Keep your mind open while the Academy is closed with an eclectic array of science content for all ages and all places.
“Could you describe the ruckus, sir?”
The Academy may be closed—and quarantine may sometimes feel like detention—but our science never stops! At 10 am on select mornings, Academy experts bring you discoveries, insights, and stories from around the world, spanning a wide range of subjects through live, informal presentations followed by Q&As with the viewing audience. Streamed simultaneously to our YouTube and Facebook pages, these mini-classes are for everyone (because each one of us is a brain). Sincerely yours, the Academy.
Tuesday, September 22, 10 am PT
Racing the Clock to Document Biodiversity in São Tomé & Príncipe
Dr. Rayna Bell, Assistant Curator of Herpetology
With a population of fewer than 200,000 and only a few flights each week between this African island nation and Lisbon, much of São Tomé & Príncipe's natural habitat remains intact—and hosts some of the highest levels of endemism (species found nowhere else) on the planet. But as offshore oil companies continue to conduct surveys off its coasts, that may soon change. For the past 18 years, the Academy's Curator Emeritus of Herpetology Dr. Bob Drewes has led a team of biologists in a race to document the diversity of animals, plants, and fungi on the islands in the hopes of fueling future conservation work, an effort that's recorded hundreds of species thus far (many new to science). In this talk, Curator of Herpetology Dr. Rayna Bell will share some of the most exciting scientific discoveries from those nearly two decades of expeditions, and highlight some of the ways those discoveries are making an impact on a local and international scale.
Tuesday, September 29, 10m
A Virtual Tour of the Birds & Mammals Collections
Maureen Flannery, Senior Ornithology & Mammalogy Collections Manager
Head into the Academy's ornithology and mammalogy collections—collectively 96,000 birds, 28,500 mammals, 11,000 egg and nest specimens, and one of the world's largest marine mammal collections—for a very special virtual tour highlighting everything from our historic Galápagos collections to some of Moe's favorite marine mammal specimens. For a preview, keep an eye on our NightLife series—rumor has it she'll be making an appearance on Sept. 24.
Past Breakfast Clubs
Find our 10 most recent Breakfast Club episodes below, or see the full YouTube playlist by clicking here!
The Science of Where
Dr. Dawn Wright, Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and Academy Fellow
Dr. Dawn Wright was appointed to her post at ESRI—a world-leading geographic information system software and data science company—after 17 years as a professor of geography and oceanography at Oregon State University (OrSt). Her research interests include geospatial data science, seafloor mapping, coastal/ocean informatics, and environmental education, and her fieldwork has taken her to some of the most geologically active regions of the planet: the East Pacific Rise, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Juan de Fuca Ridge, the Tonga Trench, and volcanoes under the Japan Sea and the Indian Ocean. She’s made multiple dives in the deep submergence vehicles Alvin and Pisces V; authored or co-authored more than 150 articles and ten books; holds lifetime achievement awards from the American Association of Geographers, the Geological Society of America, and UC Santa Barbara; and her other interests include (but aren’t limited to) road cycling, 18th-century pirates, her golden retriever puppy Riley, and Spongebob Squarepants. Follow her on Twitter @deepseadawn.
The Wild World of Parasitic Plants
Dr. Sarah Jacobs, Curator of Botany
Meet the Academy's newest curator while being swept into the wild world of parasitic plants, from what it means to be one, to the biology behind parasitism, to the incredible diversity of parasitic plants. Psst: That diversity includes some commonly known parasites that might surprise you, such as Dr. Jacobs' expertise—the beautiful, often fiery-looking paintbrushes (Castilleja). More details to come!
Spiny Things & Where to Find Them: Celebrating California Biodiversity Day
Citizen Science Co-Directors Dr. Rebecca Johnson & Alison Young, Botany Curator Dr. Sarah Jacobs, & Arachnology Curator Dr. Lauren Esposito
September 7—California Biodiversity Day—kicks off a week-long celebration of nature in the Golden State, home not only to incredible biodiversity, but to the highest number of rare and imperiled species in any US state. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Contribute to a trio of important Academy research projects on local thistles, scorpions, and spiny lobsters—we'll tell you how! No special knowledge or equipment needed, and the results give scientists critical data for helping to document and protect the nature that makes California so incredible. (PS: It's fun, too.)
