We're documenting how Southern California’s deserts have changed over the last century. Decades after zoologist Joseph Grinnell’s expeditions into California’s wild places in the early 1900s, museum staff returned to Grinnell’s study sites. Along with UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, we retraced his team’s footsteps in the Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, and San Jacinto Mountains to reevaluate the flora and fauna. We compared our extensive data with Grinnell’s specimens, photos, and field notes, revealing significant range extensions, steep declines, and surprising stabilities among various species of animals.
Nat staff are spearheading efforts to reintroduce endangered Sonoran pronghorn to California after they disappeared over 80 years ago. Although they’re the fastest land mammals in the Western Hemisphere, pronghorn couldn’t outpace habitat loss and hunting, and disappeared from our region in 1941. Using museum collections, genetics, and captive breeding, our team is collaborating with government agencies, universities, zoos, hunting groups, and conservation organizations in the U.S. and Mexico to bring this endangered subspecies back—and set it up for success in our region. The current candidate for their new home is the last place they were seen: the Chuckwalla Bench northeast of the Salton Sea.