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Notices

The Academy will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 4/24. We apologize for any inconvenience.

The Academy’s rainforest exhibit will be closed 5/6–5/7 for routine maintenance. We apologize for any inconvenience.

From the Stacks 

May 17, 2013

Oil in Ecuador: an update

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The Library’s Reading Room exhibit created by former, CIS intern Mollie Cueva-Dabkoski focuses on the Ecuadorian rainforest - the history of Western exploration of the region, and current issues facing the area’s immense biodiversity. She recently sent me an update to the continuing issues of oil exploitation. ” Thought I’d pass along this article I just read about Ecuador’s plans for the rainforest. It contains bad news, very bad news.”

 

Read the article(s) for yourself here:

Ecuador To Sell A Third Of Its Amazon Rainforest To Chinese Oil Companies

Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms

Ecuador Extends to July 16 Deadline for Bids on 11th Oil-Licensing Round

 

To read more about what you can do to help preserve the Amazon Rainforest, click here.

 


Filed under: Connecting Content,Exhibits — Dsands @ 9:40 pm

A Remora-sful Smackdown

The Remora remora, or common suckerfish, is an odd pelagic marine fish usually found in warmer parts of most oceans. They can be found offshore from San Francisco south to Chile. Their front dorsal fin has evolved into a giant sucker disc that they use to hitch rides on faster swimming sharks, rays, sea turtles, bony fishes and even marine mammals. Once thought to be purely parasitic, the relationship to their “host” is now considered to be symbiotic.

Not eaten themselves, they have been used by fishermen who attach a line to the Remora‘s tail, letting it free to swim. The tethered Remora then attaches it’s sucker disc to a larger fish as they are wont to do. At this point when it is noted that the Remora is accelerating,  the fisherman then reels it back in and captures the larger fish.

(c) Diane T Sands 2013. carbon dust on illustration board.

(c) Diane T Sands 2013.
carbon dust on illustration board.

(c) California Academy of Sciences.

(c) California Academy of Sciences.

In 1905, the California Academy of Sciences sent 11 men off for a year and a day on an eighty-five foot schooner destined for the Galapagos Islands. While the expedition was underway, the California Academy of Sciences would fall into ruin during the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The specimens gathered during that expedition would come to form the crux of the new California Academy of Sciences’ collections. Of the young men on that voyage, entomologist Francis Xavier Williams kept field books (http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/123606) and made drawings of all of much of the wild life he encountered. This illustration of the Remora remora was one of many fish Williams ran across in his exploration of the islands.

Mora Remora!

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Remora_remora/

http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Remora-remora.html


May 15, 2013

Archives Unboxed: A letter from Einstein, a proclamation from Grant

Part One: The Einstein Letter

As an archivist here at the California Academy of Sciences, it is our job to preserve, organize, and make available for use the records of scientific activity and discovery. We undertake this effort in a variety of ways; from making available new and beautiful images of the natural world freely available for educational, personal, and non-profit use through the Manzanita Image Project, to digitizing field books and linking the resources to newly digitized specimens and published materials through our work on the Connecting Content Grant, to more traditional processing of our large collection of scientific records in an effort to make the material accessible to those who wish to consult it. Archival materials may include formats such as paper, photographs, film, video and audio recordings on analog or digital media, works of art, and other realia of significance to our collections. In short, you never know what you’ll find when you open a box.

I often boast that this exciting discovery is the best part of the job. As archivists, we get to be part Indiana Jones and part Sherlock Holmes (with equally zany fashion sense) and we are given the opportunity to preserve and explore the treasures of the past and allow for new connections and discoveries to be made as a result of our making the collections available. Moreover, in making these collections available, we uncover exciting items that we want to immediately share with you. With that in mind, we have decided to do a monthly (or perhaps more often if we just can’t wait) series of posts dedicated to highlighting some of the exciting new discoveries in our collections.

In our inaugural installment  we would like to share with you a recent discovery (to us) when we opened a collection known to us as “Special Collections”. The records themselves were fairly straight forward and were comprised of documents that captured the history and processes that formed the California Academy of Sciences Special Collections but as we perused the contents, a series of “Files from the Rare Book Room” brought forth unexpected treasure. A few items stood out, including the hand written account of a meeting in 1885 between Adolph Sutro, California fish commissioner Joseph D Redding in which the “Sea Lion Question” was addressed. In case you are curious, the sea lion question was essentially, “ Do the sea lions who occupy the bays and coasts near San Francisco pose a threat to the fish populations?” We also found a California land patent for a small section of Mount Diablo signed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872.

1872 lang grant for lots of Mt. Diablo

1872 land patent for lots on Mt. Diablo

 

Additionally, we found a letter signed by Albert Einstein!

Letter from the emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists dated February 10, 1947.

