Co-Director of Citizen Science
I co-direct the Center for Biodiversity and Community at the California Academy of Sciences, where I am also a Research Associate in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology. For most of my academic career, I have focused on color pattern evolution and untangling the evolutionary history of nudibranchs. In my current work, I support and grow a community of naturalists working together to discover nature and collect important species occurrence data. I am passionate about building coalitions around place-based nature connection, biodiversity documentation, and using species observations to understand climate change. In 2017 I was honored with the Bay Nature ‘Local Heroes for Environmental Education Award’, along with my co-director, Alison Young. I spearhead the Academy’s biodiversity work with the City of San Francisco. In 2016, along with Alison Young and Lila Higgins of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, I co-founded the City Nature Challenge, a now global, annual contest between cities and metro areas to share observations of nature over a four-days in April. In 2019, over 150 cities participated, and together we made almost 1 million observations. I also co-created and direct Snapshot Cal Coast, an annual effort funded by the State of California, that mobilizes partners along the California Coast to make and share observations of coastal species in order to inform marine protected area management and document species range changes. I am a founding member of the San Francisco Children & Nature Coalition and the Co-Chair of the San Mateo Marine Protected Area Collaborative. Natural history and biodiversity-focused citizen science programs around the country and the world look to the work of our team as a model for engaging their own communities and gathering critical biodiversity data. I was a summer undergraduate intern in the Academy's first-ever Summer Systematics Institute and now I co-direct the program and am the Co-PI on the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) grant with which it is funded. I am also a Co-PI on an international team studying how young people learn through natural history museum citizen science funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. I earned my B.A. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, my M.A. in Systematics and Ecology from San Francisco State University and my Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. I live in San Francisco with my family.
Connect with me @rebafay on twitter or @rebeccafay on iNaturalist