Talks and Lectures

Nat Talks, made possible with support from presenting sponsor The Downing Family Foundation and media partner KPBS, feature museum staff and outside experts speaking on an array of topics, including the latest in scientific research, history, conservation, and the natural world.

Climate Change Series
New for 2021, The Nat and Climate Science Alliance are collaborating to offer a series of evening talks and daytime lessons around climate change. Taking place each quarter, these events dive into the complex topic of our changing climate. The more we know, the better we can respond to what is happening. Join and be empowered.

Purchase tickets by clicking on the link associated with each event. To view recoded talks and lectures, visit our YouTube playlist. Please note that all talks are offered in local time (PST/PDT).

Upcoming Events


Nat Talk Climate Series: A 27-Year Wildflower Journey

Wednesday, March 3, 6 PM

What does the future look like for San Diego's favorite superblooms and our wildflower season? Join internationally acclaimed conservation photographers Rob Badger and Nita Winter through their 27-year journey photographing wildflowers and superblooms throughout California and the West. Hosted by The Nat and Climate Science Alliance, this talk is part of a series discussing climate change in our region. So come for the pretty pictures, stay for the science.

Because many people don't know that wildflowers are especially vulnerable to climate change and habitat loss, the photographers and 16 diverse authors have created a stunning coffee table book, "Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change." In it, art and science are seamlessly woven into a beautiful work that celebrates California's amazing plant diversity to inspire hope and action. And when The Nat reopens, this work will be writ large—really large—on the walls of the Museum in the California Blooming exhibition.

This is the spring edition of our climate change series. Throughout 2021, The Nat and Climate Science Alliance invite you to a crash course on the impacts of climate change in our region. These talks will take place seasonally and dive into the astoundingly varied consequences of our changing climate. The more we know, the better we can respond to what's happening. Join and be empowered.

Note: you do not need to purchase tickets and do not need a Zoom account to attend the talk. Please consider supporting The Nat by selecting the $12 suggested ticket price at checkout.

RSVP Today



State of Biodiversity: Keynote address | Earth Optimism

Thursday, April 1, 2021 9 AM

Join us for the first of four webinars that together comprise this year’s State of Biodiversity Digital Symposium. Keynote speaker Dr. Nancy Knowlton believes it is more important than ever to maintain our optimism in the face of huge environmental challenges. 

Knowlton is a coral reef biologist and former Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this 90-minute talk, she will highlight work that makes her hopeful. She’ll also explore the benefits of centering success in conversation about climate change and the environment. Registration will open by March 15. Learn more about the Symposium




State of Biodiversity: Binational Biodiversity and the Border

Thursday, April 8, 2021 9 AM

Two countries, one bioregion. The Nat’s research area includes southern California and the entire Baja California Peninsula. This region is special, but it’s threatened, and we are fortunate to work alongside scientists and conservationists who are passionate about preserving biodiversity on both sides of the border. In this panel, speakers will discuss trans-border contrasts and collaborations.

Dr. Daniel Thornton will address transboundary species and the need for international collaboration. Louise Misztal will discuss her work on cross-border conservation design and climate change adaptation planning. Dr. Lorena Villanueva-Almanza will share her research on transborder variation in Washingtonia palms. Arturo Ramírez-Valdez will talk about marine conservation on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

This is the second in a series of four 90-minute webinars that comprise this year’s State of Biodiversity Digital Symposium. Registration will open by March 15. Learn more about the Symposium




State of Biodiversity: Pandemic-Era Science

Thursday, April 15, 2021 9 AM

The past year has sparked broad interest in infectious disease, with particular attention to those viruses with origins in the animal world. In this panel, researchers will dive into the ways these diseases spread to humans—and how we might better protect against them.

Dr. Chelsea L. Wood will discuss recent quantitative findings that illuminate the surprising relationship between biodiversity and disease risk for the world's most burdensome infectious diseases of humans (including zoonotic and vector-borne diseases). Dr. Mrinalini Erkenswick Watsa will share how a decentralized model for rigorous wildlife disease surveillance might address the global health risks associated with wildlife exploitation. Dr. Erik Hofmeister will talk about his work with established vector-borne diseases, including West Nile virus and sylvatic plague.

This is the third in a series of four 90-minute webinars that comprise this year’s State of Biodiversity Digital Symposium. Registration will open by March 15. Learn more about the Symposium




The Wonderful Journey of the Cannabis Plant

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 6 PM

Humankind has been cultivating and breeding Cannabis (family Cannabaceae) for fiber, food, medicine, and intoxication for the last 10,000 years. But in the last 100 years, its legal status has led to some drastic changes at a genetic level.

