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Please note: The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 10/24 (final entry at 2:00 pm). We apologize for any inconvenience.

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2014 Conversations on Science

The Academy is committed to engaging, inspiring, and empowering the public with its scientific mission. Its events and lecture programs offer thought provoking discussions on topics such as astronomy, ecology, sustainability, natural history, biodiversity, evolution and the science of life.


Conversations On Science

For this series, the Academy has partnered with City Arts & Lectures, Inc. to present distinguished scientists, professors, writers, thinkers, photographers and artists who discuss important and timely scientific and environmental issues. These conversations are held downtown at San Francisco's beautiful Nourse Theatre at 275 Hayes Street at Franklin Street.

Call 415-392-4400 or visit: City Box Office
(Academy discounts applied during checkout.)

Members: $25 Orchestra
Non Members: $27 Orchestra

Members (7 event) Series Ticket: $155 Orchestra.
Non Members (7 event) Series Ticket: $170 Orchestra.


The Neurobiology of Mind & Behavior
Antonio Damasio in Conversation with Amy Standen

Tuesday, February 11 2014 7:30pm at the Nourse Theatre
Antonio Damasio is a professor of neuroscience and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. His research helped uncover the neural basis for emotions and has shown that they play a central role in social cognition and decision-making. Since antiquity, artists and philosophers have sought to explain how we perceive, interpret, and shape our existence. Recent advances in brain imaging and fresh insights into the functioning of the human brain at the level of systems, cells and molecules, now provide opportunities for uncovering the neurological basis for a large array of mental functions from emotion and decision-making to the creativity expressed in the arts, sciences and technology.

Antonio Damasio will be in conversation with Amy Standen from KQED Science, an award-winning multimedia science and environment series. Her work has been recognized by the National Association of Public Radio News Directors and Northern California's Society of Professional Journalists. Standen has been a producer on Pulse of the Planet, editor of Terrain Magazine, an editor at Salon and a roving reporter for KALW's Philosophy Talk.

Ticketing Information Below


A Long Bright Future: The Science of Longevity
Laura Carstensen in Conversation with Roy Eisenhardt

Tuesday, February 18 2014 7:30pm at the Nourse Theatre
What if we could live longer, healthier, happier lives? Laura Carstensen is the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity and a noted expert on socioemotional selectivity theory, a life-span theory of motivation. “Life expectancy is ballooning just as science and technology is on the cusp of solving many of the practical problems of aging. What if we could not only have added years but spend them being physically fit, mentally sharp, functionally independent, and financially secure? At that point, we no longer have a story about old age; we have a story about long life.” Carstensen studies the nature and development of the human life span looking for innovative ways to use science and technology to improve the well-being of people of all ages. She is a Stanford professor in Public Policy and professor of Psychology.

Laura Carstensen will be in conversation with Roy Eisenhardt who currently teaches at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and previously served as the Executive Director for the California Academy of Sciences. Some of his numerous stage interviews include Stephen King, Gene Wilder, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Desmond Tutu, David Remnick and Isabella Rosselini.

Ticketing Information Below


Pandemic! A Plan for the Planet
Nathan Wolfe in Conversation with Shannon Bennett

Tuesday, March 11 2014 7:30pm at the Nourse Theatre
Armed with high-tech tools and a small army of fieldworkers, Nathan Wolfe hopes to re-invent pandemic control and reveal hidden secrets of the planet's dominant lifeform: the virus. Wolfe has spent his life studying deadly viruses to detect worldwide disease pandemics before they kill millions. He is founder and executive chairman of Global Viral, a non-profit organization promoting understanding, exploration and stewardship of the microbial world. Wolfe’s endeavors coordinate over one hundred scientists and staff around the planet by spotting viruses as soon as they surface through collecting and cataloguing blood samples, surveying wild animals, scanning urban blood banks and documenting the transfer and distribution of disease. 

