Computational Biology Seminar Series for Undergraduates

Sponsored by the LSU College of Science, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Center for Computation & Technology and the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network

Smart-phones solving the urban biodiversity data crisis: An example from the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California citizen science project.


Urbanization presents one of the world’s greatest biodiversity threats. Not only is urbanization responsible for habitat modification, but the number of people and goods moving through urbanized areas also increases the chance of nonnative species being introduced. As a further complication, urbanized areas largely consist of private property (e.g., backyards) that is difficult for biologists to survey. Fortunately, urban areas are also filled with millions of people who have the technology to solve this biodiversity data crisis in their pockets. Smart-phones allow for the collection of photographic vouchers that document species occurrences. At the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, we have initiated programs that facilitate data collection by citizen scientists. For example, the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) citizen science project was designed to understand how species ranges have been impacted by urbanization. This is done by comparing modern citizen science generated records to historical museum records. We also use RASCals data to detect and track nonnative species. Observations include multiple discoveries of previously undocumented nonnative species for which citizen scientists and museum researchers have co-authored peer-reviewed, scientific publications.


Dr. Greg Pauly is the Associate Curator of Herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He studies the natural history, evolution, and conservation of reptiles and amphibians. Since joining the Museum in 2012, he has increasingly studied the impacts of urbanization on wildlife. Pauly has developed multiple citizen science projects to increase data collection in urban areas, including the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) citizen science project; with the help of hundreds of citizen scientists, Pauly is studying how species are responding to increasing urbanization. The RASCals project has also detected a number of species not previously known to occur in the region, and resulted in numerous publications coauthored with citizen scientists. Pauly was also one of the lead curators on the Museum's new Nature Lab exhibit. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and prior to arriving at NHM was a postdoctoral fellow at UC Davis.

Dr. Greg Pauly

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles