Expeditions & Projects

Current Projects

Rich Mooi

  • Origin of the crinoid stem.  With Bruno David, Michel Roux, Bertrand Lefebvre, we will be using evo-devo techniques that integrate morphology, paleontology, and embryology to determine the origins of the stem of sea lilies, and the subsequent diversification of the group since the Cambrian.
  • Deep history of the echinoderms.  Again with Bruno David, I am working on the origins of the major clades of the Echinodermata in the early Cambrian.
  • New species of sand dollars from the Eocene of the Pacific Northwest.  New material collected with Casey Burns from Eocene deposits in the Seattle region are overturning views of the origins of the sand dollars themselves.  This entire area is turning out to be something like the Olduvai gorge of the sand dollars.

Gary Williams

  • Phylogenetic affinities between gorgonian and pennatulacean octocorals (with Jei-Ying Chen).
  • New shallow water soft corals from the Pacific coast of North America (with Jeff Goddard).
  • New genus of deep-sea North Atlantic sea pen (with Pablo Lopez-Gonzalez).
  • Newly discovered morphological structure and niche in a genus of deep-sea octocoral (with Phil Alderslade).
  • A fifth kind of polyp in sea pens (with Leen van Ofwegen).
  • A new deep-sea soft coral from the Monterey Canyon of California (with Lonny Lundsten).

Terry Gosliner

The Gosliner lab is focused on the training of students in the areas of systematic biology, evolutionary ecology and conservation of coastal marine environments. With funding from the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships in Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy program, training students in systematic research including species descriptions, phylogenetic reconstruction using both morphological and molecular data sets, biogeography and evolutionary ecology represents a primary focus of lab activity.  The current research projects include training students in field collection and documentation, microscopic dissection, pcr and sequencing of molecular samples.  Through this program, we have conducted field work in the Philippines, Vanuatu, Palmyra Atoll, Madagascar, Costa Rica, Cape Verde Islands, Portugal, the Azores, South Africa and California to collect specimens for global systematic studies of various clades of nudibranchs.  This project includes several key partners. The co-Principle Investigator is Dr. Ángel Valdés, at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Ángel and his students work closely with our lab on all aspects of the project. Our lab also collaborates with Dr. Juan Lucas Cervera, University of Cádiz, Spain and his students. Producing a contemporary phylogeny and revised classification of the Nudibranchia is the primary objective of the project.

> Madagascar and South Africa photos.

Since 1992, the Gosliner lab has also focused its research on the documentation of the biodiversity of opisthobranch gastropods in the Philippine Islands.  The Philippines sits at the apex of the Coral Triangle, the tropical region that includes the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, known to have the richest diversity of any marine area in the world. This work has now documented 812 species of opisthobranchs from Philippine reefs. More than half of these species (52%) are undescribed taxa.  The research has been concentrated in the Mabini/Tingloy region along the Verde Island Passage that separates southern Luzon Island.  The Verde Island Passage, has been shown to represent the center of the center of marine biodiversity for both shorefishes and opisthobranchs.   We have worked closely with fellow Academy Curator, Gary Williams, who studies octocorals from the region. Our key research collaborator in the Philippines is the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and we also work closely with Dr. Kent Carpenter of Old Dominion University.   This work provides critical data for conservation biology.  We have collaborated closely with several conservation organizations including Pusod, Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund and Wildlife Conservation Society to help inform what critical areas require protection.  We have also worked with community based conservation groups and educational organizations in the Philippines.  The Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences was developed as a result of this work and represents a collaboration between the Research, Education, Public Engagement and Aquarium Divisions of the California Academy of Sciences as well.

> Philippines photos.

Jean DeMouthe

Fossils & Diatoms: Photographs on Internet. 

  • Photographing of fossil type collection, using the “Big Kahuna” set up in the project lab, and subsequent posting of images on the internet;
  • Photographing of diatom type collection, using high-magnification transmitted light microscope in IZ&G, and subsequent posting of images on the internet;
  • Organization and documentation of the incoming Union Oil of California collection of fossil foraminifera.

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.

San Francisco Bay, CA, USA

Chrissy Piotrowski of IZ&G and Roberta Ayres from Naturalist Center collect invertebrate samples from the bottom of San Francisco Bay during SFBay:2K, a four year biodiversity survey partnership with the Academy’s Ichthyology and Education Departments.  Surveys of benthic bay habitats such as subtidal mudflats and dock fouling communities yielded more than 300 marine invertebrate species, many of which are non-native.  Specimens were sorted, identified, and cataloged as vouchers in our Recent Invertebrates Collection.  Animals of San Francisco Bay: A Field Guide to the Common Benthic Species was one product of this survey, as well as a website for the project.


Rich Mooi on the deck of the "RV Polarstern".  Fieldwork included dredging off the Antarctic Peninsula as well as in 5000 m depths of the South Shetland Trench. 

Luzon, Philippines

Field collecting involves photographing whole live corals such as sea fans underwater, then clipping small pieces from the branches with scissors, placing the specimens in plastic bags, and labeling for depth, dive site, etc.  Gary Williams is here collecting octocorals at around 15 meters in depth off the Calumpan Peninsula.

Verde Island, Philippines

Terry Gosliner has been studying the nudibranch fauna of the Philippines for 18 years.  The Verde Island Passage has the richest nudibranch fauna of any place in the world, with almost 700 different species documented.  

Sao Tome & Principe

Bob Van Syoc diving in Sao Tome and Principe as part of a CAS survey of marine life around the island country.  Bob and his student Dana Carrison are studying two new species of barnacles they discovered living on sea fans during the expedition in early 2009.


Peter Roopnarine collecting bivalves in the Gulf of Thailand. This expedition was part of a project to survey the bivalves of the Gulf of Thailand, and is part of Peter's broader work on the evolutionary history and ecology of modern, tropical bivalves.

Palmyra Atoll

Chrissy Piotrowski surveys polychaete worm diversity of lagoon and outer reef flat habitats off Palmyra Atoll.  Palmyra is a remote atoll previously utilized as a military base and now as a biological field station run as a partnership among the Nature Conservancy, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Moore Foundation, and the Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium (PARC) for which the California Academy of Sciences is a founding member.  Palmyra Atoll’s marine biodiversity is poorly known, yet a better understanding of its reef inhabitants from biotic surveys is crucial to successful management of its fragile habitats.

Gulf of Guinea

Dana Carrison traveled to the Gulf of Guinea islands in February 2009 with the California Academy of Sciences to collect barnacles that live symbiotically on gorgonians. She collected from both Principe and Sao Tome. All collecting was done by scuba.