• Our Canyons
    Connect us to nature.
  • Our Canyons
    Deserve protecting.
  • Our Canyons
    Are essential.

Healthy Canyons

Canyons define San Diego.

San Diego is home to more than 150 canyons. These special spaces provide important benefits for people, plants, and animals. In fact, our canyons are home to 85 rare, threatened, and endangered species. Canyons absorb and filter stormwater run-off, naturally combatting flooding and pollution and their natural landscapes help buffer higher temperatures common in developed areas. They serve as important wildlife corridors for animals to safely move throughout urban spaces they would not otherwise be able to traverse. And, they provide much needed recreational space.

Canyons are vital, but threatened.

Thanks to its urban canyons, 81% of San Diego’s 1.4 million residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park or green space. As the population has grown, and flat land has been increasingly developed, these steep, difficult-to-build-on places are often left untouched. This means in many urban areas, canyons survive as the only green spaces, and are home to many things that humans, plants, and animals depend on for a healthy environment.

Unfortunately, canyons are threatened by continued development, pollution, invasive species, and more. We want to better understand how we can help protect these special spaces and ensure their unique benefits remain accessible to our communities for generations to come.

This is a big, community effort.

We utilized the strength of community science as part of a pilot project to learn more about the environment in our canyons and backyards. We worked with two local neighborhoods to engage community members in scientific collection methods. We conducted a community assessment to better understand and integrate community priorities for their canyon-spaces into our pilot. Ultimately, this is one phase of a larger effort that will help us all learn about our urban and wild environment.

It is with this in mind that we created a summary of our work through a Project Toolkit: Community Science in Urban Green Spaces, available below.This report includes lessons learned, tips to create your own similar efforts in urban green spaces, and resources we found helpful throughout the life of our pilot. It was designed with non-profit practitioners in mind, but we hope it will be helpful to anyone who wants to engage communities in the biodiversity of urban green spaces.

Download Project Toolkit

Additional Downloadable Resources for urban green space community science

Community Participant Resources

What we hope to accomplish alongside you.

By developing an empowered network of community activists and organizations we aim to make our canyons accessible to everyone. Because they are your canyons. And our canyons. This is about understanding the overlap between the urban environment and wildlife. Together we can help and share how nature plays a revitalizing role in peoples’ lives.

Our project partners.

Thank you to our project partners, San Diego Canyonlands and Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek. Check out their websites for more information about the work they do in connecting communities and urban green spaces in San Diego. This project is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Additional funding has been provided by the J. W. Sefton Foundation, the City of San Diego, and our community of donors.

Questions about the Healthy Canyons Initiative? Contact Michelle Thompson, Exequiel Ezcurra Director of Conservation Biology, mthompson@sdnhm.org.