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Residents Become Canyon Stewards

White mesh tents popped up in backyards and green spaces in 2021 when residents near Ruffin and Chollas Creek canyons began monitoring insects on their properties. The goal? To document biodiversity in canyon-adjacent neighborhoods as part of our Healthy Canyons community science initiative.  

The multi-year project, developed in partnership with San Diego Canyonlands and Groundwork San Diego, aims to connect people with urban green spaces, diversify green space stewardship, and better understand the health of these urban wildlife corridors.  

Residents-turned-community scientists collected nearly 65,000 insects in six months. Each specimen was counted by our amazing entomology volunteer, Fran Bookheim. It will take years to identify them all, but we already know some are new to science! Understanding their presence (or absence) in San Diego’s canyons can provide insights into our local environmental health. 

We are sharing our process and findings with other organizations and community science practitioners around the country beginning with an easy-to-use toolkit available on our website here.   

Total insects collected (June-December 2021): 64,847 

  • Ruffin Canyon: 32,460 
  • Chollas-Radio Canyons: 32,387 

Total weight of insects collected: 482.2g (~1 pound) 

That’s a lot of insects.  

In many urban areas, canyons survive as the only green spaces, and are home to many things that humans, plants, and animals depend on for a healthy environment.

Lauren Marino Perez and Emily Blanchard from The Nat set up a malaise trap in a homeowner's backyard.

Residents, students, scientists, and volunteers identified insects as part of a pilot project to asses the biodiversity of two local canyon systems.

Posted by Community Engagement Manager Lauren Marino Perez on May 15, 2023

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