Hey, Angelenos: Do you know any snails that are waiting for their big break? The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles might be able to help. The organization is currently soliciting Instagram photos for their #SnailBlitz.
Los Angeles is experiencing an unusually damp season thanks to El Niño, and damp weather is snail weather. This is great news for the museum’s Snails and Slugs Living in Metropolitan Environments (SLIME) program, which aims to measure the health of Los Angeles land-mollusk populations.
It's also good news for residents. The well-being of the squishy critters is relevant to all of us, malacologist (snail scientist) Jann Vendetti tells L.A. Weekly. “They’re an indicator of a healthy environment. They’re kind of like a canary in a coal mine.”
Social media monitoring of the city’s slimiest citizens will also help scientists figure out where and how quickly invasive species are spreading. Already, Vendetti tells L.A. Weekly, she’s seen species she can’t identify. For example, the subject of one citizen scientist’s #SnailBlitz photo turned out to be a snail never seen in the city before. Because of that, the photographer will earn a spot in a scientific journal.
And that's just one of a few honors available to those who join the efforts. The museum will be offering prizes for best photos, best snail meme, and rarest species. SLIME hopes to collect at least 1000 photos by April 14.