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From the Stacks 

May 2, 2014

Artist in Residence – Monika Lea Jones

 

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Monika Lea Jones, a San Francisco based artist, never completely divided herself between the seemingly separate artistic and scientific minds. Compositions featuring animals and celestial objects are rendered using the bright colors of paint, photography and other digital means. Inspired by both her current urban environment and nature, she seeks to bridge these worlds by creating fantastical dreamlike images that illuminate the modern landscape.

It is precisely these characteristics that made Monika a perfect choice for a One Truth, Many Lies: a New View of Art & Natural History Collections artist residency.  The chosen artists share their work with the public through a hands-on workshop and other programs on the public floor of the museum.

On Saturday, April 26, 2014, Jones led a workshop showcasing her technique of acrylic painting directly on Plexiglas.  Using the vibrant hues of acrylic to highlight the equally vibrant nudibranchs, Jones also showed footage she shot of live local nudibranch species. See images below.

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Workshop participants show off their nudibranch paintings

Then on Sunday, April 26, Monika invited those visiting the museum to come up to the Living Roof and learn how stingrays fly through the water. Over 100 participants made their own stingray kite out of recycled paper and then launched them into the sky!    manta ray chalk drawing

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Sting ray kites fly from the Living RoofIMG_20140427_132030csastnpeeps

In addition to her time sharing her artistic knowledge and enthusiasm for science with the visiting public, the residency also allowed Jones some time with collected specimens to research her next work. Monika chose to spend time in the botany herbarium sketching and painting.

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Monika shows off her rough sketches of botanical specimens.

For information on upcoming workshops and museum events, click here.

One Truth, Many Lies: A New View of Art & Natural History Collections is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. www.imls.gov


January 3, 2013

Ecuador exhibit up in Library Reading Room

Gerald and Buff Corsi (c) California Academy of Sciences

by Mollie Cueva-Dubkoski, Careers in Science Intern

Biodiversity and endemism in the northeastern section of the Amazon is off the charts. The rich diversity of flora and fauna many scientists attribute to the warmer climate of this region during the repeated Pleistocene ice ages that provided shelter to organisms. Scientists estimate there are between 9,000 to 12,000 species of vascular plants, 600 species of birds, 500 species of fish, and 120 species of mammals in and around Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. This exhibit highlights some of that diversity, the history of European exploration in Ecuador, and the current issue of crude oil that threatens this diversity.

I spent many weeks deciding what to include in the exhibit: perhaps crude oil in a jar? Or maybe a spread of taxidermied animals to demonstrate the diversity of Amazonian mammals? I finally decided on a varied collection of library materials to juxtapose two elements of my research that interested me most: Ecuador’s biodiversity, and crude oil’s effect on the Amazon. If you visit the Reading Room, you will see a sketch of the Andean Wax Palm (Ceroxylon alpinum), drawn by Aime Bonpland,who traveled with the noted naturalist Alexander von Humboldt during the first scientific exploration of the Americas. This book was one of two I included from the library’s vast collection to demonstrate the history of science in Ecuador. In the other case, I have included a map that illustrates the territory most affected by oil production, and a picture of where my family lives in Ecuador. A final piece that finished off the exhibit were the specimens the Entomology Department and the Ornithology Departments generously loaned me. In the left glass case there are several shiny Green-Gold Scarab Beetles (Chrysophora chrysochlora) and a lovely Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) specimen that boldly demonstrate what words cannot—how beautiful and quintessential these species are to the Amazon. Working with these three research departments and choosing specimens that highlighted my research enabled me to see how research collections, whether used for a museum exhibit or as evidence for a scientific study, are invaluable to the scientific world.

Arranging specimens in the case. photo: Y. Bustos

Diane Sands (left) and myself laying out an exhibit case. photo: Yolanda Bustos.


Filed under: Connecting Content,Exhibits,Library News,Rare Books,Research — Dsands @ 8:26 pm

November 9, 2012

A Fuzzy-Wuzzy Smackdown

“Sketch of Grizzly” Storer, Tracy I. (Tracy Irwin). 1889-1973.

