Our libraries have returned to regular service hours and we're excited to welcome you back to a fine-free library experience.

What Is An Observation Cold Spot?

Vivienne Byrd, Librarian III, Exploration & Creativity Department,
Collage of insects, animal, and plant life in an "observation cold spot" area
"In the City of L.A., biodiversity is truly everywhere, even in and around your home."

What is the difference between an “observation cold spot” and a “biodiversity cold spot”? It is easy to confuse the terms, but they are two very different scientific issues.

A “biodiversity cold spot” is an area with a limited variety of living things, like plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria.

On the other hand, an “observation cold spot” is an area lacking scientific data. In other words, more information is needed to understand the environment and the species that live there. This can occur even in biodiversity hotspots like L.A.

In the L.A. BioBlitz Challenge, one of the goals is to reduce the number of cold spots in the city. On the project website, an observation heat map with colored pixels or grid squares in various shades of white and gray is shown to signify low to no observation data of plants, fungi, and wildlife.

Most of these neighborhood areas are occupied by various types of residential and commercial properties like houses, storefronts, shopping centers, gas stations, and apartment buildings. While buildings occupy these spaces, it does not mean there is no biodiversity existing in and around these structures.

We tend to associate animals, plants, and insects with open spaces, parks, natural areas, and hiking trails. The truth is, they can also be observed around our homes and workplaces. There is a lot more life in and around our environments than we are aware of—we just need to look for it and understand humans have a physical and symbiotic relationship with nature.

To get started, you can look at the window sills, ceiling corners, or light fixtures. These are often favorite hangouts for spiders and various creatures. If you have planters or potted plants in or around your garden, you may find some other interesting lifeforms, such as roly-polies, worms, or even house centipedes. You also can watch your porch light or street lamps at night for moths and flying insects. As they gather near the light, take time to photograph them; you will be amazed by the variety of shapes, colors, and patterns you find. Oftentimes, you will have a chance to witness other “unexpected guests,” such as praying mantises, crickets, lizards, and even bats.

If you want to really kick up your participation in the L.A. BioBlitz Challenge, find a cold spot or gray pixel on the observation heat map around your home, school, or office and see if there's a place where you can go and observe the nature that is there safely.

The L.A. Bioblitz Challenge team has managed to upload pictures to the iNaturalist app of an American robin, a western bluebird, and a black phoebe while visiting Eagle Rock Park. The area we explored was a gray pixel on the heat map.

In the City of L.A., biodiversity is truly everywhere, even in and around your home. Take a moment to escape the hustle and trappings of the day, and find nature in your surroundings. Better yet, explore a cold spot near you. You may be pleasantly surprised.


This article was co-written with Michelle Barton.

Michelle is an Environmental Specialist with the City of Los Angeles, Department of Sanitation & Environment. Michelle leads LASAN's biodiversity program. Michelle received her B.S. in Biology from UCLA and her M.S. in Biology from CSULB.


  • Biodiversity

    Biodiversity

  • Biodiversity and Climate Change: Transforming the Biosphere

    Biodiversity and Climate Change: Transforming the Biosphere

  • Birds of the Los Angeles Region

    Birds of the Los Angeles Region

    Garrett, Kimball
  • Butterflies Belong Here

    Butterflies Belong Here

    Hopkinson, Deborah
  • Cactus Hotel

    Cactus Hotel

    Guiberson, Brenda Z.
  • Cheetahs: Biology and Conservation

    Cheetahs: Biology and Conservation

  • Climate Emergency Atlas

    Climate Emergency Atlas

    Hooke, Dan
  • Complexity: The Evolution of Earth's Biodiversity and the Future of Humanity

    Complexity: The Evolution of Earth's Biodiversity and the Future of Humanity

    Burger, William C.
  • Corridor Ecology: Linking Landscapes for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Adaptation

    Corridor Ecology: Linking Landscapes for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Adaptation

    Hilty, Jodi A
  • Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood's Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife

    Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood's Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife

    Pincus, Meeg
  • Discovering Griffith Park: A Local's Guide

    Discovering Griffith Park: A Local's Guide

    Schreiner, Casey
  • Don't Let Them Disappear: 12 Endangered Species Across the Globe

    Don't Let Them Disappear: 12 Endangered Species Across the Globe

    Clinton, Chelsea
  • Ecology Crafts for Kids: 50 Great Ways to Make Friends With Planet Earth

    Ecology Crafts for Kids: 50 Great Ways to Make Friends With Planet Earth

    Needham, Bobbe
  • Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared

    Extinct: An Illustrated Exploration of Animals That Have Disappeared

    Riera, Lucas
  • Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

    Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

    Wilson, Edward O
  • Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth

    Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth

    Jeffers, Oliver
  • Hike

    Hike

    Oswald, Pete
  • Insects of the Los Angeles Basin

    Insects of the Los Angeles Basin

    Hogue, Charles Leonard
  • Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth

    Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth

    Davies, Nicola
  • Mason Bee Revolution

    Mason Bee Revolution

    Hunter, Dave
  • Messages From Islands: A Global Biodiversity Tour

    Messages From Islands: A Global Biodiversity Tour

    Hanski, Ilkka
  • One Planet: A Celebration of Biodiversity

    One Planet: A Celebration of Biodiversity

    Hulot, Nicolas
  • Our Native Bees: North America's Endangered Pollinators

    Our Native Bees: North America's Endangered Pollinators

    Embry, Paige
  • Planet Ark: Preserving Earth's Biodiversity

    Planet Ark: Preserving Earth's Biodiversity

    Mason, Adrienne
  • Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault

    Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault

    Fowler, Cary
  • Shark Quest: Protecting the Ocean's Top Predators

    Shark Quest: Protecting the Ocean's Top Predators

    Young, Karen Romano
  • Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity

    Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity

  • The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World's Largest Land Biome

    The Boreal Forest: A Year in the World's Largest Land Biome

    Carmichael, L. E.
  • The Ecology Book

    The Ecology Book

  • The Monarch Butterfly: Biology & Conservation

    The Monarch Butterfly: Biology & Conservation

  • The Monarchs are Missing: A Butterfly Mystery

    The Monarchs are Missing: A Butterfly Mystery

    Hirsch, Rebecca E.
  • The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and its Ecosystems

    The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and its Ecosystems

    Ignotofsky, Rachel
  • Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth

    Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth

    Strauss, Rochelle
  • Who Needs a Swamp?: A Wetland Ecosystem

    Who Needs a Swamp?: A Wetland Ecosystem

    Patkau, Karen
  • Wild LA: Explore the Amazing Nature in and Around Los Angeles

    Wild LA: Explore the Amazing Nature in and Around Los Angeles

    Higgins, Lila M.
  • World Without Fish: How Could We Let This Happen?

    World Without Fish: How Could We Let This Happen?

    Kurlansky, Mark

 

 

 

Top