Metropolitan Biodiversity Program

Conserving Nature in Human-Modified Landscapes

The Metropolitan Biodiversity Program seeks to enhance understanding of biodiversity, and threats to biodiversity, in human-modified landscapes and apply this knowledge to conservation. To accomplish this, the program integrates the American Museum of Natural History's scientific resources direhoctly into conservation-related research, education, planning, and management initiatives. Both common and rare plants, animals, and habitats are of interest, with an emphasis on understudied groups such as invertebrates.

New York State Museum's Biodiversity Research Institute, the New York Natural Heritage Program, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and The Nature Conservancy — launched the New York State Biodiversity Project (NYSBP). The NYSBP works to improve our understanding of the state's biodiversity and to identify both challenges and solutions to protecting that biodiversity. In 2002, the NYSBP established a central website with links to information on New York's biodiversity, an important information clearinghouse on biodiversity for New York's citizens, lawmakers, and conservation practitioners. In 2006, together with its NYSBP partners, the Metro Program published "Legacy: Conserving New York State's Biodiversity," a book summarizing what is currently known about the biodiversity of New York State, its natural heritage, critical threats to its biodiversity, and recommendations for future research and conservation.

Metro Program Manager Liz Johnson coordinated the development and production of the 2000 CBC Spring Symposium, "Nature in Fragments: The Legacy of Urban Sprawl," cosponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society's Metropolitan Conservation Alliance. The conference examined the phenomenon of unplanned development ("sprawl"), and its serious impact on biodiversity. "Nature in Fragments: The Legacy of Urban Sprawl," an edited volume, based in part on the symposium proceedings, was published by Columbia University Press in November 2005. Contributions by experts in planning, ecology, economics, and the social sciences have been included to reach a target audience of land-use planners and conservation biologists.

In June 2007, Protecting Nature in Your Community" was published. Aimed at municipal officials and educators specifically in New Jersey, this colorful booklet highlights the diversity and importance of the varied ecosystems, plants, and animals — and the interactions among them. Protecting Nature serves as a guide for land-use planners, government agencies, institutions, and individuals to appreciate and preserve the natural world that lives in their midst.


Recognizing the enormous instructional value of the Museum's extensive invertebrate collections, the Metro Program organizes identification workshops in collaboration with the Division of Invertebrate Zoology. Attendees have included biologists, naturalists, land managers, consultants, teachers, and others responsible (directly and indirectly) for the conservation and management of much of the New York region's biodiversity. Workshops to date have focused on butterflies and moths, dragonflies and damselflies, freshwater mussels and snails, and bees. A Web-based identification guide to local freshwater mussels has been developed, with species checklists, images, and information. Regional keys and resources about other invertebrate taxa are also available.

In conjunction with these ongoing invertebrate educational activities, the Metro Program published "Life in the Leaf Litter," a guide to the diversity of soil organisms and the crucial role that invertebrates play in woodland ecosystems (a Spanish version is also available). The booklet was based, in part, on a leaf litter survey conducted by the CBC's Metro Program and the Museum's Division of Invertebrate Zoology in Central Park's woodlands, which led to the discovery of a new genus and species of centipede, Nannarrup hoffmani.


Fall 2007 marked the release of the Metro Program's "A Seasonal Guide to New York City's Invertebrates," a guide to the world of invertebrates highlighting the important and intriguing animals that can be found in NYC's parks and natural areas.


In summer 2007, the Metro Program initiated the Great Pollinator Project in collaboration with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation's Greenbelt Native Plant Center. Fifty volunteer bee watchers were recruited to observe the bee visitation at flowers planted throughout the City. The results of their observations will give us a better idea of where in the city native bees and honeybees are most active, and will provide information for research and conservation efforts. This pollinator initiative has been designed as a pilot to develop observation and data collection protocols for refinement of future projects.

In 2012, an illustrated guide to birds commonly found in Central Park was published. Intended as a guide to birding for young naturalists, it includes information on where in the Park to see birds in various habitats: freshwater, woodlands, and open areas.