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Celebrating California Biodiversity Day!

Choose your own adventure this California Biodiversity Day! Explore the biodiversity around you through a series of activities for kids — from building tools to aid in your observations to scavenger hunts that showcase the variety of life in your neighborhood.

Observation jar full of cool plants

Observation Jar Activity | Make observations, explore the different ways we can group objects together, and create a jar full of our fun finds!

Make Your Own Museum | Museums might be closed but in this video you can learn to make your own natural history museum at home! Include a favorite exhibit from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History as well as your own curations.

Build a Bug Net | Reuse materials from your home to create a tool to help you observe the secret world of insects more closely — a bug net!

Nature Bingo | Tune into the biodiversity around you by following completing our nature bingo.

Monterey Bay Algae Guide | Dip your toes into the world of algae with this illustrated guide to local species and foraging ethics. Available in Spanish.

Cultivating Nature Awareness | Build your sensory awareness skills through nature journaling, games, stories, and exercises in mindfulness.

Pollinator Matching Activity | Explore the diversity of plants and insects around us through this fun game. Available in Spanish.

Naturalist Night: Redwood Forest

Redwoods are the tallest trees on earth, with lifespans that reach into the thousands, but their range is relatively small. A combination of longitude, climate, and elevation limit where they grow to a few hundred coastal miles — including right here in Santa Cruz. Explore the many compelling physical attributes of these towering giants, how humans have impacted their limited range, and the role that fire plays in their ecological story during this interactive class.

About the series: Join fellow nature enthusiasts for monthly explorations of the biodiversity of Santa Cruz County. Each month, our Public Programs Manager Marisa Gomez will share the stories of a specific Santa Cruz habitat as we develop our skills as naturalists.

This series will feature a presentation as well as an interactive session and is in partnership with Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Come prepared to share and to learn alongside naturalists deep in their journey and just starting out.

Watch other Naturalist Nights

Collections Close-Up: Santa Cruz Fossils and the People Who Dig ‘Em

Frank Perry works on a cast of a fossil sea cow skeleton.

Dig into the fossil record of Santa Cruz through the eyes of locals who find themselves captivated by these windows into the past and who made it their work to share this passion with others. One of these important contributors, Wayne Thompson, will share his history with the Museum and the unique potential that fossils have to engage students with science and the natural world, inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards.

About the series: Zoom into the stories, secrets, and science of our collections during monthly webinars with Collections Manager Kathleen Aston. This live event is an extension of our monthly Collections Close-Up blog, with added insights and intrigue. Members are invited to participate in this program before it is made available to the general public as well as ask questions directly of Kathleen. Watch last month’s webinar on preservation policies in Museum collections.

Not yet a Member? Join today!

Collections Close-Up: Digging Into Learning

Fossils tell the changing story of life on earth over millennia – but they can also tell stories of more recent changes. For this month’s Collections Close-Up, we look at an ancient specimen and its deep timeline, as well as a more modern, local legacy of integrating paleontological adventures with educating young minds.

Photo of fossil leaf from the Miocene era.
Fossil leaf, Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History collection

This fragment of a leaf-imprinted shale is a small slice of the Monterey Formation, an olive-gray to light-gray layer of shale and mudstone that underlies swaths of the Santa Cruz area. This formation, rich in once-organic material, was formed during the Miocene. Defined as the period of time between 5.33 and 23.03 million years ago, the Miocene was a period of great change for earth’s ecosystems. The earth’s ecosystems became cooler and drier, and animals like horses began to look more like they do today. And while there is much to explore in the world of Miocene mammals, this period also saw the first emergence of kelp forests and grasslands.

As distant as it may seem, you can explore the way the Miocene shapes present day places such as the Monterey Formation mudstone of Ano Nuevo Point or the ancient ocean beds that are today’s unique Santa Cruz Sandhills. Exploring these landscapes is a great way to observe stories of ancient life. In some places it is also possible to collect elements of these stories, as long as you maintain a responsible collecting ethic: research and follow the local laws, and consider the specific concerns of paleontology ethics

This month’s feature was given to the Museum in 1974, where it is preserved alongside several similar specimens collected by high school students, who were led in their own exploration of ancient local life by teacher William Miller. Bill, as he was also called, was an earth sciences instructor with an active local presence in organizations like the Museum Commission, the Boy Scouts, and the Gem and Mineral Society. His passion for promoting public understanding of science made him a common feature in the local papers in the 1970s, speaking about fossil whale finds and similar spectacular local fossils. 

