San Clemente Island terrestrial invertebrate biodiversity and rare plant-pollinator networks study

Project Dates

2019 - 2022


Invertebrates comprise 97% of all animal species, play essential ecosystem roles, and respond sensitively to environmental changes. They are thus excellent indicators of ecosystem health and can guide scientists in reassembling the tapestry of life, yet they are very poorly understood. These invertebrate surveys have been structured such that researchers learn about host plants and habitats, and gain a baseline dataset that can be repeated in the future to reveal changes. The study was designed around five rare plant species and five plant communities across seven sites, and sweep-net surveys are being used to construct pollinator networks that will help to recover the rare plants. Beat-sheeting, pan traps, litter samples, black light, and baited traps were also used. Through high-resolution images disseminated through online platforms and the scientific network of collaborators, taxonomic experts are being employed across the globe to identify the broad range of invertebrates that were collected and to describe new species. This work has already revealed two new classes, six new orders, and more than 20 new family-level records for the island (with at least five species new to science). The number of invertebrates known for San Clemente Island is estimated to double.


To improve the understanding of terrestrial invertebrates on San Clemente Island, to guide rare plant conservation efforts by understanding plant-pollinator networks, to reveal invertebrate habitats and specializations, and to create a baseline dataset that can be repeated to understand ecosystem change and health.

Team Members

Zach Phillips, Ph.D.

José Flores

Kylie Etter

Sarah Cusser, Ph.D.

Stephanie Calloway

Helen Noroian

Siomara Zendejas

Denise Knapp, Ph.D.


Jenny Hazlehurst, Ph.D. (California State University, East Bay)

David Holway, Ph.D. (University of California, San Diego)

Katja Seltmann, Ph.D. (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Brian Brown, Ph.D. (Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County)

Marshal Hedin, Ph.D. (San Diego State University)

Michael Wall, Ph.D. (San Diego Natural History Museum)


U.S. Navy (Naval Base Coronado)

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