How to See Comet NEOWISE

This July, Comet NEOWISE is closer to the earth than it will be for another 6,800 years. Make the most of this moment by making thoughtful observations:

cellphone photo of the comet NEOWISE was taken at the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve
This cellphone photo of the comet NEOWISE was taken at the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve on July 18, 2020.

1. PICK YOUR LOCATION
Where is the best place to make observations of the night sky? How does light pollution and weather impact what you can see?

2. ADJUST TO THE DARKNESS
Look at the sky when you first arrive and make note of what you see. After a few minutes, compare what you first saw to what you’re seeing now. Has it changed?

3. USE ONLY YOUR EYES
Scan the skies for a “star” that looks different from the others. Can you find it? Here’s a hint: It will be below the Big Dipper.

4. USE TOOLS
Binoculars and telescopes magnify objects that are far away and are helpful tools for observing the comet more closely. A pen and paper are also tools to aid your observations — draw what you see and write down your thoughts. This helps to focus your observations and creates lasting memories.

5. WHAT ELSE DO YOU SEE?
There’s more to wonder about in the night sky than NEOWISE. Have fun exploring.

Explore more resources about SPACE
Explore more resources about NATURE JOURNALING
Post by Marisa

Collections Close-Up: Malacology

From curiosity cabinets to catalog cards, abalone pendants to olivella beads on baskets, the stories of our seashells are vast like the ocean and rooted, like our museum, in the history of women in science.

Stroll with us into the malacology collections, where we look at the legacy of local naturalist and seashell collector Hulda Hoover Mclean. In the 1970s, Hoover McLean wrote one of the first shell identification guides for this area, based on a lifetime of seaside sojourns. Alongside her story we will highlight various collections specimens and the creatures who formed them.

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 kelp and conservation.

Not yet a member? Join today!

Visualizing Science: Illustration and Beyond

Where does illustrator end, and infographer begin? How does data visualization fit in? And what does science have to say about the design decisions we make? With the goal of strengthening connections between communities, Jen hopes to get folks thinking about what they can learn from — and teach to — different visual sub-disciplines within the broader orb of science communication.

We are excited to learn about the role of science illustration in data visualization as we continue to feature our virtual exhibition of science illustration, The Art of Nature.

Jen Christiansen, senior graphics editor at Scientific American

About the speaker: Jen Christiansen is senior graphics editor at Scientific American, where she art directs and produces illustrated information graphics and data visualizations. She completed undergraduate studies in geology and art at Smith College, then happily merged the two disciplines in the scientific illustration graduate program at UC Santa Cruz. She began her publishing career in NY at Scientific American in 1996, moved to DC to join the art department of National Geographic, spent four years as a freelance science communicator, then rejoined the SciAm team in 2007. She writes on topics ranging from reconciling her love for art and science, to her quest to learn more about the pulsar chart on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover.

http://jenchristiansen.com/
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/sa-visual/

Collections Close-Up: Kelp and Conservation

This month’s Collections Close-Up explores two kinds of conservation: the preservation of biodiversity records in the form of marine algae specimens and the fight to save the kelp forests of the California Coast.

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.

Not yet a member? Join today!

Resources:

Lecture: Data is Not the Destination with Christian Schwarz

This live program was held on May 4, 2020 and features a presentation from Christian Schwarz in conversation with Marisa Gomez, Public Programs Manager.

The world is changing rapidly — and not just in the way we’re all currently experiencing! Citizen science or community science is an immensely popular model of engaging the natural world, and can be done even while physically distancing.

Using mushrooms and the community of people who admire them as lenses to focus our discussion, we’ll talk about where we’ve come from with traditional science and where community science is taking us.

Lecture: Exploring Science Through Art

Art is essential to increasing scientific knowledge and inspiring conservation. This lecture from Andrea Dingeldein, a local artist and educator featured in the Museum’s 2020 exhibition of science illustration, The Art of Nature, explores science illustration, both historical and contemporary, and its importance as a tool to observe and connect with nature.

Andrea Dingeldein is a marine biologist, naturalist, and general lover of nature. Andrea’s focus is in marine illustration, but she enjoys drawing insects, reptiles, and any other creepy-crawlies she can get her hands on. She specializes in illustrations for peer-reviewed science articles and has published illustrations in Ecological Modeling and Bulletin of Marine Science. Other clients include NC Department of Marine Fisheries, Friday Harbor Laboratories, and Western Society of Naturalists. Explore her work.

Andrea has two pieces in our 2020 exhibition of science illustration, The Art of Nature. Explore the virtual exhibit.

Sourgrass Natural Dye Video Tutorial

There’s more to sourgrass than its lip-puckering powers. Dig a little deeper with this natural dye video tutorial.

Sourgrass (Oxalis sp.) is a plant of extremes: children love its strong flavor, pollinators gorge on its abundant nectar, many adore its ability to overwhelm a field when in bloom, and many still detest the invasive qualities of some of its species. Oxalis pes-caprae, native to South Africa, has made itself comfortably at home in California, forming dense mats that outcompete native plant species for light and space.

Whether you love it or can’t stand it, sourgrass has an interesting hidden quality that is both useful and exciting: it dyes fabric a vibrant, neon, highlighter-yellow color. Watch our video tutorial to learn how to play with its pigment and explore more resources below:

Post by Marisa

Science Illustration Prompt: Engage Your Senses

Explore science illustration with artists featured in our annual exhibit, The Art of Nature, and get tips for how to make your own science illustrations at home. This post is from Yvonne Byers.

A watercoloring kit lying on the sand

As they say, “curiosity killed the cat”. Luckily I’m a human with one life to learn as much as I can about the amazing world we live in.
—Yvonne Byers

Yvonne Byers painting a watercolor of a cluster of cacti

Prompt: Engage Your Senses

There are so many great ways to use a nature journaling project to connect to your local habitat(s). One of my favorites is sequential observations — making notes and sketches about an organism you observe over time. Spring is a great time to do this because there are so many visible changes happening in our environments.

Your yard may look like a bunch of weeds but somewhere hidden amongst the chaos is an oasis you can indulge in for a little while.

The finished painting of the cacti

Find a sit spot in your yard where there is something that has caught your eye. Take a comfortable seat and before even putting pen to paper just sit and take everything in. Use all your senses to hear, see, smell, feel, and maybe even taste the elements, plants, and critters that surround you.

Do a quick free write to get your brain juices flowing and then sketch away and enjoy the comfort and beauty of your own home! 

Explore more of Yvonne’s art here.