The Nat Blog

Helping Save the Ringtail

Posted: March 6, 2020

We don’t know much about our native ringtail cats, but we can say two things for certain: they are not actually cats (they are in the raccoon family), and they love strawberry jam. The Nat is working with the San Diego Zoo to study these elusive creatures and understand why they keep ending up as roadkill in our foothill areas. Read more.


Some bird species museum scientists have been studying are spreading in a more southerly or downslope direction over time, which is contrary to the expectations of climate warming. Why is this happening? They attribute these shifts to three main factors, all directly resulting from human influence. Read more.


A new species of feathered dinosaur has been discovered in China, and described by American and Chinese authors in the journal, The Anatomical Record. The fossil preserves feathers and bones that provide new information about how dinosaurs grew and how they differed from birds. Read more.


Scientists from The Nat have documented range shifts—changes to where an organism lives or occurs—of numerous animals, which are being analyzed in the broader context of climate warming and habitat change. One of these is the expansion of the nesting range of the Zone-tailed Hawk into California. Read more.


The Top 10 Specimens of the 2010s

Posted: December 26, 2019

In the spirit of the decade-spanning top ten lists that abound in our collective news feeds, we asked our curators to nominate two to three of the best specimens that were collected or discovered in the 2010s. We got 17 nominations, and musuem staff and volunteers voted to narrow the list down to “The Top 10 Specimens of the 2010s.” Read more.


One hundred years ago, scientists—both amateur and classically trained—found plants in the Baja California Peninsula that now seem to have disappeared. No one has seen them growing in the wild for decades—until now. Multiple recent expeditions have led to the rediscovery of some species. Where did they go and how did we find them? Read more.


Curatorial Milestones at The Nat

Posted: December 2, 2019

The Museum is delighted to celebrate milestone promotions for two of our long-time curatorial staff members. Phil Unitt in the Birds and Mammals Department and Dr. Brad Hollingsworth in the Herpetology Department were promoted from associate curator to curator in fall 2019.  Read more.


Specimens and resources in our archives are not just of interest for their historical value; they are strikingly relevant today. The Museum is five years into a multi-year project to photograph and digitize every one of the 76,000 specimens in its Herpetology collection, some of which date back to the 1890s. Read more.


The flat-tailed horned lizard has the most limited distribution of any horned lizard species in the United States, and its habitats have been impacted by development, off-road vehicle activity, and more. Using records of where the animal has been observed, coupled with data from the museum’s historic collections, scientists can understand the environmental factors that shape patterns of biodiversity and learn what the lizard needs to survive.  Read more.


Professionally trained researchers can’t be everywhere at all times. Citizen science projects, including one focused on the invasive shot hole borer beetle, provide opportunities for regular people to contribute to science. Read more.