Letter from the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists dated February 10, 1947.

The letter itself is a form letter asking for money to fund an educational endeavor regarding the responsible use of atomic energy after the tragedy of Hiroshima . Einstein was at the head of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists for its brief existence. The University of Chicago holds the organization’s records, and you can read more about the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists here: http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/scrc/findingaids/view.php?eadid=ICU.SPCL.ECAS

I can only speculate that this letter came to the Academy by way of ECAS member and Nobel laureates Harold Urey and Linus Pauling, who were closely affiliated with the California Academy of Sciences and appeared on several episodes of our Academy produced television program, Science in Action.

Stay tuned for more great finds as we dig into our archives and uncover the history and intrigue of our past!

 

-Yolanda Bustos

Connecting Content Project Manger & Archives and Digital Collections Assistant Librarian

 


Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Archives finds — Archives & Special Collections @ 4:06 am

May 3, 2013

One Big Disaster, Two Small Birds, and a Mystery in the Stacks

Happy May!

T.S. Eliot famously wrote “April is the cruelest month,” and when I look back on 160 years of the California Academy of Sciences, I am inclined to agree with that sentiment. The Library and Archives are involved in preserving and sharing the history of the Academy, and we all know quite a bit about April 18, 1906 and the massive earthquake and devastating fire that destroyed nearly all of the Academy’s collections. After the fires were extinguished, the Academy had 1497 botanical types, saved by Alice Eastwood, the original Minutes of Academy meetings, some other historical records and specimens, and two Guadalupe Storm Petrels (Oceanodroma macrodactyla).

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Above, the Oceanodroma macrodactyla specimens housed in Ornithology & Mammalogy
Below, the tags on the specimens reading “Saved From The Fire”

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When I have occasion to talk about Academy history (a regular occurrence), I have rarely given much thought to any books or other print matter that may have been rescued besides the Minutes and a valuable manuscript by Theodore Henry Hittell. We are grateful to have those, as they inform much of what we know about the founding and early days of the Academy. And to be honest, I never like to think very hard about all of records and literature lost in the disaster. But, I always bring up Alice Eastwood, and I always mention these two petrels, which were saved by the Academy’s Director Leverett Mills Loomis. Loomis studied this variety of seabird, and possessed excellent foresight in securing the type specimen (described by W.E. Bryant in 1887) as O. macrodactyla would cease to be seen alive in the wild after 1911. But the birds are small, and I imagine the chaotic, post-earthquake scene of Mary Hyde rescuing the heavy, unwieldy books of Academy Minutes, and Alice Eastwood, working with a friend to tie up and save nearly 1500 herbarium sheets, while Director Loomis plucks just two small birds and then…gives up?

I turned to some letters that Loomis wrote to naturalist Edward W. Nelson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and later the U.S. Biological Survey, which are reprinted here and were also sent anonymously and published in a lightly-censored form in Science in May 1906. In one of these letters, dated May 7, 1906, Loomis writes:

“As a starter for the bird collection I selected the types of Oceanodroma macrodactyla and as the beginning of the bird library I took your favorite Des Meers. As I wanted to be the first donor to the Academy’s new ornithological library, I put Brown’s illustrations under my arm as I passed the store-room. So you see we made a beginning before the end had come.”

 So, it would seem that Loomis was not stingy with his rescue efforts, and instead managed to save both the two Guadalupe Storm Petrel specimens collected by Bryant and two books. Upon review, it became clear to me that Loomis was referencing Marc Athanse Parfait Oeillet Des Murs’ Iconographie Ornithologique, a magnificently illustrated work from the 1840s, of which the Academy Library has a beautiful copy.

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Above, plate of the Scaly Ground Roller (Geobiastes squamiger) of Madagascar, from Des Murs’ Iconographie Ornithologique

When I pulled it from the book from the shelf, I noticed for the first time the notation on the bookplate, stating “SAVED.”

saved-web

The reference to “Brown” proved more of a mystery, and one that I will revisit shortly in another blog entry. Stay tuned!

-Becky Morin
Head Librarian


Filed under: Academy History,Rare Books — Librarian @ 8:46 pm

April 30, 2013

Diorama-rama!

