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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An organized collection of shells and other samples

Explore the nature of Santa Cruz — wherever you are! Through live digital experience, connect with local experts and join your community in deepening understanding about nature, science, and stewardship.

World Oceans Day

Marisa beachcombing with a young student

Happy World Oceans Day! Celebrate with us through these ocean themed activities.

Ocean Sing-Along

In honor of World Oceans Day, we’re celebrating through song! Sing-along with our Education Coordinator Chris as he shares two of his favorite songs from The Beatles — Octopus’s Garden and Help! (adapted by Chris to become Kelp!) Sing-along!

Appreciating Algae

Next, head to the tidepools to explore the kelp we’ve been singing about, as well as the many other algae that are important parts of the ocean habitat with this guide to appreciating the algae of the Monterey Bay. Dive in!

Beach Clean-up

While you’re exploring the tidepools and the beach, be on the lookout for trash as well as interesting wildlife! Follow these steps for a safe and successful clean-up.

Resources for Teachers

Children painting with watercolors

Activities, worksheets, videos, and more developed to support standards and formal learning.

Community Resources

Artwork by Sophie Webb depicting woodpeckers
Artwork by Sophie Webb

Activities, guides, lectures, workshops, guided nature experiences, and other resources to support your nature explorations from home or while outside.

Activities for Kids

Children doing activities in the museum amphitheater

Family-friendly activities, videos, articles, and more to aid in your nature exploration!

All Resources

Yvonne Byers painting a watercolor of a cactus

“The Museum At Your Side” is a collection of hands-on activities, informative articles, and engaging videos to connect you with nature and science wherever you are!

Below are all of our activities at a glance:

Ami Davis: Development Manager

Ami Davis, Development Manager

For Ami Davis, being part of a museum family is second nature. Working for nearly the past 20 years in art museums, Ami brings experience in education and community partnerships to her role as Development Manager for the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.

“As a museum educator, I have always played a critical role in development: writing grants, meeting with funders, and developing membership incentive programs,” Ami said. “I hope I can work closely with the Museum’s stakeholders to develop exciting incentives that support the incredible work of this Museum.”

Ami manages the Museum’s membership program and pursues grants and other gifts. She joined the Museum staff in January and also serves as a trustee for the Santa Cruz Art League.

An alumna of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and most recently the Monterey Museum of Art, Ami also has served as an instructor for UC Extension courses in contemporary art and presents at national museum conferences.

Joining an institution that puts nature in the spotlight was a natural transition for Ami. Just as she has been “committed to making art relevant and accessible to all audiences” in her work, Ami is focused now on helping the Museum further its mission to make nature more accessible.

“My museum career began in Santa Cruz in the 1990s. I feel deeply connected to Santa Cruz’s natural splendor, rich history, and diverse culture. I am at home whether in the redwoods, at the beach, or in an art gallery. It’s an exciting time to be involved with the Santa Cruz cultural community.”

June 2017: Personifying Our Mission

Education Manager Felicia Van Stolk and Museum Programs Coordinator Marisa GomezA museum is many things — it is a keeper of collections and the important stories they hold, a space to explore exhibits with loved ones, and a community center to come together to learn and discover through engaging programs, just to name a few. In our case, it is also a strong team of talented individuals who strive to share its mission every day. I am so proud of the creative and dedicated team of staff and volunteers we have here at the Museum, such as Education Manager Felicia Van Stolk and Museum Programs Coordinator Marisa Gomez (pictured here having fun in the Santa Cruz Naturalist Exhibit.) I hope you will take an opportunity to get to know us better through our Faces of the Museum blog, which this month features our newest team member, Development Manager Ami Davis.

Throughout my two years leading our Museum, I have encouraged my team to expand our programming in new directions, establish and strengthen community partnerships and seek fresh ways to connect our community to nature and fulfill our mission. This month they have outdone themselves!

In June, we will have something for everyone, from compelling adult programs like Dr. Alison Galloway’s talk “Life of the Dead: The Natural History of Human Decomposition” at the Rio Theatre on June 6 to great family friendly events like our free Summer Kick-Off Festival at the Museum and surrounding Tyrrell Park on June 10. We also offering a guided hike of the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve, a Naturalist Night talk on our diverse North Coast, and the opportunity to participate in helping restore Seabright Beach to its pristine glory. In addition, we are starting a new slate of summer camps with a week-long “Future Scientists Camp” in late June through Cabrillo Extension in Watsonville and “Winged and Wild” and “Can You Dig It?” nature-based camps at the Museum in July and August. Whew, the summer is bursting with opportunities to connect to our region’s natural wonders!

This month also marks the end of our wonderful scientific illustration exhibit The Art of Nature. Come by before June 18 to catch this great show — I recommend visiting on June 2 during our First Friday Art Tour event, which will feature scientific illustration demonstrations by exhibit artist Mattias Lanas. First Fridays are a special way to see this exhibit, complete with libations, nibbles and exhibit artists on hand to talk about their inspirations and technique.

I hope you’ll join us on one of these upcoming programs or simply stop by and say hello to our team at the Museum. We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you,


May 2017: Examining the Historic to the Forensic

Iris in bloom

With the recent rains, spring is in full bloom and it is a wonderful time to discover new natural beauty all around us. Here at the Museum, our garden is alive with color and the sound of happy pollinators. Each day there is something new to observe. Throughout May and June, our programs are focusing on the natural world through a wide variety of lenses, from the historic to the artistic to the forensic.

Premiere of the new book Santa Cruz’s SeabrightWe rang in May with the premiere of the new book “Santa Cruz’s Seabright” which chronicles the evolution of the Museum’s neighborhood, whose story has always been intricately tied to the nature around it. We are so grateful to the book’s authors, Randall Brown and Traci Bliss, and the Seabright Neighborhood Association for designating the Museum as the beneficiary of the book’s proceeds. The Museum, which is featured in the book as a longtime Seabright landmark, was proud to host a launch party and reading event at the Museum and we are now selling the book in our gift store.

On May 18, we are offering a new DIY workshop for the green-minded consumer who is interested in pampering themselves with handmade, eco-friendly products. Our Eco-Friendly Workshop & Mixer will be a fun way to create your own bath and body products from organic ingredients while enjoying good company and yummy libations after-hours at the Museum.

As we look to June, we are thrilled to announce our next Rio Theater talk: On June 6, Dr. Alison Galloway, UCSC Professor of Anthropology whose work in forensic anthropology has earned her high acclaim, will give a talk titled “Life of the Dead: The Natural History of Human Decomposition.” Dr. Galloway will explore what happens after death, the intricate ecosystem of insects, bacteria and natural forces that continue to live after a body dies. She will reveal the scientific methods she employs when determining what impact the natural world has on a decaying body and what circumstances may have contributed to the death.

On June 10, we will celebrate the coming of summer with our Summer Kick-Off Festival. Museum admission will be free all day, and Tyrrell Park will be full of engaging activities, live music, and live animal presentations from 10am to 5pm. It promises to be a day of family science-fun both outside in the sunshine and within our Museum galleries.

It’s a great time to be part of the Museum family – with so many upcoming programs to enjoy, there is something for everyone! We hope during our May Membership Drive that you’ll consider renewing your membership or deepening your relationship with us. Please come by and see us soon!

Thank you,