Tracy Irwin Storer (1889-1973) completed his education in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended high schools in Oakland and entered the University of California at Berkeley in 1908. Majoring in zoology, he received his B.S. degree in 1912, the M.S. in 1913, and the Ph.D. in 1921. In 1923 he joined the faculty of the University of California, Davis as Assistant Professor of Zoology and Assistant Zoologist in the Experiment Station and was the department’s sole faculty member until expansion began in 1935.  He is the author of the definitive tome, California Grizzly. In 1969, UC named the new zoology building on the Davis campus after him. The above sketch is of Monarch, the last of the California Grizzlies.

(c) Diane T Sands 2012   gouache on illustration board

In her recent book, State of Change: Forgotten landscapes of California (2010), Laura Cunningham looks at the grizzly bear Ursus arctos and the habitat it roamed. She recreates East Bay landscapes in paintings and juxtaposes them against modern photographs. It is an amazing look at a species extirpated from the state, yet represented on the flag.

For myself, I wanted to create and illustration that shows something about Ursus arctos that cannot be shown with a photograph. Always fascinated by bones and their articulation I decided to superimpose the skeleton of a brown bear over the more recognizable furry bulk.


Filed under: Archives,Research,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 10:47 pm

October 31, 2012

When I Say Ecuador, You Say Darwin!

H. Vannoy Davis © California Academy of Sciences.

By Mollie Cueva-Dabkoski, Careers in Science intern

I am trapped in the depths of a database. I stare at the computer monitor, my fingers paused over the keyboard, until I finally type “crude oil AND Ecuador” into the search box. Results: 61 pages, 25 articles displayed on each page. For weeks, this has been my experience while combing through the many academic databases of articles as I try to decide upon the research project I will curate in the Academy’s Reading Room. Before working in the library as part of my Careers in Science internship, I did not really acknowledge the grueling and manual labor integral to research. Searching through dense databases, phrasing research topics correctly to find articles, switching topics because not enough research can be found — simply learning how to search for something on the Internet or in a library has been harder than I thought, but supremely validating.

I continued my research and finally after a few weeks of researching, switching topics, and researching more, I knew what I wanted to curate: an exhibit on Ecuador. Of course! It seemed obvious! Most people in the scientific community know Ecuador in relation to the Galapagos. (When I say Ecuador, you say Darwin!) I, too, have that connotation. Yet Ecuador is an important country to me not only because of its scientific merit, its evolutionary history, its collection of endemic and wonderfully odd flora and fauna, and the smorgasbord of different terrain all snugly fitted into a country about the size of Colorado, but because of the personal connection I have with Ecuador. I was born in Ecuador, and frequently visit. Throughout my childhood, I learned about biodiversity in school, and then visited Ecuador, where the science I had learned about lived and breathed — to the Amazon where thick anacondas slept in coiled mounds after their meals, and bright fish flicked in the tropical waters off the coast.

Most people know Ecuador as a biodiversity hotspot, and the node of Darwin’s theory of evolution, but not many people know about the massive ecological damage in the Ecuadorian Amazon. From 1964 to 1990, Texaco (now Chevron) drilled for oil in the northeastern Amazon of Ecuador. What has resulted from this oil drilling is major damage to the indigenous people in this area, as well as the terrain they live in. Flora and fauna alike have been majorly impacted. Cancer has spread almost infectiously through these indigenous groups; animals die daily; groundwater and rivers have been contaminated with oil; black vats of crude oil improperly disposed of sit in the forest, ignored and their existence denied by Chevron.

Four years ago, unaware of this, I watched the documentary, Crude, a film detailing the struggle of the indigenous people fighting to receive compensation for the damage the oil has done to their home. It was shocking to find out about an oil spill worse than the Exxon Valdez tragedy, yet I’d never heard about it. Soon after, I screened the documentary at my house for friends and family to try to spread the word about this oil spill in one of the most diverse places on earth. Even when Crude gained acclaim at a plethora of film festivals, and the indigenous groups fighting Chevron won their lawsuit against the corporation, still not many people know about this issue or the struggle the indigenous people of Ecuador still face in trying to receive the payment. Thus, after weeks of research, it seemed obvious what I needed to curate in the Reading Room.

