Each year, the San Dieguito River Park organizes a trip for our active volunteers to a location or institution that is designed to widen their understanding of natural or cultural resources and in turn make them more well-rounded volunteers in the park. Some twenty volunteers, many of them Dust Devils, were treated to a private, docent-led tour of the San Diego Natural History Museum. This museum, also known as the NAT, was originally founded as the San Diego Society of Natural History. It is the oldest scientific institution in Southern California and the third oldest west of the Mississippi, according to its website. The institution has occupied the same building in Balboa Park since 1933.
Two of the NAT’s permanent exhibitions are directly relevant to SDRP volunteers – “Coast to Cactus in Southern California” and “Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science”.
“Coast to Cactus in Southern California” allows visitors to the museum an opportunity to learn about the climates and habitats that make the San Diego region. Visitors can experience burrowing into the mud of a tidal flat, understand the impact of fire on the plants of the chaparral ecosystem, learn about the detrimental effects of non-native/invasive species, and listen to the sounds of the desert from the comfort of an Airstream trailer. Last year, the Canyoneers of the San Diego Natural History Museum, volunteers and citizen scientists who lead guided hikes throughout the county, published the book “Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors”, which is intended to be an extension of the museum exhibition.
Some SDRP volunteers got to see the exhibit on the history of citizen science. Handmade books from the NAT’s library, some hundreds of years old, are on display. All of these works are examples of private citizens who furthered work in science due to their own interest in the field. One of the most exciting pieces is a rare extra-large printing of John James Audubon’s “Birds of North America”. A page of the book is turned after a certain number of days so that the illustrations do not receive damage from the light.
Please visit the NAT and see these exhibits for yourself.