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Fossil Walruses and Other Ancient Life in the Monterey Bay with Dr. Robert Boessenecker

Though our coast today is inhabited by sea lions, harbor seals, and elephant seals, none of these species existed in California 3-5 million years ago. Instead, fossils from the Purisima Formation tell a very different story of strange walruses and early fur seals that inhabited our coast. These include the ancestor of the modern northern fur seal (today a rare visitor to Monterey Bay), the bizarre “double tusked” walrus Gomphotaria, and the toothless walrus Valenictus. Several discoveries made by local collectors and paleontologists represent new species — and you’re going to hear new data and findings never reported before during this presentation.

Join us on National Fossil Day for this member-exclusive presentation with longtime friend of the Museum, Dr. Robert Boessenecker.

Dr. Robert Boessenecker

“I grew up in Foster City on the peninsula, disappointed as a dinosaur nerd kid that there weren’t much in the way of dino fossils from California – which I mistook for “no interesting fossils at all”. Once in high school I visited some shark tooth sites in Scott’s Valley and became obsessed with marine mammal fossils none of the fossil collectors could identify. As an undergraduate student at Montana State University, I started collecting and researching a marine mammal fauna I discovered in Half Moon Bay; I continued with my master’s thesis at MSU on the preservation and stratigraphic context of Purisima Formation fossils, and then went to University of Otago in New Zealand to do my Ph.D. on early baleen whales from much older rocks down under. I have been at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, studying early baleen whales and dolphins, and once again researching Purisima Formation sharks, fish, birds, turtles, and marine mammals.”

-Dr. Robert Boessenecker

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!

Your support helps us steward our collections and offer educational programs that connect people with nature and science. Memberships start at just $15/year.

Rockin’ Pop-Up: What even IS North America?

Santa Cruz County is obviously a part of North America. Right?

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. There’s the continent of North America, but there’s also the North American tectonic plate — where Santa Cruz County does not reside! While our neighbors in Los Gatos on the other side of the Santa Cruz Mountains are located on the North American Plate, Santa Cruz is located on the Pacific Plate.

There are lots of little (and really big!) geologic surprises across the continent. Join the Geology Gents for this North American road trip!

About the Series: Join the Geology Gents, Gavin and Graham, for monthly conversations about rocks live on Facebook. Each month 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 by emailing events@santacruzmuseum.org and feel free to include pictures of rocks you’d like identified! Note: you do not need to have a Facebook account to be able to watch the program live.

Watch Past Pop-Ups
Read our blog Rock Record

Fire and the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve with Dr. Jodi McGraw

Many of our native plants in the Santa Cruz Mountains are fire adapted, from the familiar coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) to the extremely rare Santa Cruz cypress (Hesperocyparis abramsiana) and Santa Cruz wallflower (Erysimum teretifolium). However, decades of fire suppression have greatly reduced the frequency of fires in our region. The Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve is a rare example of a location that has burned multiple times in just over a decade: in 2008 during the Martin Fire and again in 2020 during the CZU Lightning Complex fires.

Join Dr. Jodi McGraw for an exploration of this unique Santa Cruz sandhills habitat, which is home to the Santa Cruz cypress and Santa Cruz wallflower, and what we’ve learned since the 2008 Martin Fire.

Resources

About the Speaker

Dr. Jodi McGraw is an ecologist who works on conservation projects throughout central coastal California. For the past 28 years, she has been studying the Santa Cruz Sandhills—a unique ecosystem found only in central Santa Cruz County, which supports numerous endangered plants and animals. Her research and conservation management work has addressed how fire can be both a tool and a threat to persistence of the endangered plants, including Santa Cruz cypress and Santa Cruz wallflower, and the native biodiversity in the sandhills.


This program is part of the series CZU AND YOU: Resources for Recovery, Preparedness, and Ecological Understanding from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and Santa Cruz Public Libraries | August 2021

A Striking August: Lightning and Wildfires with Chris Giesige

Lightning flashes through purple clouds over the horizon glowing orange.

In August 2020, Northern California was ignited by a series of 650 wildfires spurred by dry lightning from rare, massive summer thunderstorms. Today, all of California is experiencing drought conditions and fire season is well underway.