This issue is personal as much as it is scientific; this issue matters to me not only as a scientist, as a human, but as an Ecuadorian. The diverse rainforests in Ecuador hold some of the most beautiful, intricate organisms on earth, and yet a chunk of that rainforest the size of Rhode Island is currently being ravaged by crude oil. What about the shiny, jewel-like Green-Gold Scarab Beetle (Chrysophora chrysochlora), the nimble jaguar (Panthera onca)? Without them, how will the local culture be affected? How will the ecosystem survive without the consumers, the decomposers, the highest and lowest trophic levels?

Research is hard. Dead ends are plentiful and reliable evidence sometimes hard to come by, but it is validating. Research allows one to communicate that which would be otherwise ignored for lack of evidence. Research is validating because with each article I read and new picture I find, I know that if one by one we become informed on issues that are covered up, pushed out of the limelight, and that require time and patience to fully understand we will have significantly more knowledge about important issues like the oil spill in Ecuador. By bringing this issue out of the shadows, we will be better informed on how to stop the degradation of the world’s biodiversity. Even faced with 61 pages of articles from my search of “crude oil AND Ecuador”, I triumphantly click the first article and begin reading.


Filed under: Exhibits,Library News,Research — Dsands @ 12:03 am

July 2, 2012

Wild Pig Smackdown

For the Illustration Smackdown explanation, click here.

From the Academy Archives:

wild boar illustrated by Michael Cole

This illustration of a wild boar was stumbled upon while looking for another image in the Academy’s oversized collection in the Archives. Little is known about how the image was used, but it came to us from our own Exhibits Department and was meticulously drawn by Michael E. Cole.


From Sands:

Sus scrofa (c)2012 Diane T Sands

The wild boar and the feral pig are considered the same species despite differences in height, weight and skull shape. I designed this illustration to highlight some of these anatomical anomalies. The skull on the left is a wild boar; the one on the right that of a feral pig.


More about
Sus scrofa:
Wild Boar, Feral Pig
The wild boar is native to Europe, but has been widely introduced as a game animal throughout the world. In North America, it has successfully interbred with escaped feral farm pigs. This has happened so much that most writings simply refer to Sus scrofa under the blanket term Wild Pigs. In California, these wild pigs run amok through open space land and regional parks. Omnivorous opportunists, they wander the landscape vacuuming up vegetation, and just about any other living thing in their path.

The females become sexually mature at 18 months of age, producing 6-10 young per litter, often having more than one litter per year. A large group of females and their recent young are called Sounders.  Adults can reach sizes over 750lbs. Males are usually solitary and can sharpen their tusks by rubbing the lowers against the uppers.

Here’s a great article about the infestation of wild pigs in the East Bay Regional Park District :
http://baynature.org/articles/oct-dec-2010/ground-invasion/?searchterm=feral%20pigs


Filed under: Archives,Library News,Research,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 11:54 am

March 15, 2012

Academy Archives contributes images to the OAC and Calisphere

The California Academy of Sciences Archives has been contributing finding aids for processed collections to the California Digital Library’s Online Archive of California (OAC). As part of this collaboration, the Archives has been exploring ways of submitting photographs to the OAC as well as Calisphere which was also developed from the California Digital Library. Calisphere is a resource dedicated to making primary sources and other archival materials available to educators and the public at large.

The California Academy of Sciences is happy to announce that it is now contributing images to both Calisphere and the OAC. When possible, our images will be linked to our finding aids on the OAC. Please visit the Alice Eastwood Papers finding aid to view photographs related to this collection.

You can also view these images in Calisphere.

Christina V. Fidler, MLIS
Digital Projects Manager


Filed under: Archives,Research — Archives & Special Collections @ 10:10 am

October 6, 2010

Connecting Content grant award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Academy Library is proud to announce that we have just been awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for our project titled Connecting Content! This year there were 211 applications and 34 projects were awarded funding. Click here to see all the National Leadership Grants that were awarded.

Connecting Content is an effort involving the California Academy of Sciences, Missouri Botanical Garden, Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Harvard University Botany Libraries, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology Library, the New York Botanical Garden and the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.  The project involves the digitization of field notebooks and natural history collections and the generation of metadata for these items. We will then develop the means to map and link these collections to one another and to published material in the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The results of these projects will be made available for harvesting, reuse, and repurposing without cost, and third-party web applications developed to best serve diverse user communities.  The final deliverables will include an enhanced community Smithsonian Field Book Registry, as well as workflow and procedures so that other institutions may contribute to this project.