Scorpions 101: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Earth's Most Maligned Arachnids
Dr. Lauren Esposito, Curator & Schlinger Chair of Arachnology
Scorpions are an enigmatic group of animals: though recognized and (largely) feared by all, there are many aspects of their basic biology that remain a mystery. These unique creatures are found worldwide—from deserts, to the highest mountain ranges, to deep cenote caves 600 meters below sea level. Dozens of new scorpion species continue to be discovered each year, and the natural history of these secretive animals is still in many ways unknown to us. With arachnology curator Dr. Lauren Esposito as our guide, we'll enter the fascinating world of scorpions, discuss what we know about them, and explore some of the mysteries that remain.
The Poisonous Birds of New Guinea (& Stories of Fieldwork in New Guinea)
Dr. Jack Dumbacher, Curator and Chair of Ornithology and Mammalogy
New Guinea is a tropical island roughly the size of Texas and just north of Australia, but it is home to some of the most spectacular birds in the world, including Birds of Paradise, giant cassowaries, tiny pygmy parrots, and of course birds that are poisonous. Its rugged environment is unwelcoming to explorers, but for those who make the effort, it is magically beautiful and full of scientific surprises. Jack Dumbacher has studied birds in New Guinea since the early 1990s, and he will talk about his research and fieldwork on New Guinea's poisonous birds—the hooded and variable pitohuis and the blue-capped ifrita.
A Virtual Tour of the Herpetology Collections
Dr. Rayna Bell, Curator of Herpetology, and Lauren Scheinberg, Herpetology Collections Manager
Even as you read this, herpetology curator Dr. Rayna Bell and collections manager Lauren Scheinberg are busily having the kind of intense debates necessary to choose a 10-specimen lineup from the roughly 315,000 contained in the Academy's 167-year-old herpetology collections—just for Breakfast Club viewers. Tune in for frogs, snakes, lizards, and more, straight from one of the largest scientific collections in the world.
The 10 Coolest Cephalopods—Period
Richard Ross, Academy Albright Lab researcher
Rich Ross is a researcher in the Academy's Albright Lab who specializes in cephalopods and coral spawning—a role he moved into after years spent managing our 212,200-gallon Philippines Coral Reef exhibit as an Academy biologist. A winner of the MASNA Aquarist of the Year Award (now the MASNA Award), author of scientific papers on everything from the coconut octopus to the lesser (and larger) Pacific striped octopus to the glorious Wonderpus, he's eminently qualified to deliver the verdict on Earth's top-ten coolest cephalopods...period.
A Virtual Tour of the Academy Library Collections
Rebekah Kim, MLIS Head Librarian
For the first time ever (virtually), take a tour of the Academy's historic library collections, with head librarian Rebekah Kim as your guide! More details on this to come, but here's what we can say—it's far more than just books. (Although books are pretty wonderful.)
Life Finds a Way: Carnivore Movement & Conflict in a Developed Kenyan Landscape
Christine E. Wilkinson, UC Berkeley PhD student & National Geographic Explorer
Breakfast Club viewers, get ready for some terrestrial charismatic megafauna! Christine Wilkinson is a conservation biologist and PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include human-wildlife conflict, carnivore movement ecology, multidisciplinary mapping, and using participatory methods for more effective and inclusive conservation outcomes.
Can Ecosystems Teach Us Anything About Pandemics & Economies?
Dr. Peter Roopnarine, Curator of Geology
Details about this particular talk to follow, but the following excerpt (from Dr. Roopnarine's Academy bio) offers a preview: "To understand ecosystems that existed millions of years ago, Roopnarine models them, using information from the fossil record and filling in the blanks with correlating data from modern communities. Running millions of complex models about ancient food webs isn’t just an esoteric academic exercise: 'If models can explain what we know happened in the past,' Roopnarine explains, 'there’s a pretty good chance that they’re going to predict what’s coming in the future.'"
The mission of the Academy's Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability is to gather new knowledge about life's diversity and the process of evolution—and to rapidly apply that understanding to our efforts to sustain life on Earth.