Nathan Wolfe will be in conversation with Shannon Bennett who is the Academy’s first ever Associate Curator of Microbiology. In this new position, she broadens the Academy’s research scope to include a dedicated focus on viruses and bacteria. Her specialty lies in infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

Ticketing Information Below


Extracting DNA: The Power to Restore Life
Beth Shapiro in Conversation with Michael Krasny

Tuesday, April 8 2014 7:30pm at the Nourse Theatre
Imagine a future with mammoths and sabre tooth tigers. Is it possible? Is it ethical? A National Geographic emerging explorer, MacArthur Fellow and professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, Beth Shapiro aims to better understand how populations and species change through time in response to changes in their habitat. Through her explorations of prehistoric DNA, Shapiro develops important new approaches for inferring the factors that shape the dynamics of species’ populations. She is able to observe mammoths and dodos, witness the last ice age and study the eventual arrival of humans in North America. Her research with ancient DNA takes her on a journey through time that gives science and society a whole new view of our tumultuous past and a potentially life changing reality for our future.

Beth Shapiro will be in conversation with Michael Krasny who is the host of the KQED radio program Forum. He is also a professor of English at San Francisco State University and the author of Spiritual Envy: an Agnostic’s Quest and Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life. His many stage interviews include Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, and Brian Greene.

Ticketing Information Below


Extreme Weather & The Science of Superstorms
Heidi Cullen in Conversation with Elizabeth Farnsworth

Tuesday, April 22 2014 7:30pm at the Nourse Theatre
Superstorms capture the imagination in Hollywood and effect our real world hearts and homes. We are captivated by extreme weather and the forces of nature. Are they becoming more common? Hurricanes, tidal waves, giant tornadoes, rivers in the sky. What does the science of superstorms uncover about the powerful forces of nature? What do we know about weather and our future? Heidi Cullen serves as Chief Climatologist for Climate Central — a non-profit science journalism organization headquartered in Princeton, NJ. She was the Weather Channel’s first on-air climate expert and helped create Forecast Earth. Cullen, a climatologist, observes that our brain is hardwired to perceive that which is most immediate to us devoting our energy to responding to near time events. Extreme weather is an immediate result of a much larger phenomenon- the science of superstorms and the evolving human response. Cullen is a member of the American Meteorological Society, an Associate Editor of the journal Weather, Climate, Society and is a visiting lecturer at Princeton University.

Heidi Cullen will be in conversation with Elizabeth Farnsworth who is a former chief correspondent of The NewsHour and an award-winning filmmaker and CEO of West Wind Productions. She has won numerous accolades for her documentary reporting including multiple Emmy nominations, a Director's Guild of America nomination, and a Silver World Medal from the New York Festivals.

Ticketing Information Below


The Neuroscience of Music & Creativity
Indre Viskontas in Conversation with Kelly McGonigal

Wednesday, May 21 2014 7:30pm at the Nourse Theatre
A cognitive neuroscientist with UCSF and member of the faculty at the San Franciso Conservatory of Music, Indre Viskontas studies how memories, creativity and other cognitive processes are supported by neural networks  using the latest techniques  including direct recordings from neurons in the human brain and high-resolution functional MRIs. She has published ground-breaking work on the neural basis of memory and creativity and has won numerous research and teaching awards. Viskontas is a classically trained soprano and performs with regional opera companies and chamber music groups in the Bay Area and is the co-founder of Vocallective, a consortium of singers and instrumentalists dedicated to the art of vocal chamber music.

Indre Viskontas will be in conversation with Kelly McGonigal a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University. She teaches for the School of Medicine's Health Improvement Program and is a senior teacher/consultant for the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Her work demonstrates the applications from psychology, neuroscience, and medicine to personal health and happiness, as well as organizational success and social change. She is the author of the popular books: The Neuroscience of Change, The Willpower Instinct, and Yoga for Pain Relief.

Ticketing Information Below


Science & Scripture: Inside the Vatican Observatory
Father George Coyne, SJ in Conversation with Ryan Wyatt

Monday, June 9 2014 7:30pm at the Nourse Theatre
As a priest and an astronomer, Fr. Coyne bridges the worlds of faith and science. He has also been active in the continuing debate about the religious implications of scientific evolution. George V. Coyne, SJ is Director Emeritus of the Vatican Observatory and currently holds the McDevitt Chair in Religious Philosophy at Le Moyne College where he is teaching astronomy and developing a lecture series regarding the science and religion dialogue. He is an observational astronomer of international stature and has been widely recognized for promoting the dialogue between science and religion. He pioneered the series of conferences on “Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action” which bring together scientists and theologians from around the world.  

Fr. Coyne will be in conversation with Ryan Wyatt, the Director of the Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization studio at the California Academy of Sciences. Wyatt has written and directed the Academy’s three fulldome features, Fragile Planet (2008), Life: A Cosmic Story (2010), and Earthquake: Evidence of a Restless Planet (2012) and is currently in production on the Academy’s upcoming fourth planetarium show.

