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 

May 30, 2008

Is Earth still rotating?

The Foucault Pendulum, a long-time favorite at the old Academy, returns as the first exhibit to be installed in the new Academy’s east wing.

Its first swings demonstrated that yes, in fact, Earth is still rotating (whew!). So how exactly does a pendulum demonstrate Earth’s rotation? Find out here.

In the video clip below, the 235-pound brass ball (called a “bob”) has been set in motion for its first test run. It swings constantly in the same direction, while the Earth rotates beneath it. So as the day goes by, the pendulum knocks down pins one by one (seen in the foreground), demonstrating that over the course of 24 hours, the Academy’s floor turns about 220 degrees. At the North Pole, the floor would turn a full 360 degrees in 24 hours, but at San Francisco’s latitude, we see a 220 degree turn. To get your mind around that one, check out this helpful illustration.

Below is the Academy’s original Foucault Pendulum, built in 1951. Since then, the Academy has built 97 other pendulums for museums, universities, etc. all over the world.

Earth science

Filed under: Exhibits — Helen @ 5:36 pm

May 23, 2008

Sewing 101 – How to sew an “antler bag”

This is one of those stories that you won’t find anywhere but the California Academy of Sciences…this week, a small team of volunteers started the process of sewing 150 or so custom-fit bags to protect the Ornithology & Mammalogy department’s collection of antlers and skulls.

Below, from left to right, here’s how one begins crafting an “antler bag” (whether you’re sewing something for a child, your home, or an elk, it’s a remarkably similar process):

1. Record the skull’s dimensions.
2. Cut a first draft of the pattern from butcher paper. Hold it up to the skull to see how the bag will fit, and adjust as needed. The elk (Cervus elaphus) skull pictured in the second photo is from 1913, and is one of the largest in the collection.
3. Using the final pattern, cut the pieces from archival muslin fabric, which will protect the specimens while in storage.

research specimensewing 101sewing 101

The sewing is taking place as we speak…more to come once the bags are ready to “wear.” Meanwhile, check out this incredible story about how some creative sewing helped our penguin Pierre re-grow his feathers.

Filed under: Great Migration,Research Departments — Helen @ 10:55 am

May 19, 2008

African Hall sneak peak

As the penguin tank at the end of African Hall is prepped for its full-time inhabitants, the other 20 dioramas in the Hall are also taking shape. Working from detailed photographs of the original works (below, left, on the table), artist Marc Nicely has recreated the diorama backdrops in his Novato workshop, and is now on-site at the new Academy installing and putting the finishing touches on his work. Next up, the rockwork and foliage will be installed in the foreground…

Filed under: Exhibits — Helen @ 9:09 am

May 15, 2008

Life in the Lagoon

Curious about how the Lagoon’s new inhabitants are faring? Diego, an 80-pound green sea turtle, joined the blacktip reef sharks and rays in the Lagoon about three weeks ago and it took a little while for the other animals to get to know the “new guy.”

Diego’s caretakers say he’s a bit like a big lumbering puppy – curious about everything. At first, when Diego would swim toward the rays, they tended to scatter out of the way (eighty pounds of innocent curiosity might startle you too!). But now that they’ve spent a few weeks together, the rays have grown used to having Diego around and are not so surprised by his neighborly visits.

For a closer look at how the Lagoon’s residents and research collections are making their way to Golden Gate Park, check out this recent QUEST radio story, accompanied by a great slideshow:

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 9:23 am

May 8, 2008

Penguins test their new tank

On Tuesday, penguins Dunker and Pete took a first look at their new digs in Golden Gate Park. Pam Schaller, one of our senior aquatic biologists, took the two young African penguins over to the new Academy to observe their reactions to the new space. She watched to see how they navigated the nooks and crannies in the rockwork, and how they entered and exited the 25,000-gallon tank.


Pam donned a wetsuit and stationed herself in the chilly 50-degree water, encouraging the birds to take a dip. After some brief hesitation, they jumped right in. The trial run was deemed a success and afterward, Dunker and Pete headed back to Howard Street, where they and the rest of the colony are still living. Once the new exhibit is completely ready in African Hall, the entire colony will move together. Be the first to know when new updates are posted by subscribing to our RSS feed.

Filed under: Aquarium,Great Migration — Helen @ 4:05 pm

May 1, 2008

Invertebrates, rocks & fossils of all sizes

The Invertebrate Zoology & Geology department (also known as “IZ&G“) has painstakingly stabilized two and a half million specimens over the past several months – ranging from jars of spindly sea spiders to geological treasures that are millions – even billions – of years old. To prepare for moving, the collection handlers have crafted thousands of custom-made cushions (like the ones below, center) to accommodate all the odd shapes and sizes.
Jars, jars, and more jarscustom packingLarge fossils

Filed under: Great Migration,Research Departments — Helen @ 6:08 am

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