55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

The Academy will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Planetarium will be closed Sep. 22, 23, 24

Fly on the Wall 

February 24, 2011

Weaving a fence

Most of Charlie Kennard’s weaving experience has been with baskets. But lately, he’s been weaving a sinuous 150-foot-long fence in the Academy’s east garden. The fence, made from the branches pruned off of the iconic sycamore trees in the Music Concourse and Opera Plaza each winter, is now complete after four days and three miles worth of branches. While the format is larger, the principles of fence weaving are quite similar to those of basket weaving.

Kennard employed a California Indian weaving technique called twining, in which two bundles of branches are simultaneously woven through a series of fence posts on opposing sides, effectively wrapping both sides of each post in a sturdy sheath of branches. Woven fences have a minimal environmental impact and have probably been around since the beginnings of agriculture, though most use a technique called wicker weaving. He decided to twine this particular fence, and top it off with a special twisted weave at the top, to withstand the wear and tear of children’s curious hands and the beaks of local birds looking for nesting material.

A variety of native plants have been planted on the hillside beyond the new fence, so this spring, stop by the east garden to see thimble berries, California poppies, and a host of other colorful California native wildflowers in bloom.
Twining techniquewattle_enclosure11th_s1

Above: Kennard’s twining technique, and an illustration of a wattle fence from an 11th century Welsh manuscript
Below: Academy Landscape Exhibit Supervisor Alan Good (L), weaver Charlie Kennard, and the finished fence


Filed under: Other News,Sustainability — Helen @ 3:07 pm

May 13, 2010

Venomous Fish Reproduce (and Rewrite Song Lyrics)

Aquarium biologists have succeeded in spawning the lacy scorpionfish, Rhinopias. This is the first documented case of captive reproduction in this genus, which was extensively studied by a former Academy scientist, Bill Eschmeyer. Here is a picture of the proud Rhinopias parents.

These venomous fish are not overly abundant in the wild or common in the aquarium industry. They don’t have the best track record in captivity, often living for less than two years. Academy biologists thought very hard before deciding to put them on display, but were confident they could provide them with high-quality animal care.

Things seem to be working out, fish style. Since going on display last November, the two individuals have been eating well, regularly shedding their skin (a normal behavior for Rhinopias), and challenging guests to spot them among the corals.

I will admit that the ever-active whimsical lobe of my brain has sprung into action to imagine how Tin Pan Alley would have been different if people, too, signaled contentment with their lives by regularly shedding their skin. Song lyrics would be very different. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” would need a new second verse. There surely would be a new take on that great song sung by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald: “There I go again. About to shed my skin again. All aglow again. Takin’ a chance on love!” And so forth.

But I digress. Back to the fish.

In early March, Academy biologists found an egg raft in the Rhinopias tank. Eggs signal mucho happiness in the piscine set, even more than skin shedding. The eggs were hard to spot because they are almost completely clear. It’s possible that they mimic a comb jelly to discourage predation. Should you wonder, a “comb jelly” is an animal that looks like a jellyfish and behaves like a jellyfish, but is a different animal altogether. Since it’s transparent and about the same shape as the egg raft, it would be easy to mistake one for the other.

Our biologists have asked around among those who would know, and it appears that these are the first Rhinopias eggs that have been laid in captivity, or at least the first that have been observed and reported. The biologists assumed the eggs were infertile, and then were surprised to see them develop, and even more surprised when they hatched. Two batches of eggs have now been laid, and it has been amazing to watch the larvae develop: growing fins, a mouth, and a gut where none existed before.

Feeding really tiny larval fish of this sort is a major challenge, so every day that they survive is another triumph. Pictures of the larvae at day 2, 3, and 8 are shown below.

The scorpionfish parents live in the Water Planet exhibit (Lower Level), next to the Burmese vine snakes. Come and visit!

Filed under: Aquarium,Sustainability — Greg Farrington @ 10:17 am

January 29, 2009

Gadgets on the Roof

The weather stations on the Academy’s living roof are an integral part of our building’s natural ventilation system. The stations gather data all day long, and feed it into a computer which controls when the various windows and skylights open and close, among other functions. The entire system is automated, and allows the building to work in harmony with the surrounding environment to cool all of the public spaces without air conditioning.

Each station packs five different instruments into one unit, and can measure solar radiation, rainfall, wind speed and direction, temperature, and humidity. As for which instrument is which, see the caption below this photo to find out.
Weather Station
1. Rain gauge
2. Solar radiation sensor
3. Wind direction
4. Anemometer (wind speed)
5. Temperature and humidity gauge

Filed under: Sustainability — Helen @ 12:48 pm

January 1, 2009

Happy New Year, Planet Earth!

Make a New Year’s resolution for the planet this year – you can pick up ideas from the Academy’s new sustainability card, and tell us what your top green resolution is for 2009.

Filed under: Sustainability — Helen @ 1:01 am

December 30, 2008

Aquarium tanks find new homes

875 Howard Street – the staff has moved, the research collections have moved, the animals are out, so what’s left at the Academy’s temporary home? A few odds and ends in the basement, and until recently, hundreds of empty aquarium tanks, cages, and terrariums.

Now, those pieces are on their way to new homes. The largest tanks, at 20 feet across (below, right), had to be cut in half to fit out the door. Some of the equipment is being re-used behind-the-scenes at the new Academy. And just about everything else has been donated to other institutions in the Bay Area, which will re-use the equipment for their own exhibits and educational programs. Read more here.

aquarium tankaquarium tank

Filed under: Aquarium,Sustainability — Helen @ 4:39 pm

December 16, 2008

“Share your Ideas” in action

If you’ve visited the Academy’s exhibit on climate change, you may have seen a wall labeled “Share Your Ideas,” where visitors can post their thoughts on how to lessen their impact on the environment (if you haven’t seen it, it’s pictured below, left). In search of a more sustainable source for the tags on the wall, our creative services department and our printer Paragraphics came up with a great solution: re-using make-readies.

What’s a make-ready, you ask? It’s the paper that goes through the press to perfect the ink coverage and colors for a print job. Paper often goes through the press several times before being recycled, and the effect is interesting layers of text and graphics on one side. The other side is blank for writing on. Paragraphics has offered the Academy free use of their make-readies, and they even trimmed and punched the paper to fit the current specs of the posting board. Kudos to those who put this creative, sustainable idea into practice!

Filed under: Exhibits,Sustainability — Helen @ 12:20 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

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