Ochsner 1905-06 Galapagos field notes

Ochsner’s 1905-06 Galapagos field notes

Our pilot project involves the digitization of field books and specimens from the Academy’s 1905-06 Galapagos Expedition. The page above, from Washington H. Ochsner’s geology field book, is one page of approximately 2,600 pages that we will digitize. Stay tuned to hear more about our project!

- Danielle

Archives and Digital Collections Librarian


Filed under: Archives,Connecting Content,Library News,Research — Archives & Special Collections @ 10:39 am

May 19, 2010

Affecting Change in the International Year of Biodiversity, Continued

My name is Phoebe Buguey, and I am continuing my March post about some concerns and considerations in the International Year of Biodiversity. Previously I discussed how there are a large number of species that have yet to be classified, and I mentioned how this fact is especially unsettling when one considers that species are currently going extinct at an alarming rate. With this sad information in mind, you may be wondering what you can do to make a difference and help preserve biodiversity.

Basilisk lizard

Basilisk lizard (Genus: Basiliscus), Isla Colon, Panama. Phoebe Buguey, 2004.

There are many options available such as donating time and/or financial support to worthwhile causes, and one that I would recommend is the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL, http://www.eol.org/). EOL is the brainchild of E.O. Wilson and the product of a collaboration between professional and citizen scientists. The objective is to document the amazing biodiversity of the planet by utilizing the respective strengths of the two communities. The sheer number of environmental enthusiasts allows EOL to harness the eagerness of the public by asking them to volunteer pictures and any other relevant data about a species. Citizen scientists do their best to identify the subjects of their contributions, and scientists from around the world verify these identifications and curate species pages according to their areas of specialization.

I am currently curating the Taeniopoda reticulata page on EOL, and although my strange fascination with this large and purple species of grasshopper is a driving factor behind my decision to volunteer, I am also very proud to contribute to the documentation of our world’s biodiversity.

Freshly molted lubber grasshopper

Freshly molted Taeniopoda reticulata, Isla Colon, Panama. Phoebe Buguey, 2004.

How is the Academy Library Contributing?

The Academy Library plays an important role in the dispersion of biodiversity information since it is a stronghold for both historical and modern systematics literature. Maintaining a relevant and comprehensive collection about biodiversity would be expected of any library supporting researchers with that particular focus, but the Academy Library has gone a step beyond since it is one of twelve scientific repositories contributing to EOL’s cousin project, Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). The purpose of BHL is to digitize the legacy literature of biodiversity and make this information available to all. The hope of such efforts is that increasing access to these historical documents will correspondingly increase the continuity of scientific research.

Mating clear winged moths

Mating pair of clear winged moths (Family: Sesiidae), Isla Colon, Panama. Phoebe Buguey, 2004.

It may at first be hard to understand how legacy materials could be relevant to contemporary research, but it is important to keep in mind exactly what biodiversity research is: the documentation of both the extinct and extant species diversity on the planet, particularly focused on monitoring the amount of biodiversity in certain areas and any changes therein. In order to understand which species exist today and which species have gone extinct, scientists must have access to historic scientific information. This allows scientists to ensure that species are not named multiple times and that both extinct and new species get documented as such. Since some species have been known for well over 100 years, it may be critical for scientists to have access to this older information in order to establish an individual organism’s species identification. However, since much of this legacy literature is kept in the collections of a few select libraries, it can be difficult and time consuming for researchers to access this data. By digitizing legacy literature, BHL helps scientists quickly retrieve the information they need to do their research, and the Academy Library staff are excited to reach beyond institutional walls in order to support researchers in their important work.


Filed under: Research — Intern @ 11:06 am

March 24, 2010

Affecting change during the International Year of Biodiversity

My name is Phoebe Buguey, and I am also a library intern at the California Academy of Sciences this semester. I am working in the library inside of the Naturalist Center as well as the Academy Library, which is part of the Research Division of the Academy. My areas of study in both libraries are reference and the creation of educational materials, and for my first blog post, I will continue in an educational vein and discuss a concept that is critical to both the Academy and the world as a whole: biodiversity.

