• Expeditions

    Learn about the 2014 Philippines Expedition
    more >>

  • PhyloCluster

    280-core Supercomputer
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  • Galapagos Tortoise Collection


    Collecting herpetological specimens since 1853.
    more >>


    Current CCG research
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  • Philippines Devil's Rock Dive Site

    Philippines Dive

    Explore the aquatic diversity of the Philippines.
    more >>

  • Harbor Seal, taxonomic name "Phoca vitulina"


    Marine Mammal Stranding Network
    more >>

  • Expeditions


    Herpetology in Myanmar and the Gulf of Guinea
    more >>

  • A2 Lynx projection


    New Visualization & Outreach program
    more >>

  • Collections


    Explore Herpetology's vast collections
    more >>

IBSS Departments



natural history collection

The Importance of Natural History Collections


Front Cover Hearst Publication

CAS Special Publication: The Coral Triangle - The 2011 Hearst Philippine Biodiversity Expedition


The old saying “You are what you eat” takes on new significance in the most comprehensive analysis to date of early human teeth from Africa.

Our ancestors used to dine almost exclusively on leaves and fruits from trees, shrubs and herbs until 3.5mya when a major shift occurred, according to four new simultaneously published studies.

A series of 4 scientific papers shows evidence of an expanding variety of plant foods, written into the enamel of fossil teeth.

Zeresenay Alemseged and others study diet via powder from fossilized hominid teeth.

New studies show that human ancestors expanded their menu 3.5 million years ago.

Academy Expeditions

58.628357,-134.501038 Alaska's Juneau Icefield, 2012

Alaska's Juneau Icefield, 2012

In collaboration with the Juneau Icefield Research Program and the U.S. Forest Service, this expedition aimed to inventory the plants and beetles of "Paradise Valley," a lush isolated valley, virtually surrounded by ice and apparently ice free for hundreds if not thousands of years-potentially an ideal spot for the differentiation of new species. The botanists, entomologist, soil biologist, glaciologist, and geologist pursued different lines of evidence to estimate just how long the valley has been ice-free.

-2.394322,-44.300538 Brazil, 2012

Brazil, 2012

On this recent expedition to survey fish and corals in Parcel Manuel Luiz, of the northernmost coral reef in Brazil, Academy scientists collaborated with researchers from Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina under the auspices of the SISBIOTA-MAR project. A key objective was to evaluate the status of the fire coral, Millepora laboreli, a species that was almost completely decimated by bleaching during the 1999 El Niño. This year, Academy researchers were glad to see that many of its colonies had recovered.

3.820408,-73.967286 Colombia 2012

Colombia 2012

As part of a National Science Foundation Planetary Biodiversity Inventory (PBI) program, Academy researchers participated in a two-month, multi-team expedition to lowland rainforests, cloud forests, and high elevation environments above the tree line (paramo ecosystems) in search of nearly 500 Colombian species that make up a large branch of the Princess Flower family tree called the tribe Miconieae.

3.864255,3.728026 Gulf of Guinea

Gulf of Guinea

For the past twelve years, the Academy's herpetology curator Dr. Bob Drewes has conducted six multidisciplinary explorations of the island nations São Tomé and Príncipe. His research in the Gulf of Guinea just off Africa's west coast has documented the highest concentration, by area, of endemic species in the world. For his sixth expedition, Dr. Drewes and his team partnered with the government to distribute biodiversity educational materials to schools, hospitals, hotels, and airports.

19.952696,-155.614014 Hawaii, 2012

Hawaii, 2012

Academy scientists traveled to Oahu and Hawaii's Big Island to document the distribution of mosquito species that have a role in transmitting infectious disease. Two invasive species-Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito) and Aedes aegypti (yellow fever mosquito)-are vectors of dengue virus. Dr. Shannon Bennett, the Academy's curator of the Department of Microbiology, has discovered ecologic factors that inhibit the spread and efficacy of these species.

13.84608,120.849495 Hearst Philippines Biodiversity Expedition, 2011

Hearst Philippines Biodiversity Expedition, 2011

In the largest expedition in the Academy's recent history, a multidisciplinary team of scientists undertook a 42-day journey to the Philippines archipelago to document the biodiversity of this island nation in collaboration with local colleagues. More than 500 new species were documented by researchers conducting a comprehensive survey of three non-overlapping habitats: shallow-water, deep sea, and terrestrial. Working in collaboration with the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, findings by Academy scientists are guiding the nation's environmental policies and the establishment of new marine and coral sanctuaries.

-17.079102,45.884972 Madagascar


For over two decades, Academy scientist Brian Fisher has led research expeditions to this island nation in the western Indian Ocean near Africa, identifying more than a thousand new species of ants and partnering with 180 taxonomic collaborators around the world. This year, Dr. Fisher focused on documenting the ant population of the Kasijy, one of the last standing pristine forests in Madagascar.

