The close association between the disciplines of Geology and Invertebrate Zoology goes back to the early days of the Academy, when invertebrate collections made from living material were accumulated mostly as comparative resources to supplement the fossil collections. During the mid- to late nineteenth century, invertebrate paleontology and conchology (the study of shells) did not present hard-and-fast disciplinary boundaries, as several notable conchologists were authorities in both disciplines.
Included here were the two Civil War veterans John B. Trask and James G. Cooper. As a result of the initial efforts by these two productive individuals, a tradition of research in invertebrates and geology was established at the Academy, where such work continues to the present day. No less than ten curators aligned with paleontology and geology at the Academy have used conchology or malacology (the study of living mollusks) in their research, collected and compared fossil and recent shells, or studied living mollusks as part of their research programs.
The Academy’s timeline begins in the Gold Rush year of 1849. Gold sparked the growth of San Francisco, and led to the founding of the California Academy of Sciences.