Newspaper article with headline Fossilized Whale Skulls Found

Miller’s former students have fond memories of his classes, including his classroom’s improvised paleontology lab and how it helped them wrap their head around the history of the earth. But he was also a big believer in teaching beyond the classroom. Miller organized frequent field trips across the Santa Cruz County landscape for his students to learn firsthand about geology, paleontology, and even litter. 

Newspaper article with headline Students get some practical knowledge about litterbugs.

Oftentimes it is the eye catching creatures, like the whales and sea cows of ancient Santa Cruz oceans that capture our attention more than the subtle beauty of a delicate leaf impression. Another educator who has long been involved with the museum can speak to that as well – Wayne Thompson is a local middle school teacher, and paleontologist who helped prepare our stunning mastodon skull for exhibit in the early 1980s. His interests in science were encouraged by his education, and in particular, his teacher Bill Miller. Today, Wayne carries forward this legacy of connecting kids to science through paleontology – brimming with contagious excitement, he’s always happy to help the Museum, and always looking for ways to get his students involved in his paleontology projects. 

He’s particularly keen to explore how new tools, like virtual field trips and 3D scanning technologies, can get folks excited about fossils and other topics. Now that health precautions have moved many schools into virtual mode, the enthusiasm of teachers like Wayne for experiencing new tools is even more critical. To dig deeper into what we can learn from the Museum’s fossils, and to explore how one of our county’s teachers is meeting the challenges of virtual education in uncertain times, check out this month’s Collections Close-Up event.

Explore geology and paleontology with items from our Online Museum Store.
Learn more about geology with our Rockin' Pop Up programs.

Rockin’ Pop-Up: Impacts of Fire on Geologic Landscapes

This month, the Geology Gents are joined by their colleague Alandra Lopez, a Ph.D. candidate in the Earth System Science Department at Stanford University who will discuss the impacts of fire on geologic systems, as well as spend some time on one of our state’s unique features: serpentine soils.

Alandra studies the biogeochemical processes that control the release of naturally occurring contaminants, like arsenic, uranium, and hexavalent chromium, in soils to groundwater.

About the Series: Join the Geology Gents, Gavin and Graham, for monthly conversations about rocks live on Facebook. Each week we’ll explore a different geologic topic, from Santa Cruz formations to tips for being a more effective rockhound. Graham Edwards and Gavin Piccione are PhD candidates in geochronology with the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.

Submit your questions ahead of time here or by email to events@santacruzmuseum.org and feel free to include pictures of rocks you’d like identified! Pro-tip: the better the picture, the better the ID.

Watch Past Pop-Ups

Fire in Santa Cruz County Resources and Information

Smoky skies surround the Museum on August 19.

As we watch our community evacuating their homes and our forests, scrublands, and fields burn, we want to share our support and sadness for the individuals impacted and for our friends who steward the parks and open spaces at risk.

Below are resources we’ve compiled to support those in crisis and guide those looking to help during the CZU Lightning Complex Fires.


STAY UPDATED

SHELTER

EVACUATION CENTERS:

For a full list of evacuation centers, including availability and accessibility, visit: https://www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/FireResources.aspx

PARKING:

  • Congregational Church (AUTO), 4951 Soquel Dr, Soquel. Open for people as well as vehicles
  • Cabrillo College (RV/AUTO), Lot K, 6500 Soquel Dr., Aptos
  • Santa Cruz Bible Church (RV/AUTO), 440 Frederick St., Santa Cruz
  • Seventh Day Adventists Campground, 1931 Soquel-San Jose Road, Soquel
  • Coastlands Church (Tents/RV Parking), 280 State Park Dr., Aptos. Open to cars and RVs
  • Twin Lakes-Auto/RV (FULL), 2701 Cabrillo College Dr, Aptos. Up to 50 cars and RV’s, bathrooms, water and food available

ANIMALS:

  • If you need assistance evacuating animals, please call (831) 471-1182
  • Pets may be brought to shelter but must be under owner’s control at all times. A carrier may be helpful
  • The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds currently has capacity to board horses

