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Research Departments

Birds and Mammals

The Department of Birds and Mammals is under the care of Curator Philip Unitt, a specialist in subspecies identification of California birds, author of The Birds of San Diego County, and editor of Western Birds, the regional journal of ornithology for western North America. More.


The collection is in the care of Jon P. Rebman, Ph.D., Curator, who is a specialist in the systematics of the Cactaceae (particularly the genus Cylindropuntia) and in the floristics of the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico, and San Diego and Imperial counties. More.


The Entomolgy Department is under the care of Dr. Shahan Derkarabetian, Curator of Entomology, who specializes in genetic analysis of museum specimens and the taxonomy of arachnids. More.


The Department of Herpetology focuses on biodiversity research and is home to the Amphibian and Reptile Atlas of Peninsular California. The Atlas documents amphibians and reptiles from southern California and Baja California using both Museum collection data and observations from citizen scientists. The Curator is Bradford Hollingsworth, Ph.D. More.


The greater Southern California and Baja California region is one of the most fossil-rich areas in the United States, with rocks preserving an archive of the last 140 million years. Its ancient history is full of dramatic change and exceptional biodiversity—and The Nat’s Paleontology Department is here to carefully unearth, study, and share those stories. More.

Research Library

The Museum maintains a complete natural history reference library, with greatest strengths in the historic research interests of the institution -- botany, entomology, geology, herpetology, ornithology, mammalogy, marine invertebrates, and paleontology. The 56,000 volume collection includes both standard and obscure references, journals, rare books, and maps. More.

Marine Invertebrates

The Marine Invertebrates Department holds approximately 5 million specimens of marine invertebrates, emphasizing mollusks and crustaceans of southern California, Baja California, and the eastern Pacific in general. More.


The Museum maintains an extensive collection of minerals from Southern California, as well as a synoptic collection of minerals from around the world, including 26,000 catalogued specimens of minerals, meteorites, and precious gems. Of particular interest is the collection of valuable minerals found in pegmatite deposits in San Diego County, including extensive tourmaline deposits. More.