This weekend, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County shines a spotlight on the city’s wild side.

Dubbed “L.A. Urban Nature Fest,” the two-day festival — an offshoot of the Nature Gardens and Nature Lab projects, which take over the museum Saturday and Sunday — brings together scientists and a variety of organizations for a look at people’s relationship to the wealth of plants, animals and even fungi endemic to Southern California.

“A lot of times people won’t think a city and nature go together, but it’s about opening your eyes up and seeing all the nature that’s around us,” says Su Oh, director of programs at the museum who helped spearhead what promises to be an annual summer happening.

The idea is to engage and excite people about urban ecology — a rich biodiversity that’s under threat by the actions of people and their built-up environment.

From climate change to drought, “People are getting a lot of eco guilt and green fatigue,” says Lila Higgins, who manages the museum’s office of Citizen Science, which leads a series of speed talks around the topic of biodiversity in Los Angeles. “With the festival, it’s fun first, and then depending on what you’re interested in, you can get the information here and go home with the resources to make it happen.”

This weekend is one of those rare occasions where Natural History Museum scientists will be out in force to engage with the public and show off specimens that people rarely, if ever, get to see.

Folks can catch a taxidermy workshop, live musical performances by Quetzal (Saturday) and the Santa Monica Mountains Ranger Band (Sunday), a do-it-yourself worm composting demonstration, nature poetry readings and join a tap versus bottled water taste test.

“I’ve done it before and we actually found out that most people prefer the tap water, which I think surprises a lot of people,” Higgins says.

In addition, there will be live animal presentations, mobile museums such as the Los Angeles River Rover and a chance to help artist David Lovejoy rebuild the willow hut in the Nature Gardens.

The children’s playhouse/hideout has taken a beating, to the delight of museum staff.

“One of the reasons we built the garden was to create a safe place for kids to pick up rocks and sticks, and climb on tree stumps,” Higgins says. “Yeah, we have to rebuild the willow hut. But from my perspective, it’s like, yes! We’ve got a place where kids are really getting to do those things.”


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