The San Diego Natural History Museum's Coast to Cactus exhibit (debuting Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015) tells the story of the area's incredibly diverse terrain, which ranges from the beaches and chaparral near the coast to the inland mountains and desert.
Why is this cool? San Diego is one of only 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world; this means it has the highest concentration of different species of any geographic area of similar size!
"Coast to Cactus" at the San Diego Natural History Museum — Photo courtesy of San Diego Natural History Museum
Coast to Cactus showcases the habitats as well as the plants and animals that have lived and still live in them. Together with sister exhibit Fossil Mysteries (located on the same level of the museum), this exhibit allows visitors to learn the story of California from prehistoric times to present day. The specimens are from the museum's extensive scientific collections.
“In a way, Coast to Cactus is 140 years in the making,” says Dr. Michael Hager, president and CEO of the San Diego Natural History Museum. “Our museum was founded in 1874 by a group of amateur naturalists who wanted to share discoveries and learn more about this extraordinarily diverse area, a mission that continues to this day. We take pride in the fact that no one institution has interpreted the comprehensive picture of the entire southern California bioregion under one roof – until now.”
Look out for these exhibit highlights:
- An oversized replica of a segment of mud from a local tidal flat, where young visitors can crawl inside and discover what animals live in the mud and how they survive tough intertidal conditions
- A recreation of a mid-century residential patio overlooking an urban San Diego canyon, which depicts how humans share space with nature and brings to light the impact of introduced species on native plants and animals
- A virtual storybook that tells the tale of the dynamic chaparral ecosystem and how periodic fires are a natural part of life in this signature California habitat
- A multimedia experience that includes an Airstream Bambi trailer and transports visitors to the desert at nighttime, when the sun goes down, temperatures drop and the seemingly barren landscape springs to life, as animals come out to hunt
- Exhibits highlighting the work of people, past and present, whose efforts help us to better understand how the habitats of southern California have changed over time and what we can do to help sustain the plants and animals that live here
Coast to Cactus is free with general admission to the San Diego Natural History Museum. While you're there, also plan time to see the King Tut exhibit, too.