Ticketing Information Below


Call 415-392-4400 or visit: City Box Office
(Academy discounts applied during checkout.)

Members: $25 Orchestra
Non Members: $27 Orchestra

Members (7 event) Series Ticket: $155 Orchestra.
Non Members (7 event) Series Ticket: $170 Orchestra.

Conservation Photography

Conservation photography is a vision of photography that has a long history with a new purpose. A conservation photographer's work begins once they click the shutter. It's what you do with these images that matters as it takes you into the active roll of affecting conservation for the natural world.


Conservation Photography Workshop
Adobe Lightroom for the Nature Photographer

Gary Sharlow, Photographer, Manager of Lifelong Learning

Sunday, November 13th from 1pm - 4pm
In this workshop you will be taken through the steps of setting up Adobe Lightroom for the first time all the way through to how to do basic web publishing. We will cover the basic features of the library mode and how to organize your collection including the use of external drives. We will also cover the basic editing features of the develop module and then take a more in depth look at some of the powerful plug-ins that can be used to perfect your images in the digital darkroom. There will be an additional presentation about using your photos for conservation and how you can help effect change and protect the natural world through your passion for nature photography.

What To Bring: Feel free to bring your DSLR, memory card with card reader and laptops should you wish to follow along during the Lightroom presentation. We will meet at the Business Reception Desk at the backdoor of the Academy at 12:45pm.

Reservations: Members: $40, Adults: $50 ~ For ages 18+ Space is limited. To reserve a place today, buy a ticket online or over the phone at 415-379-8000


Conservation Photography Workshop
Defining Conservation Photography

Gary Sharlow, Photographer, Education Manager

Sunday, December 04th 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Conservation photography is a vision of photography that has a long history with a new purpose. A conservation photographer's work begins once they click the shutter. It's what you do with these images that matters as it takes you into the active role of affecting conservation for the natural world. In this workshop, we will take a look at a variety of methods, tools and techniques that anyone with a DSLR can employ in an effort to help drive conservation through their photographic passion.

Please Note: We will meet at the Business Reception Desk at the backdoor of the Academy at 12:45pm.

Reservations: Academy Members: $40, Adults: $50 ~ For ages 18+ Space is limited. Please reserve online or over the phone at 415-379-8000


Conservation Photography Workshop
Artistic Expression for the Nature Photographer

Gary Sharlow, Photographer, Education Manager

Sunday, January 08th 1:00pm to 4:00pm
The beauty of the digital era of photography presents itself in the enormous opportunities for creativity in photographing the subject matter of your choice. As nature photographers, we are surrounded by the beauty of wildlife and colorful landscapes painted by the brush of the natural world. Join us in this workshop to take a look at some of the tools and techniques available today that can be used to express your vision of the natural world with your personal artistic spin. We’ll look at techniques and tools that cover such things as high dynamic range (HDR), double exposures, multiple exposures, time lapse, multi media expression and unique perspectives in the field.

Please Note: We will meet at the Business Reception Desk at the backdoor of the Academy at 12:45pm.

Reservations: Academy Members: $40, Adults: $50 ~ For ages 18+ Space is limited. To reserve a place today, buy a ticket online or over the phone at 415-379-8000


Conservation Photography Workshop & Field Excursion
The Life of Water: From Headwaters to Oceans

Gary Sharlow. Photographer, Education Manager
Geoff Willard, Naturalist Guide, Education Manager

Saturday & Sunday, January 14th and 15th
2:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Saturday and 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday

Dive into the art of conservation photography during this hands-on, two-day workshop. On Saturday, workshop participants will be introduced to the field’s methodology and techniques among the Academy's live animals. On Sunday, the group will put its skills into practice on an all-day excursion to the Mount Tamalpais watershed starting with a hike along the waterfalls and streams of the watershed and continuing with stops along salmon creeks and the mighty redwoods of West Marin on the way out to the final destination of Tomales Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Conservation photography is a field rich with history, which has only recently been recognized as a discipline and powerful medium for conservation of wild areas. Throughout the experience, Academy staff and guest experts will offer photographic guidance and insight into the subjects' natural history.

Reservations: Early bird tickets: $175 for adults, $150 for members (through December 30th); then: $195 for adults, $170 for members. Tickets include all day admission to the Academy on the first day of the workshop. Open to ages 18+. Please reserve a space online or over the phone at 415-379-8000 (Tickets are non-refundable.)


