test imageHuman activities are changing the environment faster than at any time during the history of our species.  Natural history museums have a critical role in establishing a baseline from which we can measure change in the natural world which sustains us. CABI is focused on projects which integrate biodiversity data with spatial information about Earth, such as climate and topography, to improve our understanding of changing patterns of biodiversity.  CABI has a range of biodiversity mapping and modeling research projects contributing to some of the most exciting conservation initiatives of our time.

Biodiversity Mapping in the Neotropics

testImgThe neotropics is one of our planet’s most diverse and least understood ecosystems. Extending from southern Mexico, throughout Central America, and covering most of South America, this region is home to the Amazon rainforest, the tropical Andes mountains, and the narrow throat of the Americas connecting north and south.  Because the area is generally quite poorly sampled, it is critical to develop tools that allow us to maximize the existing information we have about the biodiversity of the neotropics.  CABI has a wide range of research projects that map known occurrences of target species, model their distributions, and integrate other critical factors such as land use change and climate change.  All of our projects are aimed at producing results that apply to the conservation of the extraordinary diversity of neotropical life.  Most of these projects are conducted by Latin American students who are training to be the next generation of biodiversity science leaders in their home countries.

  • Panama Greenprint Mapping
  • Neotropical Areas & Climate Change
  • Invasive Species
  • Leptodactylids
  • Habitat Fragmentation of Costa Rican Trees

Climate Change & Conservation

B1 2090 Redwood

A major focus of CABI research involves forecasting species range shifts for the design and implementation of large landscape conservation strategies. Connecting protected areas through a network of climate adaptation corridors allows species to move through more altered landscapes, and gives them an opportunity to cope with shifting climates. A critical component of this conservation strategy involves understanding where geographic ranges of target species may shift. CABI uses a large ensemble of global climate models to project species future distributions to support conservation planning in a changing world.

  • Uncertainty in Ecological Forecasting
  • Range Shift Modeling in North America
  • Redwoods & Climate Change
  • Ecoclim.org
  • Bay Area Biodiversity Adaptation Planning

Integrated Research Information Portal

Our research departments hold more than a million catalog records describing specimens in our collections and more than a hundred thousand images that document organisms and the habitats they came from.  While our collection databases and many of our images have been accessible via the Web for several years, they could only be addressed one resource at a time.  CABI is now developing an integrated portal that will enable users to retreive and display research information from all departments through a single interface.  Additional information will about the project will be published before the end of the year and we expect to put the first prototype into production in early 2010.

Taxonomic Catalogs

Taxonomic names and classifications are among the primary outputs of research conducted in natural history museums.  Taxonomic names are also one of the most important ways by which we store and retrieve biological information.  Names and classifications are created and enter scientific discourse by being published, but publication is a highly distributed and uncoordinated process.  Compiling all of the names for a group of organisms into a taxonomic catalog and keeping that catalog up to date are significant efforts, but these catalogs are critical and well-used information resources.  The Research Division maintains several taxonomic catalogs, and CABI has undertaken a project modernize the approach for maintaining taxonomic catalogs.  This project will focus on ants, and will enable ant taxonomists around the world to collaborate in maintaining the most important summary of their collective endeavors.  The catalog will be managed using open data principles and will make the contents available to people with modern interfaces and to computers in related projects through web services.

Contact the Department

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118
  • Department Contact
  • Center for Applied Biodiversity Informatics
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118
  • 415-379-5201 (direct)

100 year projection of Coastal Redwood forest distribution along the California Coast


CABI researchers partnered with the Visualization Studio at the Academy to produce this animated time series of their projected range of coast redwood forests under two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Each decade shows a “pessimistic” outcome (A2) compared with an “optimistic” (B1) scenario for the fate of the redwoods. Reducing our emissions today will clearly have an effect on this species in the future. The choice is ours!