The Academy of Sciences has several resources that are available to our researchers and fellow colleagues.  In fact, no other museum has a super computer like ours.  Please contact our team members for more details.

The Project Lab

In addition to our behind-the-scenes research laboratories, the Academy offers scientists a chance to showcase their work on the public floor in The Project Lab. The Project Lab is a multi-user, state-of-art lab outfitted with equipment needed for researchers to prepare, process and catalogue specimens from any of the Academy’s collections. Unique to this lab is the opportunity it provides for Academy visitors to observe researchers as they work. Examples of current Project Lab workstations include: a bird and mammal prep table outfitted with an overhead camera which projects live footage of specimen dissections and preparatory procedures to screens viewable to the public; an Automontage and long-range microscope station where screens portray magnificent, high resolution images of insects as they are catalogued; and a DNA workbench set-up close to the public floor that enables visitors to watch as researchers carry out the steps of DNA Extraction. The lab is also equipped with a Quad-core Mac Pro computer complete with three 30” cinema displays. This powerful computer has a Windows emulator and is outfitted with software including: ArcGIS, Specify, ACDSee, Syncroscopy and various DNA sequence editing and analyses programs. Projects showcased in the Project Lab rotate to accommodate various incoming Academy projects and to keep the exhibit new and different for returning visitors. To learn more about the projects, programs and resources of the Project Lab, please visit the Project Lab website.

Center for Comparative Genomics

The Center for Comparative Genomics was established in the summer of 2008 to serve the California Academy of Sciences Research Division and its students with the resources necessary to participate in the growing field of genomics. The CCG was developed and implemented by Greg Farrington, Frank Almeda and Brian Simison and funded by a generous donation by Shirley and Harry Hagey. The CCG is a three unit facility that includes a comparative genomics laboratory, a 280-core high performance computing cluster and a CryoCollection of genetic resources. The 3-fold objective of the CCG is to provide our researchers with the latest tools available from the field of comparative genomics, to encourage large scale collaborative projects with researchers from other institutions, and to attract top graduate students, postdocs and future curators.

The CCG is headed by Brian Simison and managed by Anna Sellas and includes nine rooms, two capillary DNA sequencers, eight PCR machines, two ultra-cold freezers (-80ºC), six desktop computers, a supercomputer, and all the equipment and instruments required for DNA sequencing, cloning and computing. CAS researchers are currently involved in over 20 molecular systematics projects, including Caribbean turtles and seahorses, Chinese melastomes, nudibranchs from the “Coral Triangle”, birds of New Guinea, spiders, beetles, barnacles from Madagascar and many other important projects.

The CCG Sequencing Lab

The 280-Core PhyloCluster

Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) Lab

The Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) lab consists of a LEO/Zeiss 1450 VP SEM and several pieces of ancillary equipment. The SEM is based on a tungsten thermionic electron gun and is capable of magnifications above 100,000X. Features as small as 50 nanometers can be resolved. The SEM images are in digital TIF format, with a maximum resolution of 3072x2300 pixels. Normally all specimens must be fully dried and mounted on an SEM stub and coated with a very thin layer of gold before being put in the SEM. The instrument has 3 electron detectors, a normal secondary electron (SE) detector, a variable pressure electron detector and a backscatter detector. There is also a vacuum sputter coater for coating specimens with a thin layer of gold (around 20nm thickness) and a CO² critical point drier. The lab is located in a new space designed specifically for the SEM on the lowest level of the building so as to eliminate vibrations that would otherwise ruin the imaging. The lab is supervised by Scott Serata and I am available to either run the SEM for researchers or train users so they can run by themselves.

Contact the Project Lab

Tinya Hoang
Project Lab Coordinator
55 Music Concourse Dr
California Academy of Sciences
San Francisco, CA  94118

Contact the Head of CCG

  • W. Brian Simison
  • Assistant Curator & CCG Head
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118

Contact the SEM Lab Manager

  • Scott Serata
  • SEM Engineer
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118
  • 415-379-5306 (direct)