Conservation Photography Workshop
Focused on Conservation

Gary Sharlow, Photographer, Education Manager

Sunday, February 05th 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Whether it’s through a collaborative effort that involves photographers, scientists and non-profit organizations or individual exploration of the natural world with just you and your camera, there are many opportunities to get involved with conservation efforts for your favorite habitats, wild sanctuaries or most beloved wild animals. Join photographer Gary Sharlow as he presents a variety of tools, websites, organizations and ideas for turning your lens towards conservation. Whether you prefer to shoot with a DSLR, a point and shoot pocket camera or your iPhone, there are ways for each and every one of you to get involved.

Please Note: We will meet at the Business Reception Desk at the backdoor of the Academy at 12:45pm.

Reservations: Academy Members: $40, Adults: $50 ~ For ages 18+ Space is limited. To reserve a place today, buy a ticket online or over the phone at 415-379-8000


Our Real World Meetup Community

Consider this your invitation to join our virtual community that can serve as way for all of us to stay in touch as a photography community. If you who are new to Meetup, they describe their service as such: “Meetup.com helps groups of people with shared interests plan meetings and form offline clubs in local communities around the world.” We would love to have you join our group and spread the word to fellow photographers. We can use this platform to announce free real world gatherings to grow our community and plan times to get together with new friends that you may have made through the Academy photography workshops. Speaking of workshops, we’ll also announce upcoming Academy workshops through the service as well as on the Academy site. We hope you will join the group and spread the word so we can grow our community.

Please visit us online so we can make plans to get together in the real world!


Conservation Photography Flickr Pool

The second most requested thing from our workshop participants, beyond ways to continue to get together in person, has been for ways to post the images taken in our workshops to an online site where we could offer each other feedback on our images and technique. This can also be used to open up topics of conversation about anything photography related. We hope you will consider posting some of the images you took through our workshops, and we look forward to seeing more of your nature related photography through this group. A bonus of contributing to the flickr pool is that they joined forces with Getty images giving you a professional service from which to sell your images. If you’re good, they will find you!

Please join the group at our Flickr pool We look forward to sharing images and comments with you.

Pritzker Lectures 

Free to Academy members, the Pritzker lecture series features engaging speakers from the Bay Area and beyond. Topics cover a wide range of subjects related to the Academy's mission to "explore, explain and protect the natural world."


Pritzker Lecture
Diversity and Evolution of Coral Reef Fishes

Dr. Luiz Rocha
Assistant Curator. Ichthyology California Academy of Science

Tuesday, January 24th 7:00 pm
Please join us in welcoming one of the Academy’s newest curators as Dr. Luiz Rocha joins the Academy as an assistant curator on the Ichthyology team in the research division. A native of Brazil, Dr. Rocha’s research interests center on the evolution, biogeography, and ecology of coral reef fishes. His overarching goal is to understand what drives the extremely high biodiversity found in tropical reefs. He has embarked on numerous expeditions around the world, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Polynesia, Micronesia, the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. His field work in Sao Tome was covered by National Geographic in 2008, and he appeared in a Science Channel documentary in 2009 discussing the effects of radiation at Bikini Atoll.

Reservations:Adults $12, Seniors $10, Academy Members: Free. Seating is limited. Please reserve a space online or over the phone at 415-379-8000


Pritzker Lecture
Stem Cells: Not What They Used to Be

Bruce R. Conklin, M.D.
Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease
Professor Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

Wednesday, February 15th 7:00 pm in African Hall
Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In many tissues, they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive. San Francisco’s Gladstone Institutes is a leading force in stem cell research. In this presentation, Gladstone Investigator Dr. Bruce Conklin explains the surprising past, present, and future of stem cells.

Reservations:Adults $12, Seniors $10, Academy Members: free. Seating is limited. To reserve a place today, buy a ticket online or over the phone at 415-379-8000

Recorded Lectures



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BigPicture Competition


Enter for your chance to win the $5,000 Grand Prize or a share of the $20,000 in cash and Calumet photography gear from the Academy's first annual international photography competition.

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Member Perks


There are numerous benefits to being an Academy member:

  • Free unlimited daily admission
  • Personalized member card
  • Members-only hours
  • Free Pritzker members' lectures
  • And Many More...