Those changes include an extraordinary acceleration in new high Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) varieties. Dr. Todd Michael is a research professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute. Leveraging cutting-edge genome mapping technology, he and his team have traced the origin and mechanism of high THC and CBD in the cultivars found in the United States today. Curiously, the results also reveal a tie to an ancient example of a naturally genetically modified organism (GMO).

Note: you do not need to purchase tickets and do not need a Zoom account to attend the talk. Please consider supporting The Nat by selecting the $12 suggested ticket price at checkout.

RSVP today



State of Biodiversity: A Biodiversity Roadmap for California

Thursday, April 22, 2021 9 AM

The final session in our series of State of Biodiversity webinars will cover a variety of initiatives that are underway to study, conserve, and protect California’s biodiversity.

Dr. Hollis Woodard will talk about how she and other researchers are assembling a statewide genomic dataset to help drive conservation efforts for California’s immense biodiversity. More specifically, she will discuss the cutest kind of conservation genomics—that of Bombus, or the bumblebees. Christa Horn coordinates the California Plant Rescue collaborative, a project that unites plant-protectors from across the state. In its effort to conserve our state’s incredible botanical biodiversity, the project focuses particularly on seed banking, as well as data sharing and fundraising. Dr. Amy Vandergast will speak broadly about the protection of genetic diversity and its place as a fundamental component of biodiversity protection.

Registration will open by March 15. Learn more about the Symposium




Nat Talk Climate Series: Trees are Hot. Too Hot.

Wednesday, June 23, 6 PM

One of the most noticeable effects of climate change on trees is growth and mortality. Other effects are less obvious and require a multidisciplinary approach to be detected. For example, what does drought have to do with tree sexual reproduction? More than you might think. 

From reproduction to the plant-microbial interactions needed to survive, the effects of climate change are both glaring and subtle. In this talk, Assistant Professor Dr. Lluvia Flores-Renteria from San Diego State University will present the evident and less evident effects of climate change on plants and explain the importance of looking at both genetics and environmental factors. She will also share the approaches scientists use in order to provide recommendations to land managers and emphasize the need to include local communities in the preservation of our plant communities. The Nat is also pleased to offer this same talk with Lluvia in Spanish on July 7.

This is the summer edition of our climate change series. Throughout 2021, The Nat and Climate Science Alliance invite you to a crash course on the impacts of climate change in our region. These talks will take place seasonally and dive into the astoundingly varied consequences of our changing climate. The more we know, the better we can respond to what's happening. Join and be empowered.

Note: RSVP link coming soon. You do not need to purchase tickets and do not need a Zoom account to attend the talk. Please consider supporting The Nat by selecting the $12 suggested ticket price at checkout.




Nat Talk Climate Series: Fueling the Burn

September 2021

After a wildland fire burns through chaparral and coastal sage scrub, non-native grasses are the first to come back. These invaders are flammable and “flashy” fuels, often spreading flames faster than native plants in future burns. Even worse? As climate changes and these fires become more frequent, flashy grasses only expand further. So what can we do? Turn our eyes to the skies. 

Using satellite imagery, Krista West of San Diego State University maps grasses in Southern California shrubland ecoregions. This research helps us better understand the effects of climate change on shrublands, the consequences of grass invasion, and how these changes might affect the fire regime. Firefighters, geographers, ecologists, planners, and community members use the data to determine areas that may require mitigation or wildland restoration strategies before the start of a new wildland fire. Learn all about it in this special Nat Talk.

This is the fall edition of our climate change series. Throughout 2021, The Nat and Climate Science Alliance invite you to a crash course on the impacts of climate change in our region. These talks take place seasonally and dive into the astoundingly varied consequences of our changing climate. The more we know, the better we can respond to what's happening. Join and be empowered.

Note: RSVP link and a date will be announced soon. You do not need to purchase tickets and do not need a Zoom account to attend the talk. Please consider supporting The Nat by selecting the $12 suggested ticket price at checkout.




Nat Talk Climate Series: Rising Waters

December 2021

Whether you love or hate the feeling of sand between your toes, there’s no denying that the ocean and beach define San Diego’s identity. But our iconic coastline is threatened by climate change. To learn more about the changes we can expect and ways we can make our coastline more resilient, join our winter climate change talk with Laura Engeman from the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation and California Sea Grant at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

This is the winter edition and final talk of our climate change series. Throughout 2021, The Nat and Climate Science Alliance invite you to a crash course on the impacts of climate change in our region. These talks take place seasonally and dive into the astoundingly varied consequences of our changing climate. The more we know, the better we can respond to what's happening. Join and be empowered.

Note: RSVP link and a date will be announced soon. You do not need to purchase tickets and do not need a Zoom account to attend the talk. Please consider supporting The Nat by selecting the $12 suggested ticket price at checkout.