• Three people stand/crouch at a tidepool in california during city nature challenge, in which they use iphones to take pictures of flora and fauna for inaturalist.
    Participants use iNaturalist to capture images of flora and fauna at the 2023 City Nature Challenge. Gayle Laird © California Academy of Sciences
  • A woman in a peach colored top and red hat crouches on Crissy Field near shrubs with the Golden Gate bridge and ocean featured in the background.
    The Academy hosts several bioblitzes annually, in which community scientists and other participants work together to find and identify as many different species as possible from a given area. Gayle Laird © California Academy of Sciences
  • A girl holds a net while she wades in shallow water during biodiversity day.
    A group of kids and adults participate in a 2023 Biodiversity Day bioblitz at Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael, California. Gayle Laird © California Academy of Sciences

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 9, 2024) – The California Academy of Sciences has received a $3 million, five-year grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to bolster biodiversity data collection and conservation efforts across California. The grant builds upon decades of work at the Academy and partner organizations, offering a crucial opportunity to streamline efforts to gather, share, and incorporate biodiversity data into California’s conservation planning.

The grant will establish a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Academy, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and iNaturalist, an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information, to better address the state’s biodiversity crisis through two major projects:

Data collection: The Academy plans to dramatically increase the amount of data on current biodiversity in California by creating new community science campaigns and bolstering existing programs including Snapshot Cal Coast, City Nature Challenge, and California Biodiversity Day. These campaigns help cultivate a stronger connection to nature among participants, while also generating valuable data for scientists to identify and monitor changes in biodiversity and ultimately inform conservation policies and actions.

Collaborative framework: The grant will fund the creation of a three-pronged collaborative framework involving the Academy, iNaturalist, and California state agencies, which will make it easier for government agencies to incorporate iNaturalist data in biodiversity and conservation decision-making processes.

The Academy will also work with taxonomists and other experts to improve species identifications on iNaturalist, with a focus on insects and other invertebrates. This phase builds upon a major digitization effort underway at the Academy—also supported by the Moore Foundation—to make one million California botany specimens accessible online.

“We are grateful to the Moore Foundation for supporting our continued relationships with iNaturalist and the state of California, leveraging all of our strengths for the betterment of California’s rich biodiversity,” said Rebecca Johnson, PhD, co-director of the Center for Biodiversity and Community Science and co-director of the Academy’s Thriving California initiative. “Through this grant, we hope to create a model for how to use iNaturalist and other community science data to gain a better understanding of local biodiversity and address pressing conservation needs.”

“Now, just by using iNaturalist to make species observations in California, you will have a voice and a role in the decision-making process around conservation and access to nature in your local community,” said Alison Young, who co-directs the Center for Biodiversity and Community Science and Thriving California initiative with Johnson. “The amount of new information and data this will give the state about where species are and how they are impacted by climate change is hugely important for California—the most biodiverse state in the U.S. but also the state with the most biodiversity at risk.”

Improving past and present biodiversity records

The Moore Foundation’s generous grant will help advance California’s 30x30 commitment to conserve 30% of its land and coastal waters for biodiversity, climate, and access by 2030. State-collected data on rare plants and threatened and endangered species are the basis of most conservation decisions today, with very limited use of community science data, even though community science data currently accounts for more than 60% of all species occurrence records worldwide. Knowing where species are found is foundational to the conservation of biodiversity, including not only understanding current species distributions and places of climate refugia, but also determining how species ranges will likely change in the future.

“California Department of Fish and Wildlife is excited to start this new collaborative framework with the California Academy of Sciences and iNaturalist teams,” said CDFW Biogeographic Data Branch Manager Carie Battistone. “Working together to increase community and scientific engagement, and increase the flow of community-collected data to the state is a monumental step toward conserving the state’s natural resources and maintaining our unique biodiversity.”

“The California Academy of Sciences is well situated to lead efforts to incorporate community science data and museum collections data into State-level decision making,” said Janet Coffey, PhD, a program director at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “We are delighted to continue our support for the Academy, building upon existing digitization and community science efforts that help us gain a more holistic understanding of California’s past and current biodiversity and to forecast changes to biodiversity over time.”

The Academy is hopeful that the grant will also support iNaturalist’s continued expansion and reach, during its current transition to organizational independence. Founded in 2008, iNaturalist has grown into one of the world’s most powerful nature platforms and crowdsourced species identification systems, hosting over 15 million community observations on over 33,000 species in California—a range and scale of observations made possible by the Academy’s longstanding support for the platform and leadership in community science.

“California has a thriving community on iNaturalist that is generating incredibly useful data,” said Carrie Seltzer, PhD, Head of Engagement for iNaturalist. “iNaturalist is excited to continue working with the California Academy of Sciences and begin collaborating with state government stakeholders to make sure people can have the greatest positive impact for California's biodiversity.”

Check out the latest updates and results from the 2024 City Nature Challenge

About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution with a mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and environmental education—all under one living roof. Museum hours are 9:30 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday, and 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Sunday. Admission includes all exhibits, programs, and shows. For daily ticket prices, please visit www.calacademy.org or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.

About the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation advances scientific discovery, environmental conservation, and the special character of the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit moore.org and follow @MooreFound.

About iNaturalist

iNaturalist is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature. It's also a crowdsourced species identification system and an organism occurrence recording tool. You can use it to record your own observations, get help with identifications, collaborate with others to collect this kind of information for a common purpose, or access the observational data collected by iNaturalist users. Sign up for iNaturalist here.

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