” dotting the sidewalk. The tiny snail is about the size of a dull pencil point and hails from Europe, not North America. Cedric’s discovery was the first observation of this snail in California. SLIME participants have so far identified two new land snail records for the state and four snail and slug records for Los Angeles County.

A Squirrel Turf Battle

We are monitoring the turf war between our two tree squirrel species in Southern California. The Western gray squirrel is disappearing from its historic range due to its sensitivity to urbanization and being outcompeted by the more adaptable Eastern fox squirrel, introduced to the area in the early 1900s. Citizen scientists have recently spotted some Western gray Squirrels in the Verdugo Mountains, where Museum scientists didn’t expect to find them.

Coffin Fly

The BioSCAN Project found a number of flies from the genus Conicera from one of the project's backyard sites in Los Angeles. The most well-known, Conicera tibialis, is called the Coffin fly—it has been known to dig six feet down to buried corpses! So far, 43 species of flies new to science have been described from the project and several new records to the area have been recorded.

Gecko Finders

Citizen scientist Glen Yoshida photographed a gecko on the front porch of his Torrance home in April 2013, a photo that resulted in the discovery of Indo-Pacific geckos in California for the first time. In the first four years of our reptile and amphibian citizen science research, we have discovered three other species never before reported from California and 16 first-time county documentations.