OTHER ASSISTANCE

  • Check this spreadsheet for community provided resources available for evacuees, from rooms in people’s homes, to lodging for animals.
  • The County of Santa Cruz has launched a hotel voucher program that evacuees can apply for by calling (831) 454-2182.
  • Visit Santa Cruz County has compiled a list of hotels offering discounts to evacuees.
  • Evacuees can apply for a federal assistance program to receive free hotel accommodations at any shelter site.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

DONATIONS:

  • The County needs donations of large family tents, cases of water, and other essential good (for full list of current needs, check here). Deliver to the County warehouse at the rear of the Emeline complex, 1082 Emeline Ave., Santa Cruz.
  • Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has established a community fire relief fund, which will distribute grants and gifts to those in need across our community and through a number of strategies.
  • The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter needs cat litter boxes, cat litter, dry dog, and cat food. They are asking donations be dropped off at 1001 Rodriguez St. in Santa Cruz. If you have been displaced and need pet supplies, you can go to the Shelter for supplies (1001 Rodriguez St. in Santa Cruz).

VOLUNTEER:

OTHER WAYS TO HELP YOURSELF AND OTHERS:

  • Stay home unless you are called to evacuate to help keep our roads clear for emergency needs. Road closure updates can be found here.
  • Get prepared! Follow Cal Fire’s Ready, Set, Go guide.
  • Monitor air quality to avoid putting yourself at risk from unhealthy levels.
  • Be aware that wild animals are fleeing the fires and they may show up in your yards. Please bring domestic animals in at night and put out buckets of water for the wild animals that may come through. Visit the Native Animal Rescue page for details on what to do should you find an animal in distress or call (831)462-0726

Naturalist Night: Intertidal Zone

The intertidal zone is a window into the ocean that provides a slew of opportunities to use the skills of a naturalist. Take a closer look with us as we go over the basics of tides, explore the biodiversity of the various tidal zones, and learn about current issues regarding foraging ethics, safety, and conservation.

About the series: Join fellow nature enthusiasts for monthly explorations of the biodiversity of Santa Cruz County. Each month, our Public Programs Manager Marisa Gomez will share the stories of a specific Santa Cruz habitat as we develop our skills as naturalists.

This series will feature a presentation as well as an interactive session and is in partnership with Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Come prepared to share and to learn alongside naturalists deep in their journey and just starting out.

Watch other Naturalist Nights

Then, Now, and Onward: 115 Years of the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Celebrate 115 years of the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History! Explore highlights of our history, the current state of the Museum, and our plans for the future.

We will hear from community members, dig into the archives, and our Executive Director Felicia B. Van Stolk will present the annual Laura Hecox Naturalist Award to Amity Sandage, Environmental Literacy Coordinator for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education.

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Learn More About Our History

Rockin’ Pop-Up: 115 Years of Geologic History in Santa Cruz

Topic: From earthquakes to erosion and limekilns to cement, a lot has happened geologically since the Museum first opened 115 years ago.

About the series: Join the Geology Gents, Gavin and Graham, for weekly conversations about rocks live on Facebook. Each week we’ll explore a different geologic topic, from Santa Cruz formations to tips for being a more effective rockhound. Graham Edwards and Gavin Piccione are PhD candidates in geochronology with the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.

Submit your questions ahead of time on Facebook or by emailing events@santacruzmuseum.org, or during the program live on Facebook. Feel free to include pictures of rocks you’d like identified! Pro-tip: the better the picture, the better the ID.

Watch Past Pop-Ups

Collections Close-Up: Preserving Our Past

The Museum opened its doors to the public 115 years ago this month, and though the doors have changed over time, the task of stewarding our collections has always been an inherent part of our mission. Explore the journey of our collections over the past century and gain a deeper understanding of what preservation looks like today.

About the series: Zoom into the stories, secrets, and science of our collections during monthly webinars with Collections Manager Kathleen Aston. This live event is an extension of our monthly Collections Close-Up blog, with added insights and intrigue. Members are invited to participate in this program before it is made available to the general public as well as ask questions directly of Kathleen. Watch last month’s webinar on malacology and the life of Hulda Hoover McLean.

Not yet a member? Join today!