Collage of covers from the 9 most popular livestreams of 2020

Science never stops, so when the Academy had to close its doors in mid-March, we worked with scientists, researchers, collections managers, biologists, and more to bring the science to you via two new livestream programs: Breakfast Club and NightSchool! More than 75 episodes and 9 months later, we're humbly highlighting 10 of 2020's most popular episodes.

This tiny selection of favorites is a great way to revisit some old friends, or to get to know our programs for the very first time. And if you'd like to watch each and every one, a) we don't blame you, and b) just head over to our YouTube channel—approximately four days' worth of viewing material awaits.

Breakfast Club, Ep. 1: Nathalie Nagalingum on "The Secret Life of Ferns"

Ever wonder how to become invisible? If you found a fern seed, you could! In this very popular (and very first) Breakfast Club episode, Dr. Nathalie Nagalingum, Associate Curator and McAllister Chair of Botany, transports viewers back in time to the Victorian age (when "fern fever" raged), takes them on expeditions to deserts, jungles, and mountains around the world, and shares more about her latest research discoveries.

Livestream date: Mar. 31, 2020


Breakfast Club, Ep. 7: Dr. Shannon Bennett on Parasites

Take a walk on the wild side with virologist Dr. Shannon Bennett, Chief of Science and Associate Curator of Microbiology, and marvel at "a microbial world that can be perilously dark." Having emerged from a personal journey as the host of multiple parasites (that's extremely literal), Shannon shares insights into where many pathogens come from, why and how they can spill over into humans, and what we can do about it, even as we face down one of our biggest challenges as a species: COVID-19.

Livestream date: Apr. 14, 2020


NightSchool: How to Design a Coral Reef

How do you create a digital coral reef so large and complex that it fills a 75-foot planetarium dome screen? NightSchool goes behind the scenes with a look into the creation of the Academy’s latest show, Expedition Reef, with production designer Mike Schmitt and animator Ken Ackermann (both members of the Academy’s award-winning Visualization Studio), and underwater photographer and 3D modeler Yasmeen Smalley-Norman. Learn how they used cutting-edge computer graphics and techniques to create a photorealistic, scientifically accurate coral reef full of creatures and ready for its close-up.

Livestream date: Jul. 9, 2020


NightSchool: Fungus Among Us

One of our most popular NightLife events goes virtual with lessons on the many facets of fungi! Mycologist and microbiologist Dr. Gordon Walker presents a fascinating primer on fungal biology, Maya Elson (executive director of CoRenewal) invites viewers to think like a fungus, cordyceps cultivation gets covered by permaculture designer, teacher, rapper, and MycoSymbiotics founder William Padilla-Brown, and last, viewers meet their new favorite mushroom song via the Radical Mycology Mixtape, presented by Peter McCoy.

Livestream date: Jul. 16, 2020


NightSchool: Making "Venom"

What goes into the making of an exhibit full of fangs, stingers, and spines? Curator of Arachnology Dr. Lauren Esposito, Academy biologist Emma Kocina, exhibit designer Ashley Boycher, and visual designer James Davidson take viewers on a behind-the-scenes look at Venom, the Academy’s newest exhibit.

Livestream date: Aug. 27, 2020


Far and Wild: BigPicture Nature Photography

Take a virtual journey around the world through the spectacular winning images from this year's BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition! Hear from acclaimed wildlife photographer and BigPicture jury chair Suzi Eszterhas and Curator of Icthyology Dr. Luiz Rocha as they discuss extreme photography in the wild; enjoy a talk by renowned wildlife photographer, Greenpeace ambassador, and BigPicture judge Roie Galitz; and meet this year’s Photo Story winner, Ami Vitale, who documented an inspiring story of coexistence in northern Kenya. Plus, you'll hear directly from some of this year’s winners, with peeks into the making-of their remarkable photos.

Livestream date: Sep. 22, 2020


Breakfast Club, Ep. 41: Birds & Mammals Collections Tour With Moe Flannery

Head into the Academy's ornithology and mammalogy collections—collectively 96,000 birds, 28,500 mammals, 11,000 egg and nest specimens, and one of the world's largest marine mammal collections—with Sr. Collections Manager Maureen "Moe" Flannery as your guide! This virtual tour highlights everything from our historic Galápagos collections to some of Moe's favorite marine mammal specimens.

Livestream date: Sep. 29, 2020


Breakfast Club, Ep. 44: Ichthyology Collections Tour With Dave Catania

Two words: FRILL SHARK! More words: Swim through the aisles of our 1.2 million-specimen ichthyology collections, aka one of the largest, most significant collections of fishes in the world. With collections manager Dave Catania as our guide, you'll drop into jars, tubs, and buckets containing some of the most incredible ocean denizens known to science.

Livestream date: Oct. 22, 2020


NightSchool: Heartless, Brainless, Lungless

Jellies have no hearts, brains, or lungs, and are made up of 95% water—how interesting can they be? Find out during an evening of jelly limericks and storytelling with science writer Juli Berwald and venomologist Anna Klompen, then get a behind-the-scenes look into the aquarium with Academy biologist Riah Evin, and investigate jellyfish of the world with science illustrator Nick Bezio.

Livestream date: Nov. 12, 2020


Women in Wildlife Photography: A Brave Conversation (Breakfast Club Ep. 46)

An unusually brave, straightforward conversation about the issues and challenges faced by women in the still male-dominated field of wildlife photography—and the unique skills and perspective women bring to this work—via panelists Suzi Eszterhas (renowned wildlife photographer & founder of Girls Who Click), Susan McElhinney (National Wildlife Federation Photo Director), & Her Wild Vision's Jaymi Heimbuch and Morgan Heim.

Livestream date: Dec. 3, 2020


Want more? Find all of our livestream episodes on YouTube.

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