On the one year anniversary of the lightning storms wildfire researcher and lightning scientist Chris Giesige presented on the weather and climate conditions that made the August 2020 lightning events possible and shared a peek at what the future may hold for wildfires in California. Explore how we classify the weather and atmospheric conditions that create fire weather and behavior, why those conditions aided the events of last August, and explore wildfire in California more generally.

Resources

About the Speaker

Chris Giesige has studied fire science and conducted lightning research for over a decade. His research is focused on wildfires and seasonal and short term lightning development during the summer through fall months. Through the WestCats Group, he and his team are currently working on developing a new sensor network for better lightning forecasting for wildfire events.


This program is part of the series CZU AND YOU: Resources for Recovery, Preparedness, and Ecological Understanding from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and Santa Cruz Public Libraries | August 2021

Long-term lessons: Perspectives on three years of mushroom monitoring in the Santa Cruz Mountains with Christian Schwarz

As mushroom hunters, we enjoy traveling far and wide, bouncing from place to place and following the rains to stay with the season. But what happens when we focus on revisiting the same small areas whether there has been rain or not? And what if we take it a step further, and rather than just harvesting chanterelles or photographing the flashiest species, we take the time to pay attention to everything, counting individual fruitbodies and keeping track of changes from year to to year?

Christian Schwarz has been undertaking just such an effort for the past three years, supported by a grant from the Save the Redwoods League, and this year, some of his survey transects were burned in the CZU Lightning Complex fires. Join the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History, the San Lorenzo Valley Museum, and the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History to hear what discoveries, lessons, and patterns have emerged from this ambitious project.

Resources

Watch past presentations from Christian:
Data is Not the Destination
Macabre Mushrooms: Ghouls of the Woods

Other resources:

About the speaker

Christian Schwarz is a naturalist currently living in Santa Cruz, the land of milk (caps) and honey (mushrooms). He studied Ecology and Evolution at UCSC, and now spends his time photographing, teaching about, collecting, and researching macrofungi. He is coauthor of Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast. Fungi satisfy his curiosity with their seemingly endless forms – from the grotesque to the bizarre to the sublimely beautiful. Besides dabbling in mushroom taxonomy, he loves fish, plants, nudibranchs, moths, and dragonflies. He is passionate about citizen science, especially iNaturalist.

This program is part of a series in support of the exhibit Look. Act. Inspire. and is presented in partnership between

Image result for san lorenzo valley museum

Fire and Mud: Why Fires Cause Debris Flows in California with Noah Finnegan

Geomorphologist Noah Finnegan provides an overview of the science linking wildfires and debris flows in California, including lessons learned from the 2009 Lockheed Fire in the Santa Cruz mountains. Particular emphasis is paid to how residents impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex can navigate resources to better understand their debris-flow risks.

Resources

Below are resources referred to in the presentation and major take-aways from Noah Finnegan:

About the Speaker

Noah Finnegan is a professor in Earth and Planetary Sciences at UC Santa Cruz. Noah’s research and teaching are focused on processes of erosion and sediment transport on hill slopes and in river channels.

The Basics of Taxidermy with Alex Krohn

The Basics of Taxidermy

Presented by the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History and the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Learn what you need to know to dive into taxidermy as a hobby. Alex Krohn shares the basics of preserving animals, the laws surrounding the process in California, and an overview of necessary tools, before then diving into an example on an Acorn Woodpecker specimen.

Image of Alex Krohn smiling with a frog on his finger.

Alex Krohn is the Assistant Director of the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History at UC Santa Cruz. While he is a reptile and amphibian specialist, he loves helping connect people with all aspects of nature, both in the museum and across the natural lands of Santa Cruz County.

Rockin’ Pop-Up: Coastal Geology

Topic: Explore the impacts that the ocean, weather, and tectonic activity have on our ever-changing coastline.

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

Rockin’ Pop-Up: California’s State Symbols

Topic: California’s symbols are iconic — from the California Poppy to the California Grizzly Bear. Though they may be less discussed, our state’s geologic symbols do not disappoint. Learn about what makes our state’s gemstone, mineral, and rock iconically Californian during this week’s Rockin’ Pop-Up.

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

Rockin’ Pop-Up: Sea Level Rise and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet

Gavin and Graham discuss their new paper exploring evidence of massive sea level rise due to past melting of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

Resources:
Read the full paper
Explore NOAA’s sea level rise simulator
Explore the City of Santa Cruz’s Climate Action Program


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