Disney Conservation Fund Helps Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Protect the Magic of Nature
LOS ANGELES, CA, OCTOBER 15, 2018 – The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) is the latest recipient of support from the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) for the Backyard Bat Survey. In this project, museum scientists partner with residents in under-studied neighborhoods to track and record bat activities for the first large-scale study of bat habitat usage in urban and suburban habitats. The fund has been supporting local efforts around the world aimed at saving wildlife, inspiring action and protecting the planet with more than $75 million distributed to nonprofit organizations since 1995.
Led by NHM’s Community Science Manager, Miguel Ordeñana, the Backyard Bat Survey is an opportunity to broaden awareness and interest in conserving species found in urban areas and to inspire city dwellers to become stewards of the environments in which they live. While most scientific research on wildlife is concentrated in “natural” areas where discoveries are frequent and spectacular, urban areas are often considered not worthy of study. This lack of data, and difficulties in accessing L.A.’s private property and developed landscapes, means there is insufficient information to inform land planning for the benefit of conservation.
Bats play an important role in the world’s ecosystems as seed dispersers, pollinators, and as efficient and successful insectivores, keeping insect numbers at sustainable levels. In Southern California, the majority of bat species are insectivorous and are effective in pest control. Bat colonies eat millions of insects a night, keeping vectors of disease (e.g., mosquitoes) under control and saving the agricultural industry billions of dollars a year in pesticide costs and crop damage. Bats also act as indicators of environmental health. For instance, species like the hoary bat only roost in foliage, allowing their presence or absence in an area to act as a sign of habitat quality. Most bat species are intolerant of urbanization, though 16 known bat species persist in the L.A. area, thanks to special habitat modifications that allow roosting and foraging. Previous local studies focused on large urban wilderness areas, and little is known about bat habitat use of the urban core. In addition to filling major data gaps for the L.A. area, the data collected in this project will be incorporated into the Bat Acoustic Monitoring Portal (BatAMP), providing insights for the broader bat research community to develop an improved understanding of seasonal and migratory patterns across North America.
In 2015, NHM established its Urban Nature Research Center (UNRC) with a mission to increasing our understanding of, and responsibility for, local wildlife. UNRC spearheads programs, research partnerships, and special projects such as the upcoming book Wild LA (available in March 2019), an accessible field guide that celebrates local wildlife. “Today, the efforts of our UNRC scientists like Miguel are overcoming obstacles in remarkably effective ways,” said NHM President and Director Dr. Lori Bettson-Varga. “Scientific knowledge is being advanced, while people in L.A. become inspired to take conservation action by connecting to and caring for nature in their yards, parks, and green spaces.”
Recent DCF grant recipients were selected based on their efforts to implement comprehensive community wildlife conservation programs, stabilize and increase populations of at-risk animals and engage communities in conservation in critical ecosystems around the world.
For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature and a complete list of grant recipients, visit ww.disney.com/conservation.
About the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County
The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County include the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park (NHM), the La Brea Tar Pits, and the William S. Hart Museum. They operate under the collective vision to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds. The museums hold one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history—more than 35 million objects. Using these collections for groundbreaking scientific and historic research, the museum also incorporates them into on- and offsite nature and culture exploration in L.A. neighborhoods, and a slate of community science programs—creating a new natural history museum experience that explores the past, but increasingly addresses the present and the future.
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