LA Landscape History is the nucleus of an ongoing project to study the historical ecology of the Los Angeles Basin and environs. 

The first phase of the project is the completion of “Historical Ecology of the Los Angeles River and Watershed” (HELAR) a two-year study funded by the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, released on this website in June of 2020.

The Principal Investigators of that study, Phil Ethington and Travis Longcore, serve as coordinators of the project for its planned Phase 2, to include more collaborators and produce more fine-grained studies at the neighborhood level, building on the geodatabase launched during Phase 1.

The 2018-2020 HELAR Project Team included:
William Deverell, Department of History, USC
Philip Ethington, Department of History and Spatial Sciences Institute, USC
Travis Longcore, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA
Beau MacDonald, Spatial Sciences Institute, USC
Gary Stein, Department of History, USC

Phase II: Mapping Los Angeles Landscape History: A Multi-Institutional Collaboration

January 2021 – Scholars from California State University Long Beach, CSU Los Angeles, CSU Northridge, University of California Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California, have received a major research grant from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, to reconstruct the first-ever 3-dimensional model of historical ecology and landscapes of the Los Angeles Basin, at the neighborhood scale.   The team’s goal over the two-year project (2021-2022)  is to synthesize Indigenous knowledge, historical topographic data; indicator wildlife species; cultural archives; and historical aerial photography, into a first-ever “model” of the historical landscape: the landforms, hydrology, potential natural vegetation, human and non-human animal habitation of the Los Angeles Basin prior to urbanization.  This project is unique because a commonly shared, detailed map of the historical ecology—the flora, fauna, hydrology and landforms, that evolved within Southern California’s Mediterranean climate over millennia and supported human populations for 9,000 years, has never been developed. Having such a resource is vital to all regional and local planning efforts involving sustainability, habitat restoration, and preparing for climate change.

Project Partners and Collaborators

Jesus Alvarez (Tatavium), Tatavium Land Conservancy

Anthony Baniaga, Curator, UCLA Herbarium

Danielle Bram, Cal State Univ. Northridge, Center for Geospatial Science and Technology

Jonathan Cordero (Ramaytush Ohlone/Chumash), Cal Lutheran University

William Deverell, USC-Huntington ICW

Philip J. Ethington, USC History and Spatial Sciences

Travis Longcore, UCLA, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Beau MacDonald, USC, Spatial Sciences Institute

John McCormack, Moore Laboratory of Zoology, Occidental College

Matthew Vestuto (Barbareño/Ventureño Chumash), Language Program Coordinator, AICLS

Suzanne P. Wechsler, Cal State Univ. Long Beach

John P. Wilson, Director, USC Spatial Sciences Institute

Eric Wood, Cal State Univ. Los Angeles

Natale Zappia, Cal State Univ. Northridge, Director, Institute for Sustainability