IZG Highlights

  • Expeditions

    Learn about the 2014 Philippines Expedition
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  • Forams in Compactors


    Forams in compactors in the dry collection.
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  • Department/Staff

    Partial view of the IZG Department.
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  • Norwegian Tribolite


    Research in Invertebrate Zoology and Geology.
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  • Fieldwork

    Our researchers work around the world.
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  • Philippines Devil's Rock Dive Site

    Philippines Dive

    Explore the aquatic diversity of the Philippines.
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Welcome to the Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology. Our curators conduct research in their areas of specialty - systematics and phylogeny of octocorals, opisthobranch mollusks, echinoderms, and paleontology.  Additionally, they oversee the preservation and maintenance of the specimen collections with the assistance of two senior collection managers and their curatorial assistants. The collections of the department are the most diverse within the Academy, containing over two and a half million specimens. View select geology and diatom specimens and archives on our Flickr page.

Over 150 years of Research

The Academy’s timeline begins in the Gold Rush year of 1849. Gold sparked the growth of San Francisco, and led to the founding of the California Academy of Sciences.


William P. Gibbons is elected Curator of Geology & Mineralogy, succeeded a year later by John B. Trask.

Collections are destroyed in the earthquake and fire. One specimen is salvaged — an ammonite collected by John Trask. The Galápagos Expedition returns with a substantial number of fossils, beginning a new collection.

The Henry Hemphill Collection of marine, freshwater and land shells, over 60,000 specimens, is donated to the Academy.

The Stanford University and Hopkins Marine Station collections are “adopted.” The ten tons of material doubles the size of the collections. It includes specimens collected by E. F. “Doc” Ricketts and John Steinbeck in the Sea of Cortez.

The Departments of Geology and Invertebrate Zoology are combined into a single department, fondly known as IZG.


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


Biodiversity Workshop Poster

Three researchers from the Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology (Terry Gosliner, Chrissy Piotrowski, and Gary Williams) presented lectures and participated in the 2012...


Research scientists from the Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology (Terry Gosliner, Chrissy Piotrowski, and Gary Williams) conducted a continuation of an ongoing...

Deep-sea biota at 1200 feet in depth off the Farallones Islands

Gary Williams, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology, was the invertebrate zoologist on board the ROV Deep-Sea Coral Cruise in the Gulf of the Farallones...

Dr. Rebecca Johnson

Read KQED's story about California Academy of Science researcher Dr. Rebecca Johnson's study of evolutionary color patterns in chromodorid nudibranchs. 

The California Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce that 12 new members have joined the ranks of the Academy Fellows, a governing group of around 300 distinguished scientists who have made...

Today we are pleased to officially announce the launch of PLoS Hubs: Biodiversity, a new pilot Web site to connect the biodiversity community with...

Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences Volume 61, Nos. 7-18. 15 September 2010. Order Now.

Notes from the Field

Academy Scientist Terry Gosliner talks Nudibranchs, Corals and Readers’ Questions in The New York Times.

Nudibranchs, Corals and Readers’ Questions...

IZG maintains four major collections: Recent invertebrates, fossils (invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants), diatoms (fossil and Recent), and minerals.

Mapping the Undersea World

Explore the undersea world from a scientific perspective with Google Ocean. This interactive mapping project was launched in 2009 at the California Academy of Sciences, and involved contributions from Academy scientists Terry Gosliner and Gary Williams. The event was initiated to honor oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle. Download Google Ocean and explore the field notes, photographs, and insights gleamed from the Academy's ongoing research in the Coral Triangle, a biodiversity hot spot near the Philippines.


  • Where can I go to collect minerals/fossils?

    In the Bay Area, most potential collecting sites are on private land or in a county/state/federal park, where collecting is not allowed.  We suggest you join your local gem and mineral society (there are lots of them in Northern California and elsewhere) or take a class at the nearest university or community college.  Those groups often take field trips to local sites of geologic interest, where collecting is allowed.  And learning some geology along the way makes it more fun!

  • Where else can I go to see minerals and fossils on exhibit?

    The California State mineral collection, which used to be on display in the Ferry Building in S.F., is in Mariposa, near Yosemite. It is displayed at the  County Fairgrounds, in the care of California State Parks.  It is unknown at this time whether that park will survive the State's government shutdown schedule.  There are a few minerals on display at UC Berkeley and Stanford, but no organized exhibits.  The closest good big mineral and fossil displays are at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

  • I think I've found a meteorite/dinosaur bone/fossil. How can I tell if it's real? Or can I bring it in and have somebody look at it?

    It will save you a trip if you can take a couple of pictures of your specimen and send them to us via e-mail or as prints in the regular mail.   You are welcome to drop specimens off at the Academy’s Naturalist Center, where they will be identified by CAS scientists.  In some cases, you can make an appointment to talk to someone on staff about your specimen.

  • Are the collection data available online?

    Yes.  Please follow this link

  • Who can borrow specimens from the IZG collections?

    Any qualified research scientist, including students, with an institutional affiliation is eligible to borrow specimens.  Final approval of any loan is at the discretion of the Collection Managers and Curators of IZG.  However, most eligible loan requests are approved.

  • Are the CAS IZG collections open to non-staff for study?

    Yes, the collections are available for study by qualified researchers by appointment.  Contact the Collection Managers or Curators for details.

  • Where are the mineral/gem/fossil exhibits in the Academy?

    The Academy's new bulding "breathes," and the temperature and humidity inside the display areas usually reflect the conditions outside. Most natural history specimens cannot be displayed under these circumstances, and specially environmentally-controlled cases must be built for the main floor. This may happen gradually, as the Academy exhibitions mature and change.

  • Have a question about a strange animal or unusual natural occurrence?

    Please direct it to our Naturalist Center.

  • How may I request a loan?

    Submit your request to the appropriate Collection Manager (Van Syoc: Invertebrates, DeMouthe: Fossils, Minerals and Diatoms), or Curator (Gosliner: Mollusca, Mooi: Echinodermata, Williams: Cnidaria, Roopnarine: Fossils).


The Summer Systematics Institute and the Biological Illustration Internships will be offered June 16 to August 8, 2014.  The application period for this term is now open.  Deadline to apply is February 21st 2014.


Learn more





February 21, 2014

Biological Illustration

The Wallace Biological Illustration Internship