• California redwoods
    (California Academy of Sciences © Kathryn Whitney)
  • Sea stars along the California coast
    (California Academy of Sciences © Kathryn Whitney)

SAN FRANCISCO (November 10, 2020) – The California Academy of Sciences has joined a newly formed coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting California’s world-renowned natural heritage. The California Biodiversity Network aspires to bring together scientific institutions, conservation organizations, tribal governments, museums, and educators to conduct research in support of biodiversity protection, coordinate conservation efforts, and train tomorrow’s environmental leaders. The network is a key part of California’s strategy to preserve the state’s unique biodiversity and combat the climate crisis.

Thanks to its wide variety of climates, soils, and geography, California is home to more species of plants and animals than any other state, accounting for roughly a third of all species found in the nation. But habitat loss, invasive species, changing climate, and a reduction in water supplies pose imminent threats to these natural riches.

"Meaningful progress in the fight to address climate change and biodiversity losses can occur only through deep, cross-sector collaboration,” says the Academy's Executive Director Scott Sampson, PhD. “The California Biodiversity Network has potential to become a global model for how to engage in this critical work, and the Academy is proud to help lead the way."

Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order directing the state’s Natural Resources Agency to consult with stakeholders to guide California’s climate and conservation work. The governor’s order also commits California to achieve protection for 30 percent of the state by 2030. California now joins 38 countries in this ambitious global effort. The California Biodiversity Network—which will help develop strategies to achieve the “30 by 30” goal—includes founding partners at natural history museums such as the Academy, land trusts and conservancies such as Pepperwood Preserve, the National Park Service, California State Parks, and the University of California. Network members will look for opportunities to engage with local communities to frame more inclusive pathways toward a sustainable future.

In addition to advising state actions on biodiversity conservation, network members are committed to building an equitable network for conservation leaders. “Our mission is not just to advise on the science but also to help train the next generation of environmental conservationists,” says Peggy Fiedler, executive director of the UC Natural Reserve System and a cofounder of the network.

“We’re thrilled to share and build upon our 167-year history of research in California, carefully documenting its natural history and changing ecosystems,” says Shannon Bennett, PhD, the Academy’s Chief of Science. “By expanding our California-focused research with new and existing community collaborations, we can further document and better protect the life and landscapes we love.”

Network partners will utilize their technical expertise and resources in various ways to help protect biodiversity. Museums like the Academy will leverage their collections to assess the state’s baseline biodiversity, and will invite the public to contribute their own wildlife observations through iNaturalist, the world’s most popular citizen science app co-powered by the Academy and National Geographic. As a global leader in citizen science, the Academy mobilizes these crowdsourced data for greater collective impact by organizing Snapshot Cal Coast, co-organizing the City Nature Challenge (which swept 244 cities worldwide last year), and helping to lead other community campaigns such as California Biodiversity Day, an initiative inviting all Californians to make and share nature observations to further critical research on how wildlife is changing. The network also hopes to partner with California Tribal Nations, whose knowledge and expertise from stewarding nature for time immemorial is critical to this work—past, present, and future.

Together, members of the California Biodiversity Network will look for opportunities to incorporate traditional land management practices into policies that foster ecosystem health. Scientists will research how ecosystems respond to stressors linked to climate change, often analyzing large, crowd-sourced datasets to advise the state on conservation decisions. Academy scientists in particular will leverage existing monitoring partnerships that respond to marine mammal strandings along the California coast, track shifting species ranges in the state’s Marine Protected Areas, and document how forest ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada respond to fire. The Academy will also draw from core research on the diversity of California wildlife—from native wildflowers to scorpions to deep-sea corals—to help further the shared goals of the network.

The Academy looks forward to furthering its work at the intersection of conservation and community engagement through the network’s emerging partnerships across the state. To see California’s natural wonders in a new way, journey outside with iNaturalist as your mobile-app guide to wildlife observations, or step into the Academy’s Giants of Land and Sea exhibit, which celebrates the scientists and communities taking action every day to sustain our state’s extraordinary biodiversity.

About Research at the California Academy of Sciences

The Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences is at the forefront of efforts to understand two of the most important topics of our time: the nature and sustainability of life on Earth. Based in San Francisco, the Institute is home to more than 100 world-class scientists, state-of-the-art facilities, and nearly 46 million scientific specimens from around the world. The Institute also leverages the expertise and efforts of more than 100 international Associates and 450 distinguished Fellows. Through expeditions around the globe, investigations in the lab, and analysis of vast biological datasets, the Institute’s scientists work to understand the evolution and interconnectedness of organisms and ecosystems, the threats they face around the world, and the most effective strategies for sustaining them into the future. Through innovative partnerships and public engagement initiatives, they also guide critical sustainability and conservation decisions worldwide, inspire and mentor the next generation of scientists, and foster responsible stewardship of our planet.

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