Illustrations of Claude the alligator, Methuselah the lungfish, blue-and-gold macaw feathers, and more

What’s in a field guide? The perfect mix of science, art, and a whole lot of revision. Join us for a look into the history and present of these intricate, stunningly illustrated nature-ID’ers.

How did people look things up when they didn’t know what they were called—especially before the internet? Dr. Sara Scharf shares about the origins of botanical field guides: a story blending histories of botany, limits of printing technology, universal language movements, books written on dares, religious and educational philosophy, and more, all before evolution by natural selection was even discussed.

Field guides make knowledge of plants and animals accessible, but they also can document rich science, local knowledge, and cultural stories. Alicia Diaz, Field Guides Coordinator with the Field Museum’s Keller Science Action Center, walks us through the incredible collection of Field Museum Field Guides—and ways you can make and use your own field guide.

At the heart of field guides lies curiosity and close observation. Naturalist, artist, and educator John Muir Laws shares his process of creating and painting the California Academy of Sciences Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. From spending hours in the field creating illustrations to ensuring an effective and easy-to-use book layout, the final field guide reflects the story of collaborating with scientists and nature-lovers alike to create this place-specific nature catalog.

NightSchool is live on the first & third Thursdays of every month.

All NightSchool virtual programming is intended for audiences 21+.



Missed the party? Just want to relive the magic? Watch the recorded livestreams on YouTube!


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Upcoming events

June 13th at 6:00 pm

Honor Black contributions to global dance with a special Juneteenth edition of the Make History dance battle.

June 20th at 6:00 pm

Inked is back at NightLife! Explore the wonders of ink from cephalopods to live tattoos–yes, the real kind!

June 27th at 6:00 pm

Celebrate LGBTQ+ pride with a night dedicated to community, activism & joy. Featuring drag by Oaklash.

July 11th at 6:00 pm

Gear up for the first ever NightLifeCon! Featuring all things anime, comics, and sci-fi.

July 25th at 6:00 pm

Explore the Academy at night alongside nearly 60,000 live animals.