During our ongoing photo collection survey, we came across an image (by Moulin Studios) of a scale model version of the lion diorama that still stands in African Hall. Since the model is dated 1929 and African Hall didn’t open until five years later, it’s a rare glimpse into the early planning stages of the exhibit. Scale models were used to sketch out ideas for large dioramas before building the real thing.
N1486G-web

The final diorama turned out significantly different than the original model: the lions are facing the opposite direction, and a second female lion was added. Every aspect of the diorama was undertaken by Frank Tose (then Head of Exhibits), including the taxidermy, installation, and background mural.
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The lion diorama was unchanged from 1934 until the closure of the Academy’s original buildings in 2004. Since the murals in each diorama were painted directly onto the walls of African Hall, there was no way to save them when the building was demolished. Instead, they were painstakingly documented, color-matched, and re-created in the new building.
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The lions themselves were sent to a taxidermist for cleaning and repair, since 70 years on exhibit had taken its toll on them. The original foregound was preserved and re-created, although the sunset in the background was toned down, due to Academy scientists’ concerns about its scientific accuracy. In 2011, an additional audiovisual element was added to create moving herds on the plain behind the lions.
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Special thanks to Roberta Brett for her stories about the process of moving African Hall!

Kelly Jensen
- Digital Production Assistant


Filed under: Academy History,Archives finds,Exhibits,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 5:33 pm

April 10, 2013

A Naturalist’s Garden of Verses, Part Two

April is National Poetry Month here in the United States (and National Poetry Writing Month, hint hint…), and so we thought it time for another installment of “A Naturalist’s Garden of Verses.”  These four poems feature swaying owls, cloud-riding, and actual sea moss specimens mounted on the page.  Enjoy!

Verse from Sea Mosses, by Clara B. Heath (1881), lettering and specimen mount by Grace A. Hall (1890 ca.)  From the Grace A. Hall collection.

Were these the trees of a mimic isle,
Never at loss for the sun or dew?
Or only the branches that decked a while
A fairy boat with its fairy crew?

Verse from Sea Mosses, by James Thomas Field (1849), lettering by Grace A. Hall (1890 ca.) From the Grace A. Hall collection.
These tributes plundered from the sea
These many-colored variegated forms
Sail to our rougher shores and rise and fall,
To the deep music of the Atlantic wave.
Such spoils we capture where the rainbows drop
Melting in ocean.

The Owl and the Stars, by Arthur L. Bolton (1930 ca.) From the Bolton Family collection.
The little Stars were playing in the sky,
When the Man-in-the-Moon came sailing by;
He winked at them and they winked at him,
And they winked at the Owl on the old dry limb.
They played hide-and-seek, for the night was still,
And the Moon slipped down behind the hill,
But the little Stars kept winking still
And nodding in a roguish way,
To see the Owl sit there and sway
Till the Sun came up, when all he could do,
Was to sit on that limb the whold [sic] day through.

Untitled, by George S. Myers (1930 ca.) From the George S. Myers collection.
O would that I could ride a cloud
Over far vistas bright
O would that I might be a star
To scan the dim vastness of the night

O would that the world before me lay
All visible to my roving eye
For… [unfinished -HY]

A Naturalist’s Garden of Verses, Part One
-Heather Yager
Academy Archivist


Filed under: Academy History,Archives — Archives & Special Collections @ 10:51 pm

April 5, 2013

The first botanical Illustration Smackdown

Stepping away from our previous animal focused Smackdowns, our focus today is Foeniculum vulgare, also known as common fennel. This culinary herb from the carrot family (Umbelliferae) is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean area. You can read more about its usage and cultivation in Culinary Herbs, among other volumes.

(c) Henry Evans. to order prints, contact Marsha Evans: marsha@henryevans.com

Henry Evans made numerous botanical prints throughout his career. This fennel image is among several housed in the Archives, likely from an exclusive Academy exhibit.  Revered by botanists for his faithful portrayal of important characteristics, each species is created life size.

Henry Evans at his press, courtesy of the CAS Archive

(c) 2103 Diane T Sands gouache & colored pencil; magazine image created in Photoshop

(c)2013 Diane T Sands

I approached my own image of this plant by asking the question, what sort of client would ask me to create a botanical image of this species today? The most likely option would, I think, be a cooking magazine. So I laid out my image as if it were a magazine cover. The painting was created using gouache, and colored pencils.


Filed under: Archives,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 7:46 pm

March 13, 2013

A Naturalist’s Garden of Verses, Part One

I’m always delighted when I find unexpected treasures in the archives.  In addition to the species lists, invoices, and specimen images common in natural history archives, one can find all manner of music, poetry, and comedy if one knows where to look.  Many of our scientists and naturalists found themselves gripped by the Muse on long, cold nights in the field (or long, cold days in the office), and put pen to paper in order to view their science through the lens of art.  Over the past few months I’ve been making notes whenever I come across a bit of verse in the collections – over the next few weeks I’ll bring you some of my favorites, starting with these three.

Alice Eastwood Acrostic, by Eunice Taylor (1940 ca.) From the Alice Eastwood collection.

Attuned as some rare violin to life,
Listening to and seeing Nature’s heart,
Interpreting her beauty and her art
Cherishing her mystery and her lore
Endowed with wisdom, kindliness and cheer.