37.904116,-122.603846 Mount Tamalpais, 2012

Mount Tamalpais, 2012

Academy scientists, in partnership with the Marin Municipal Water District, led a team of volunteers to the Bay Area's Mt. Tamalpais to conduct a citizen science "bio blitz"—a focused survey of botanical life within a targeted portion of the watershed's 18,000 protected acres. These volunteers, aka "citizen scientists" have established a new baseline of plant and animal distributions in the face of climate change. Their work has added many specimens, photos, and GPS coordinates to records that advance the Academy's research.

7.544933,11.606598 Nigeria, 2012

Nigeria, 2012

Academy scientists journeyed to the field station of the Nigerian Montane Forest Project to conduct the first in-depth survey of amphibian and reptile fauna on the Mambilla Plateau in eastern Nigeria.

-0.681136,130.426483 Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Continuing the baseline survey documentation begun with the Hearst Philippines Expedition, Academy scientists Terry Gosliner and John McCosker undertook reconnaissance visits to Raja Ampat, laying the groundwork for a future, multidisciplinary research project. The oceanic area of the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia is known as the "Coral Triangle"-an area with the highest diversity of marine life in the world. The Raja Ampat archipelago, part of the West Papua province of Indonesia, is said to be the richest biodiversity hotspot within the Coral Triangle, and scientific knowledge will be key to its conservation.

-29.1,26.2167 South Africa, 2011

South Africa, 2011

As members of the South African National Survey of Arachnida (SANSA), Academy scientists and graduate students searched for spiders across South Africa from Cape Town to the Zimbabwe border. They found new species of assassin spiders, sheet and lace web builders, giant goblin spiders and tree trap-door spiders. These data are being used to map the distribution of biodiversity in South Africa, understand the history of biogeography and climate change in Africa, and to study the evolution of predatory behavior in assassin spiders.

0.461421,30.399742 Uganda, 2012

Uganda, 2012

Ten years ago, Academy scientist Dr. Brian Fisher created "Ant Course"—a public workshop for biologists, researchers, and students that teaches ant taxonomy and field research techniques. In 2012, the Ant Course was held for the first time in Africa at the Makerere University Biological Field Station, located in the heart of Kibale Forest, Western Uganda.

Center for Exploration and Travel Health

The Center for Exploration and Travel Health (CETH) at the California Academy of Sciences has two missions:


  1. To excel in providing exploration health services to the museum community.
  2. To be a leading academic center in travel medicine research and education.


Welcome to the Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences. Our research aims to discover new knowledge about life's diversity and the process of evolution and to rapidly apply that knowledge to sustain life on the planet.

The Academy was founded in 1853 to discover the diversity of life in California and has expanded to the exploration of biodiversity hotspots around the globe. Renaming the Academy's Research group reflects the urgent need to gain knowledge of the natural world in the face of rapid changes from climate change and other human activity. We impart this information to the general public, conservationists, policy makers, and end users who share our goal of documenting and sustaining Earth's biodiversity.

The Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability at the Academy currently includes about 100 dedicated individuals, including 20 curator scientists, eight collections managers, and a committed group of postdoctoral researchers, students, curatorial assistants, and library and support staff, as well as a network of accomplished research associates working with us around the world.

We work closely with all staff throughout the Academy to increase the public understanding and engagement with science via personal interaction, communication, educational programs and through the development of exhibits.

Contact the Dean's Office

  • Terrence Gosliner
  • Senior Curator and Dean of Science and Research Collections, Harry W. and Diana V. Hind Chair
  • 415-379-5269 (direct)
  • Mailing Address:
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118

Academy Fellows

The Fellows of the California Academy of Sciences are a group of distinguished scientists, nominated and appointed in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the natural sciences. They help us extend the positive impact of the Academy in its research, public engagement and education mission, through individual and collaborative efforts with Academy researchers and staff. Fellows have an Academy governance role, including ratification of nominations for the Board at the annual Fellows meeting.

Summer Systematics Institute

The Summer Systematics Institute (SSI) is a hands-on, collections-based, summer research program in evolutionary biology and an internship in biological illustration for undergraduate college/university students who are U.S. citizens or resident aliens.  SSI and Biological Illustration internships will be offered in summer of 2014.  The 2014 SSI and BI application period is now open.  Deadline to apply is Friday February 21st 2014.    


Kristina Louie Memorial Fund

The fund will provide support in the amount of $5,000 to a graduate student enrolled in biology either at Occidental College or UCLA, or involved with biological research at the California Academy of Sciences.  Applications must be submitted by December 1, 2013. Selection will be made and announced on December 31, 2013.