The Naturalist Center hosts a variety of activities and is home to thousands of specimens—from dinosaur poop to a polar bear pelt! Explore this unique, hands-on space to touch specimens, watch natural history videos, play games, solve puzzles, browse books and ask questions.
For regular updates, the latest programming information, and highlights from past events, please visit our Naturalist Notebook blog.
Scheduled activities include:
Junior Academy: Naturalist Know-how
Sundays 2:00–2:45 pm
Learn how to be a naturalist! Each month a new nature skill will be presented with new variations of the monthly skill available each week.
- December’s skill: Tricky Tracks. Learn how to identify animal tracks in dirt and snow.
- January’s skill: Puzzling Out the Past. Learn what archaeologists and paleontologists do on a dig.
- February’s skill: Calls of the Wild. What animal makes that sound?
These programs are designed for youth ages 8 to 11. Youth must be accompanied by an adult. Space is limited to 20 participants with attending adults. On-site registration is required for these programs. We recommend that you stop by the Naturalist Center 30 minutes before your program begins in order to register. Free with Academy admission. See our Naturalist Notebook for more information.
A Very Fishy Tale: Steinhart 90th Anniversary Display
September 1 to December 31, 2013
The Academy’s Steinhart Aquarium first opened its doors to the public on September 29, 1923. Over the past 90 years—and in three different buildings—many animals have swum, slithered, crawled and hopped in its enclosures. Celebrate some of the Steinhart Aquarium’s long history in a display featuring memorabilia and photos. Free with Academy admission.
Quest for Curiosities
Daily at 1:15 pm
Have you discovered the Naturalist Center? This hands-on space is where nature’s curiosities abound! From a real dinosaur leg bone to great white shark jaws, the Naturalist Center has thousands of natural history specimens. Join a Guide every day at 1:15 pm for an illuminating quest into the curiosities of the Naturalist Center!
In the Naturalist Center, across from the Planetarium exit on level 3. Free with Academy admission.
Naturalist 101: Be a Bay Area Ice Age Tourist
Sunday, February 2; 9:45 am to noon
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s a good chance you’re sitting or standing on the very spot where Columbian mammoths, dire wolves, giant sloths, saber-toothed cats, and other megafauna roamed during the Ice Age! Learn about the real giants of San Francisco and how you can embark upon a local journey to see evidence of these extraordinary, extinct animals. For adults and families with children ages 10 and up.
Please note: Sign-in is required by 9:45 am at the business reception desk via staff entrance at 75 Nancy Pelosi Drive (rear entry to the Academy).
Reservations: Members: $12, General $15 (does not include admission to the Academy). Space is limited and advanced ticketing is required. To reserve a place today, buy a Member or Non-Member ticket online or over the phone at 1-877-227-1831.
For information on transportation and parking, please visit our Maps and Directions page.
Scheduled programs are subject to change. Please check with Naturalist Center staff.
The Naturalist Center provides easy access to a number of high-quality catalogues and electronic resources.
The Naturalist Center provides the services listed below to members, teachers, volunteers and the general public. If you would like to access Naturalist Center services and resources without visiting the rest of our museum, please call us at 415-379-5494 to make an appointment.
- Access to a reference collection of books, DVDs, videos, CDs and curriculum guides about the natural world and sustainability.
- Access to an extensive natural history specimen collection for further study, sketching or assistance with identification.
- Help with finding answers to questions about the natural world, sustainability and our exhibits either in person, via e-mail or by phone. This also includes assistance with the identification of natural history specimens.
** Please note: If you wish to have assistance with the identification of a natural history specimen, we encourage you to take pictures rather than collecting the actual specimen. Under U.S. federal laws and the California Fish and Game Codes, it is illegal to to take, collect, capture, mark, or salvage, for scientific, educational, and non-commercial propagation purposes, mammals, birds (including feathers) and their nests and eggs, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, and invertebrates without a permit. For more information visit the California Fish and Game website.
In addition, the Naturalist Center does not provide assistance with the identification of pests (including mites, bed bugs or sick plants). Below are a few suggestions where you can get assistance.
The Naturalist Center provides access to electronic resources as one way of fulfilling our mission to promote lifelong learning, offer individualized, in-depth inquiry about the natural world, and inspire people to play a role in sustaining life on Earth.
The Internet offers access to ideas, information and commentary from around the world that can be personally, professionally and culturally enriching. However, not all sources on the Internet are accurate, complete or up-to-date. The Naturalist Center assumes responsibility only for the information provided on its web site. We do not monitor, have no control over, and do not accept responsibility for material in other sources on the Internet.
Internet access is free and available to all visitors of the Naturalist Center.
Responsibilities of Users
- All Library computer equipment and software must be used as installed. Users are not permitted to delete, add to, or modify the installed hardware or software. If you experience technical problems, ask library staff for help. Do not attempt to fix the problem yourself.
- Use of computers will be on a first-come, first-served basis. No appointments will be taken. Users will limit their time to 20 minutes if others are waiting, or at the request of the library staff.
- Children eight and under must use the computer, including the Internet, with their accompanying adult.
- Parents and children are encouraged to start their exploration of the Internet with the Naturalist Center web site, especially the Web Bibliographies section. There they will find many sites for children, chosen by Naturalist Center staff. Naturalist Center staff can also provide assistance in determining search strategies and evaluating sites.
- Access to particular kinds of activity, such as e-mail, may be prohibited or limited at the discretion of Naturalist Center staff.
- The Naturalist Center provides printing at a cost of 15 cents per page. Only staff can print documents for visitors; visitors must ask staff for assistance to print.
Unacceptable Uses of Naturalist Center Computers
- Insulting, harassing or attacking other users or Naturalist Center staff.
- Sending or displaying offensive messages or pictures.
- Gaining unauthorized access to the Library’s network or computer systems, to any other network or computer system, or violating the privacy, individual rights and privileges of other users. Damaging or attempting to damage computer equipment or software.
- Violating copyright laws or software licensing agreements.
- Modifying software or programs installed on Library Internet workstations.
- Installing personal software on Library workstations.
- Accessing Internet resources that may incur financial charges or fees to the Library’s account. In the event that such fees are incurred, either deliberately or inadvertently, the user will be responsible for payment and may be liable for criminal prosecution.
Violations may result in restrictions on Naturalist Center use. Illegal uses of computers may also be subject to prosecution by local, state or federal authorities.
U.S. Copyright law (Title 17, US Code) prohibits the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of copyrighted materials (including electronic mail, text, images, programs or data) without the explicit permission of the copyright holder. Any responsibility for consequences of copyright infringement lies with the user; the Library expressly disclaims any liability or responsibility resulting from such use.
Computer and Internet Use Policy adapted from Academy Library, San Francisco Public Library and Madison Public Library policies.