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The Nat Blog

Some of us can keep a secret. At the Museum, many of us recently had our secrecy skills put to the test.   We needed stealth because our major—and controversial—scientific discovery that could rewrite human history in the Americas had to break first in a rigorously peer-reviewed scientific journal. Now that the cat is out of the bag, we can reveal what was happening behind the scenes. Read more.

When John James Audubon decided to do his paintings of North American birds, he went with the adage to “go big.” Our copy of Birds of America, published in 1858, is so large it takes several people to just turn the pages. But its size allowed him the means to represent every bird life-size, whether it be a tiny wren, or a huge raptor with its wings spread, like the Osprey. His paintings of birds remain accepted today as the very best artistic renderings of birds ever achieved.  Read more.

Seeking out the diversity of life is challenging, especially for amphibians and reptiles. Scientists have focused their attention on Baja California for nearly 200 years and the discovery of new amphibian and reptile species has become rare. Unlike super-diverse groups, like arthropods and plants, herpetologists are now approaching a complete understanding of the region’s species composition. And with this knowledge, new doors are opening. Read more.

Researchers at the San Diego Natural History Museum, along with experts from Mexico and Brazil, have described a new species of large cave-dwelling spider, the Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider (Califorctenus cacachilensis). Related to the notoriously venomous Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria fera), the Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider was first discovered on a collaborative research expedition into a small mountain range outside of La Paz in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Read more.

The enticement of desert wildflowers was definitely on my mind when I applied for my job at theNAT.  To my delight we had the requisite rains this winter, and my first March in San Diego produced a “super bloom.” I invited myself along the Botany Department’s field trip to join the hordes of flower peepers heading to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  Read more.

For the Love of Trees

Posted: March 28, 2017

Our Rare Book Room holds many treasures, but not many of them challenge the very notion of what it means to be a “book.” The American Woods is a marvel of both book artistry and scientific dedication. Instead of bound pages, each of its 14 volumes holds hundreds of paper-thin, translucent samples of wood from American trees, painstakingly mounted into gilt-edged cutouts in individual cardboard plates.  Read more.

When you think about going to visit a museum, chances are, you just do it without any additional thoughts. But for the young adults with autism with whom we are working, we needed to break down the museum visit to give some structure to the activity, as well as some structure for the forthcoming social story. Read more.

One of the San Diego Natural History Museum’s most notable strengths as a science museum has been adopting a culture that welcomes women, both now and from the very beginning. The Museum was founded as the San Diego Society of Natural History in 1874, at a time when most professional organizations were male-dominated and it was unusual to bring women into the fold. Despite this fact, the Society made a point of soliciting female members and became a stronger organization because of this early decision.  Read more.

Finding dinosaur fossils is not something even veteran paleontologists experience every day. Our crews find fossils on about half of the job sites they work, but they simply don’t encounter many dinosaurs here in southern California. It’s not to say these beasts didn’t roam the area—surely they did—but the circumstances for the preservation of their remains were not ideal here. Read more.

Ever wonder why if nobody ever actually SAW a dragon, how people ever came to believe that they could actually exist? Take a journey back to the Middle Ages and get a glimpse into the school of thought adopted by most people during that time.  Read more.