Promoting alliances within metropolitan areas among conservation and historic preservation agencies, museums, zoos, aquariums, and botanic gardens to introduce people to their regions' natural and cultural heritage

The dinosaur gallery in London's Natural History Museum on a spring holiday; the museum receives over six million visits each year. [Photo: Ted Trzyna]

Natural Neighbors includes an international initiative and a pilot project in Southern California.

The Challenge

Urban people need to spend time in nature for their own good, and because nature conservation locally and globally depends on their support. People will value nature only if they care about nature in the place where they live. And they are more likely to care about the place where they live when they have an understanding of its history and culture, as well as its natural environment.

In metropolitan regions, several kinds of institutions, along with agencies responsible for conservation and cultural heritage, work to interpret and sensitize people to nature and human history. The institutions include museums, science centers, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, and museums of cities and regions. The agencies include those responsible for nature reserves, wildlife, and historic sites. Local governments usually have key roles. All of them will benefit from systematic cooperation, as will the community at large.


In natural history museums and similar institutions:

  • Create more and better exhibits about local and regional nature and history
  • Direct visitors to “real nature” nearby
  • Carry a good selection of guides to local and regional natural and human history  

In conservation areas:

  • Direct visitors to nearby museums and similar institutions where they can learn about what they have experienced 

In general:

  • Cooperate in engaging with the underserved
  • Encourage exhibits and activities linking nature, history, literature, and the arts
  • Cooperate with schools and universities
  • Link websites
  • As appropriate, include exhibits and activities about nature conservation, climate change, water conservation, healthy eating, and benefits of outdoor exercise and contact with nature


Natural Neighbors is led by InterEnvironment Institute, with the support of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a unit of the California State Government, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. Its international element is being conducted in cooperation with the World Commission on Protected Areas and the Species Survival Commission of IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 


Thaddeus C. (Ted) Trzyna, Ph.D. 

President, InterEnvironment Institute

P.O. Box 99, Claremont, California 91711, USA

Please use e-mail: Ted_Trzyna [at]


IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas

IUCN Species Survival Commission

The Riverwalk along the Bronx River at New York City's Bronx Zoo, which has signs identifying plants, mammals, and birds, is an example of how natural history museums and similar institutions can introduce their visitors to nature in their localities and regions. [TT]


In Los Angeles, the Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area  is a LEED Platinum and energy "net-zero" building. Such park visitor centers offer opportunities to inform their visitors about museums, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, and science centers in their metropolitan areas. [National Park Service] 

Copyright © 2016 InterEnvironment Institute. All rights reserved. Natural Neighbors[SM] is a protected service mark; USPTO registration pending.  See Copyright and caveats.   

Unlike many such institutions these days, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, has a bookshop that stocks a good selection of field guides and other books about nature in its region.[TT]

Some museums of cities or regions include exhibits on natural history. This is the entrance to "The Natural Environment," one of the eight main galleries of the Hong Kong Museum of History; it has exhibits on local geology, flora, and fauna. [HKMH]