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NHM's Nature Lab

L.A.'s Wild Neighbors
The Nature Lab is a new indoor exhibit that will be a partner to the North Campus. Together, I like to think of them as L.A.'s urban nature center, both physically and metaphorically. Because we are in the very beginning stages of planning for this exhibit, we don't know exactly what it will look like when it opens Summer 2013. What we do know is it's going to be a place for visitors to meet and get to know our wild neighbors, from ladybugs and lizards to bobcats and buzzards!

To get to know our wild neighbors the exhibit will tell some of L.A.'s most intriguing nature stories. We hope to do this through use of:

Citizen Science
The Nature Lab will be the physical location, a hub if you will, for the Museum's Citizen Science projects. Not only will there be activities relating to all the existing projects (Lost Ladybugs, LLOLA, Spider Survey, etc), we're also going to have activities that allow visitors to participate in our new long-term urban biodiversity study of the North Campus.

Live Animals
Since live animals are unpredictable, we can't guarantee that visitors will always see a convergent ladybug in the North Campus. We can guarantee they'll see ladybugs in the Nature Lab though, by creating an awesome live animal display. We're hoping to have over 20 species of live animals on display in the Nature Lab.

The Nature Lab will also be a doing space! We're designing hands-on activities that will be part of the exhibit experience, which help to tell each of the nature stories. One doing activity we're already trying out is microscopy. We set up a microscope table in the new Discovery Center so visitors can get a peek at the minute insects we've been collecting right outside the Museum's front door.

 Testing microscopes in the Discovery Center
(yes, that's the underside of a beetle)
Some parts of  nature are rarely, if ever, seen by humans, and we want to give visitors a peek into them in the Nature Lab. Our video naturalist, Sam Easterson, also wants to give us a chance to see nature like we've never seen it before. This may involve him diving the depths of murky urban ponds to capture footage, or rigging up a peanut to contain a miniature camera so a squirrel becomes the cinematographer!

Museum Specimens
Last but not least, trying to tell a story in a museum without using taxidermy, study skins, pinned insects, or wet mounts, would be like going into a library and finding no books. For instance we've been talking about displaying the over 6,000 specimens people have sent in to the L.A. Spider Survey, to help tell the story of this long-term citizen science project.      
Wet specimens in Entomology collection storage