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Scientific Expeditions

Expeditions lay the groundwork for conservation.

We search and we research. Our scientists, along with peers in both the United States and Mexico, conduct biological expeditions and other field research in some areas of southern California and throughout the Baja California Peninsula. Expeditions, like much of the research the Museum does, center around the very simple question, “What lives where?” Although simple, the question is fundamental to biodiversity conservation. What to save? Where to save it?

The data we collect are often used by local citizens and organizations to inform conservation efforts. In many of these areas, the biodiversity is incredible, yet not well documented. One expedition at a time, we attempt to fill in those voids and contribute to the conservation of some of the most amazing places on Earth.

Conserving Coastal Lagoons through the Ridgway’s Rail

Hundreds of years ago, Southern California was teeming with coastal lagoonsestuaries protected from the sea in salty, lake-like formations. These lagoons create unique ecosystems where a massive array of wildlife can flourish, including "umbrella species" like the Ridgway's Rail. Learn more

Cape Lowlands of Baja California Sur (2022-2026)

In collaboration with Pronatura Noroeste, Nat scientists are measuring how local plants and animals respond to restoration management in the understudied tropical thornscrub above La Paz. The ultimate goal is to get a better understanding of ecosystem-level resiliency—the ability to bounce back from disturbance—and restoration effectiveness as development in the area expands, and climate change continues to reshape the land. More.

Southern Gulf Islands (2018)

For two weeks in November 2018, 25 scientists and volunteers visited 15 different islands in the southern portion of the Gulf of California to gather information on the status of terrestrial biodiversity of these islands. They documented a remarkable number of new records for the islands: 114 new plant records, 2 new herpetological records, and at least a dozen entomological records. More.

San Jacinto Resurvey (2008-2014)

In 1908 the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley mounted an expedition to the San Jacinto Mountain region, pioneering the exploration of southern California’s biology. On the 100th anniversary of this expedition, the San Diego Natural History Museum began a multi-year study to retrace its path and see how the area’s wildlife has changed over the last century. Learn more.

Mojave Desert Resurvey (2015-2018)

We extended our San Jacinto resurvey work to 32 sites in the Mojave Desert region, mostly in Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Park. The goal? To understand how the fauna of western North America was transformed by human population growth and land-use changes since it was documented by Grinnell and his team 100 years earlier. Learn more.

Revillagigedo Islands (2017)

The Revillagigedo Islands off the coast of Mexico are known for their unique ecosystem and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In February 2017, a team of international scientists and associates, many from The Nat, spent 21 days on a voyage to these remote islands to document the wealth of terrestrial diversity and evaluate the conservation status of the plants and animals found there. More.

Los Brasileros (2017)

In November 2017, staff from The Nat worked with partners throughout the regions to conduct a binational multidisciplinary survey of an area known locally as Los Brasileros. This project was a hybrid of recent intensive survey work in the Sierra Cacachilas and a rapid biodiversity survey. More.

Sierra Cacachilas Expedition

Join our multi-disciplinary team of researchers as they head to the Sierra de las Cacachilas in Baja California Sur to study birds, plants, and insects.

Sierra Cacachilas (2013-2016)

In late October 2013, more than 30 researchers, students, and volunteers converged on this small mountain range near La Paz for a binational, multidisciplinary expedition. The expedition team traveled by foot and mule to reach the interior high elevations of the rugged Cacachilas Mountains. Historical collections from the heart of the mountains are very rare, making it a “black hole” of biodiversity information. More.

Isla Guadalupe (2000)

Isla Guadalupe was once a "Naturalist's Paradise", an outpost humming with biodiversity. Then, 200 years of occupation by humans and invasive species changed everything. Armed with years of historical data and a healthy dose of hope, our researchers ventured back to Isla Guadalupe in 2000 to document the changes, search for lost species, and move the island toward recovery. More.

Agua Verde and Punta Mechudo (2003)

This binational, multidisciplinary expedition explored the southern end of the Sierra de La Giganta between Agua Verde and Punta Mechudo. For 21 days, beginning November 5, 2003, approximately 30 scientists from Mexico and the United States conducted fieldwork near Mission Los Dolores and further south at San Evaristo. More.

Sierra San Francisco and Sierra Guadalupe (1997)

This was the first major multidisciplinary expedition that the Museum sponsored since the 1960s. The focus of this expedition was two mountain ranges, the Sierra San Francisco and the Sierra Guadalupe, located in northern Baja California Sur on the eastern edge of the Vizcaino Desert. The small amount of scientific documentation previous to this expedition indicated that a biological mosaic of species from both tropical and temperate climates existed in this area. More.