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Golden Gate Park
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Fly on the Wall 

April 28, 2008

Ichthyology jars are all boxed up

This week, the final room of the Ichthyology collection is being packed and loaded up to move into the department’s new collection rooms at the new California Academy of Sciences. For transport, the small jars are packed closely together in re-usable orange crates, while larger jars (below, right) are stabilized with packing peanuts that are also re-usable.
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More than 200,000 jars of unicornfishes, lanternbellies, fangtooths, needlefishes, and numerous other species sit on the earthquake-proof shelves – totaling 2 million specimens. The alcohol-filled jars must all be carefully secured because the specimens are a valuable resource to researchers from around the world.

Filed under: Great Migration,Research Departments — Helen @ 3:33 pm

April 24, 2008

New creatures in the Lagoon

The rays in the Lagoon were recently joined by three black tipped reef sharks and Diego, an 80-pound green sea turtle. The female sharks, each about 3 feet long, were quite cooperative through the 2+ hour transfer process. Upon arrival, one shark needed some extra time to adjust to the water in the new tank, but after some coaxing from aquarium curator Bart Shepherd, her energy picked right up. A few photos from the shark move:
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When Diego arrived at the Lagoon two days later (via a mini-forklift ride from the loading dock) the sharks zipped around the Lagoon for a few minutes, not knowing quite what to make of their new tank-mate. They soon settled down, and all are now “co-habitating” comfortably.

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 2:48 pm

April 11, 2008

Rays settle in

The shallow Lagoon which borders the coral reef tank received its first inhabitants this week – ten rays which are now happily cruising the sandy floor. Seven cownose rays traveled first, followed by two blue spot rays and a honeycomb ray in the second trip. The barbs at the end of their tails certainly kept the biologists on their toes!

A ray’s skin is very delicate, so to protect them and facilitate the transport, Academy biologists carefully coaxed each ray into a soft plastic bag. While en-route to Golden Gate Park in a 300-gallon truck-mounted tank, they were monitored by the Academy’s veterinarian and aquatic biologists. Upon arrival, wetsuit-clad biologists introduced them to the Lagoon, and now they’re swimming around like they own the place.

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 5:06 pm

April 8, 2008

Creative recycling

The Ornithology and Mammalogy department was the very first group to move into the Academy’s new home in Golden Gate Park. Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, the department was able to purchase a new set of state-of-the-art cabinets for specimen storage.

Rather than tossing the old cabinets in a landfill, collections manager Moe Flannery quickly found new homes for them. She donated most of them to other organizations in need of storage solutions, reducing waste and providing inspiration to others wondering, “what in the world should I do with this (insert your obscure/unwieldy object of choice)?”

The Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology (left) was thrilled to receive the Academy’s donation of 180 cabinets (a lifetime supply!). They have since painted the metallic cabinets white to match their others.

Filed under: Great Migration,Research Departments,Sustainability — Helen @ 10:15 am

April 3, 2008

Moving coral by hand

Piece by piece, Steinhart Aquarium biologists are carefully transporting live coral colonies from “coral rearing pods” at Howard Street over to the 25-foot deep Philippine coral reef tank at the new California Academy of Sciences. Each of the rearing pods holds up to 16 square feet of live coral, which have been growing on-site for more than two years now.

They are kept comfortable during the journey in reusable coolers, and hustled over to the new tank as quickly as possible. Including the corals above which made the trip on Wednesday, just over 30 colonies have been moved so far. Watch the first coral get installed.

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 2:07 pm

March 31, 2008

Playing leapfrog

The Academy’s largest research department, Entomology, has been playing a complex game of leapfrog with their research specimens and cabinets. They have 14.5 million insects and arachnids in the collection – housed primarily in 450 9-foot-tall white cabinets (below, left). The catch is that all those cabinets had to be emptied before going into moving trucks, which posed quite a logistical challenge.

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32,000 wooden drawers full of pinned specimens (above, center) take up a lot of room – you can’t just set them all aside while you move all the cabinets. So, instead they’ve been doing it in waves: move some cabinets, move some insects, cabinets, insects, cabinets, insects…

Over the course of about 4 weeks, the wooden drawers were transferred from their white cabinets to metallic transport carts (above, right), and trucked over to Golden Gate Park in batches. And every other day, another 48 white cabinets were moved over. That way, when each batch of metallic transport carts wheeled into the new building, there were empty cabinets waiting to be filled up.

As of today, the bulk of the pinned specimens are safe and sound in their new home, while the butterflies, moths, and a sampling of beetles are patiently awaiting their turn to move.

Filed under: Great Migration,Research Departments — Helen @ 9:16 am

March 28, 2008

Presto Change-O

The Academy is closed to the public right now, but behind the scenes, the action hasn’t slowed one bit during the move back to Golden Gate Park. If you’ve ever lugged a couch up two flights of stairs, spent hours carefully bubble-wrapping your grandmother’s china, or wrestled with where to put everything in a new home, then you can appreciate what the Academy is up against: moving 20 million delicate scientific specimens, and thousands of slippery, feathered and scaly live animals from downtown San Francisco to a brand new building in Golden Gate Park. How will we do it? “Very, very carefully.”

As soon as the doors closed at 5 pm on January 6th, the museum lobby at 875 Howard Street was transformed into a staging area for the movers – the massive admissions desk literally disappeared overnight – poof! The following morning, instead of school groups, the lobby was filled with 9-foot-tall cabinets on rolling carts, waiting for the first moving truck to pull up. And so began the most massive museum move on record…


In the lobby, a gray whale skeleton peeks out above rows of empty cabinets from the Botany department – among the first items to move to Golden Gate Park. And the former Academy Café, now a staging area during the move, hosts a table for two (cabinets).

Filed under: Great Migration — Helen @ 3:30 pm
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