In 2006 the United Nations declared that 2010 would be the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB), the purpose of which is “to increase understanding of the vital role that biodiversity plays in sustaining life on Earth” (http://www.cbd.int/2010/welcome/). According to the IYB Webpage, humans have identified 1.75 million species, but there are still millions of species left to be discovered, and scientists predict that the exact value lies somewhere between 2.25 to 100 million species. Calculating these numbers is challenging since many of the unidentified species are most likely microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, worms, and arthropods such as insects) that can be hard or even impossible to see with the unaided eye.

Plate showing moth illustrations from Illustrations of exotic entomology

Several moths from Illustrations of exotic entomology. (v.12 plates). Image courtesy Biodiversity Heritage Library. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org

Additionally, these unidentified, tiny organisms generally have a short generation time, which means that they reproduce rapidly and in large numbers even though their life spans may be relatively short. The quick cycling of generations in species such as these means that in a given period of time these organisms are more likely to undergo evolutionary change than species with longer generation times, and such change may lead to speciation, which is the evolutionary process that gives rise to new species. For instance, imagine a rare species of marine bacteria that is thriving on the ocean floor: it exists today in a certain form, but by the time it is discovered 100 years from now, it could be entirely changed and may in fact be two or three different species. In essence, since all species change, it is very hard to get a concrete grasp on the diversity of the planet, and since the types of species that we know the least about are those who are physically small and evolve quickly, comprehensive classification can be even more daunting than one may suspect.

Why is biodiversity important?

Ecological studies have demonstrated that the phrase the “circle of life” continues to be an appropriate natural descriptor of the interconnectedness of ecosystems, biomes, and the biosphere as a whole. We now know that preserving the entire ecosystem is central to saving species of interest, and beyond that important point, preservation focused on biodiversity can reap economic benefits as well. Sadly, even with the knowledge of both the biological and fiscal significance of biodiversity, the IYB Website reports that we are still losing species at up to 1000 times the natural background rate.

Original illustration of the thylacine

Artist labeled Didelphis cynocephala but in fact the original illustration of Thylacinus cynocephalus, or the thylacine, in Transactions of the Linnean Society. (v.9 1808). Image courtesy Biodiversity Heritage Library. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org

The dramatic extinctions of large and interesting species such as the dodo or the thylacine are usually well documented. Many people know about the 17th-century die-out of the dodo, and although fewer people may know about the 20th-century extinction of the thylacine—the largest documented carnivorous marsupial of contemporary times—it is still an important footnote in biodiversity history. However, the disappearance of smaller organisms is hard or even impossible to document. For instance, E.O. Wilson, world famous entomologist and sociobiologist, claims that there are more microorganisms in a spoonful of rich, healthy soil than there are people on planet Earth. When you stop to consider the dramatic ways in which humans change the face of the planet while keeping in mind the estimate that countless species could exist within a few square inches of soil, it’s easy to see why the current extinction rate is so elevated.

What exactly does all this have to do with libraries? Please stay tuned for my next post to learn about the Academy Library’s role in researching and preserving biodiversity.


Filed under: Library News,Research,Scientific Illustration — Intern @ 9:15 pm

March 19, 2010

Biodiversity Heritage Library News

Just a quick post to give everyone an update about the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

For those new to these parts, the Biodiversity Heritage Library is a consortium of 12 major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions organized to digitize, serve, and preserve the legacy literature of biodiversity. The Academy Library is proud to be one of these institutions, and I’ve blogged a bit about our participation in the past here and here. Here’s an example of the fantastic literature (and pretty pictures) you can access for FREE at http://biodiversitylibrary.org.

Geospiza strenua, from The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. Image courtesy Biodiversity Heritage Library. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org

This week brought two BHL tidbits I’d like to share:

1) The BHL is conducting a user survey to help us serve you better. If you’ve used the BHL at all in the past, please take our survey. It will take 5-10 minutes of your time and help us immensely. Thanks in advance! Also, if you follow me on Twitter @tiny_librarian, feel free to retweet my latest update on the survey.

2) The BHL was selected by the American Library Association’s Office for Library Advocacy as the Digital Library of the Week! We’re in good company, joining honorees such as the Cornell University Library Witchcraft Collection and On the Edge: The Hidden Art of Fore-Edge Book Painting from the Boston Public Library.

While we accept accolades in all forms, we also really want you tell us where we need improvement. Ten minutes of your time now means a better BHL in the future!


Filed under: Library News,Research — Librarian @ 1:13 pm
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