Earth smiled triumphantly when you were born
And hailed you as her own beloved child
Saluting Canada’s proud gift, she gave
To California your spirit brave
Where she decreed that you should reign
O‘er all her giant trees and lovely flowers.
Oh! brighter is the world because of you
Disciple true, of Nature’s wondrous powers.

Untitled (early 20th century) From the B.W. Evermann collection.

I wish I was an eagle’s egg,
As stale as stale can be,
All cuddled down in a big old nest
In the top of a white oak tree.

Then when a greedy ‘ologist
Climbed up to me in glee,
I’d bust my nasty rotten self
And sprinkle him with me.

Yonder, by Arthur L. Bolton (1930 ca.) From the Bolton Family collection.

Yonder, where the spruces dwarft and aged,
Crouch beneath the overbearing snows,
Yonder, and beyond, where mountains soaring,
Bear the flush of early morning rose,
There, among the ptarmigan and willows,
Where Nature rests immaculate, sublime,
Shall I find a Peace at one with Heaven,
Shall I know the majesty of Time.

- Heather Yager, Archivist
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Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Archives finds — Archives & Special Collections @ 12:18 am

February 28, 2013

Even Though It Was Raining (Switzer 1935 ca.)

Today we bring you a blog post from the past, describing in detail the tenacity of the dedicated collector. George Switzer, famed Smithsonian mineralogist (responsible for bringing the Hope Diamond into the Institution’s collection) wrote this tale of soggy derring-do while completing his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley in the mid-1930s. From the L. Courtney Decius collection at the California Academy of Sciences Archives.

EVEN THOUGH IT WAS RAINING

This is just by way of proving that it takes more than a mere rainstorm on a semi-liquid mud lake to stop a real mineral bug.

The lake visited was Borax Lake, formed by lava damming a mountain cove, in Lake County on the southeastern border of Clear Lake. It was in this lake that, in 1864, the first commercial production of Borax in American [sic] was begun. The lake is now nearly dry with a crust of Halite, colored violet by organic life, covering it. Under this crust is a thick mud with a decidedly “soapy” feel due to the large amount of Borax in solution.

The trip was made by a party of four, including Mr. M. Vonsen, a well-known mineralogist of Petaluma, California. It was unfortunate that we picked a very rainy day for the excursion because, during the whole time we were collecting, it rained in torrents. To make matters worse, the lake is so soft that one cannot walk on it. This was remedied by walking on skis made of one by six pine boards about six feet long tied to the feet with ropes. And beware! For if you step off the skis, you immediately sink to the hips in the mud and it is impossible to get out without assistance.

In spite of being soaked to the skin by rain and coated from head to foot with mud, the trip was very worth while. For by skiing to the middle of the lake, breaking the Halite crust and groping arms deep in the mud, we felt an occasional second layer, which proved to be excellent specimens of Halite and Borax crystals on Trona and Natron. The Natron, however, was so deliquescent that we were unable to preserve any of them. We also obtained minute crystals of Northupite and Gay-Lussite, both insoluble in water, by dissolving a specimen of the Borax and Trona in water. Then with a low powered microscope we were able to separate the Northupite octahedrons from the monoclinic Gay-Lussite crystals.

We were indeed fortunate to be able to get any specimens at all, for it was the first time in twenty years that chemical conditions in the lake had been right so that the minerals could crystallize out. Following the heavy rain the specimens were again gone, perhaps only for the winter, or maybe for another twenty years.

Misson and Switzer.

- Heather Yager, Archivist, on behalf of George Switzer, Mineralogist.


Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Archives finds — Archives & Special Collections @ 2:13 am

February 22, 2013

The archives are a real hoot!

Yesterday morning, California Academy of Sciences archivist, Heather Yager was looking through some documentation and stumbled upon quite a gem. In the archives, finding something wonderful isn’t really that rare; recently we found a letter from the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists signed by Albert Einstein. So, while big finds never cease to humble and astound us, we’re not exactly surprised.

However, yesterday we found a letter from local mycologist Lillian S. Mott (who described and named the mushroom endemic to the vicinity of Grass Valley and Nevada City, Boletus mottiae Theirs) to then California Academy of Sciences art director, Johan Kooy expressing an interest in donating slides and images for use in Academy publications. While this in its own right is special, Lillian also included two photographs of owls which she hilariously captioned, leading us to believe she may have unwittingly invented the owl meme in 1971.

(c) Lillian S Mott, 1971.

(c) Lillian Mott, 1971.

Ms. Mott, if you read this, we recognize not only your fine contributions to science but also your wit and innovative spirit. We salute you.

-Yolanda Bustos
MAS, MLIS,  IMLS grant manager, and lover of acronyms and memes.


Filed under: Archives,Archives finds,Photography — Archives & Special Collections @ 8:06 pm
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