A Sunday Stroll: The California Academy of Sciences

Last Sunday, Melissa and I joined her Sierra Club group for an outing to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. One of the Sierrans is Curator of Anthropology, so he arranged for group tickets and backdoors tours of his department. For those of you who don’t know, the Academy is a scientific research institute that also runs San Francisco’s natural history museum and aquarium. It’s been undergoing major renovation for years now, and has just reopened in its completely rebuilt original location after years in a much smaller, temporary location.

One of the goals of the renovation was to create a building that would be “green,” a model of some of the best technology currently available. This design includes a green roof, covered with native plants, that helps regulate building temperatures and conserves water.

You can take a staircase up onto a rooftop viewing platform.
Native plants on the green roof

Native plants on the green roof
Those hillocks are the roof, with skylights scattered across it.

The most popular new exhibit if the four-story rain forest. You enter on the ground level and walk up a winding, circular ramp that takes you past a variety of different rain forest habitats. Once you’ve reached the top, you’re not done. You next take an elevator to the basement level, where you can look up through the pond that’s the focus on the ground floor part of the exhibit. If you look carefully here, you’ll see folks who appear to be underwater—they’re getting an underside view of the whole thing, which puts them wonderfully close to the fish.
Looking down into the rainforest
I particularly liked the arapaima—huge, primitive-looking creatures.

One of the other pleasures of the rain forest was the multitude of butterflies. 
Butterfly in the rainforest
Butterfly in the rainforest
Signs at exits from the exhibit remind you to carefully look for butterflies that may have landed on you during your visit.

The aquarium offered delights as well. This vivid and odd-looking creature, who we named “Spot”— 
We shall call him Spot

Fish that look like grass—
In the aquarium

And a fish whose fins were obviously made on a day when Mother Nature was knitting feather and fan stitch—
Nature inspires knitting

Melissa took behind-the-scenes pictures from the Anthropology Department as well, but I’ll save those for a future entry.

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