Thriving California aims to regenerate biodiversity, build resilience to climate change, and advance equitable access to nature across our state and in Sierra forests; coasts; and cities, starting in San Francisco.

California is at the very heart of the Academy. We are the oldest science institution in the American West, established to understand and celebrate the state’s stunning natural diversity. At the same time, California is also on the front lines of the interconnected biodiversity and climate change crises, with many of the state’s species and habitats threatened by rising temperatures and record-breaking wildfires.

Through three pathways—biodiversity science, environmental learning, and collaborative engagement—we will investigate the past, monitor the present, and create a future where healthy, resilient human and natural communities thrive together.

2 smiling high school students display a specimen on a rocky tidepool

A statewide movement

The Academy is growing a statewide movement for nature through a wide variety of activities inside and outside our museum walls, including a new California exhibit, California: State of Nature; digitizing our 1 million plant specimens from California; and building an early warning system using community science observations to track coastal health and prioritize conservation efforts.

Academy scientists hike through burned forest in the Caples Creek watershed.

Resilient forests

Deep in the Sierras, Academy scientists are engaged in a multi-year partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to investigate the relationship between intentional fire and enhanced biodiversity—and how both can boost forest resilience.

Academy researchers are also using past and present biodiversity data to map “zombie forests” where the climate has become too warm for some tree species to survive. By identifying these wildfire-susceptible forests, we are helping forest and resource managers design strategies to better protect human and natural communities in the Sierras.

Pycnopodia starfish in a California tidepool

Healthier coasts

Kelp forests along California’s coasts are being decimated by the effects of climate change and historic hunting and fishing, which have led to the loss of top predators and a population explosion of kelp-eating sea urchins. The Academy is working with a coalition of aquariums and nonprofits to improve the health of kelp forests by bringing back sunflower sea stars (Pycnopodia helianthoides). An endangered keystone species, sunflower stars consumes sea urchins but are now nearly extinct in California because of a climate-driven disease.

In addition to rearing starfish as part of that coalition, the Academy leads the Solstice Sea Star Search. This biannual bioblitz engages communities along the California coast to search for and document sea stars, including sunflower stars, so we can determine where remaining populations may be.

Group hiking through a green field

A nature-rich city

The Academy is the convener of a new, unprecedented citywide alliance called Reimagining San Francisco. More than 40 organizations—nonprofits, government agencies, community-based organizations, and universities—have joined with us to improve the ecological health of our city and equitably distribute the benefits of local nature to all.

To raise awareness about urban nature among people of all ages, the Academy and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County started the City Nature Challenge in 2016. Since then, this friendly competition has exploded into an international event motivating people around the world to find and document wildlife in nearly 700 cities.

Thriving California wordmark with orange poppy blossom
Our strategic initiatives
The Academy's mission is to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Explore the initiatives that will help us achieve it.