Blog

San Diego is one of the most fossil-rich areas in the United States. I played hooky from the office one recent morning and accompanied our Paleo crew to a job site on the I-15 to check out a treasure trove of 3-million-year-old marine fossils—including a whale skull.   Read more.


Party Like it’s 1899

Posted: November 17, 2016

What did people do before the digital age for entertainment? Well, they became citizen scientists, of course, and stared into microscopes. The microscope, which was the coolest "toy" of its time, was used to analyze an array of things, like butterfly wings, fish eyes, and even paper-thin slivers of human tissue. Read more.


Are you a high-functioning verbal young adult, 18-25 years old, who has autism and who can participate in activities without the assistance of a parent or aid? If so, we would love for you to apply to be a part of the Social Stories: SPECTRUM project.  Read more.


I'm convinced that I just landed in the best job in San Diego. That's not to say it's particularly easy or without challenges, but it feels like a little piece of heaven for a lifelong learner with a love of natural history. Over the next few months, I’ll be blogging about my experiences and observations: sharing the adventure, highlighting the fascinating aspects of life in a natural history museum, and showing how an old dog learns new tricks. Read more.


Museums provide opportunities for individuals, families, and groups to spend quality time together in an interactive environment that aims to foster a sense of community and enjoyment. However, museums can sometimes be overwhelming for individuals with autism. TheNAT recently received a grant to collaborate with high-functioning young adults with autism to co-create “social stories” for our Museum and six others in Balboa Park.  Read more.


Nothing says “mechanics” more than gears. While we see gears in many man-made machines, intermeshing rotating gears were completely unknown in nature until just three years ago when researchers at University of Cambridge looked between the legs of a little plant-hopping insect called Issus. Read more.


Maker Faire San Diego (MFSD) is back for its second year and the San Diego Natural History Museum is a proud participant. The festival takes place on October 1 and 2 and will feature an array of fascinating displays for the public to enjoy. At theNAT, we will have a wide range of makers with interactive, hands-on activities and learning opportunities for adults and children to enjoy. Read more.


Dr. Jon Rebman, Museum curator and the Mary & Dallas Clark Endowed Chair of Botany, recently spent 10 months in La Paz, Baja California Sur (BCS) as part of a work assignment. He lived and worked there from August 2015 to June 2016. While in La Paz, he increased binational collaboration with Mexican scientists and students, conducted extensive botanical research in the southern part of the Baja California peninsula, and wrote a new bilingual, plant field guide for the Cape region of BCS.  Read more.


Have you noticed something new on the Museum’s mezzanine above the third floor? This blog post describes the making of the griffin pediment that marks the entrance of Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science, our new permanent exhibition scheduled to open August 20. Dive into the details of what it took to sculpt and mount this iconic piece of the exhibition. Read more.


A Memoir from Dr. Michael Hager

Posted: June 27, 2016

With our President and CEO Dr. Michael "Mick" Hager retiring this Thursday, June 30, we wanted to share a memoir he penned that details his early years at the Museum. Mick goes into detail on how he came to know the Museum so well, the most important initiative it has embraced during his tenure, and more.  Read more.


For more than 30 years, Soames Summerhays has literally traveled from one side of the planet to the other while documenting the natural world. His newest 3D film is playing at theNAT.  Read more.


In this guest blog, Adam Rosenberg, senior at San Diego High School, details his experience in volunteering for Summer Camp at theNAT. Read more.  Read more.


Want to learn more about whales? Our limited engagement exhibition Whales: Giants of the Deep is just the tip of the iceberg. Our other exhibitions, films, and public programs help bring this subject matter to life. Read more.  Read more.


Open Doors, Open Books

Posted: April 11, 2016

This summer, the doors will open on a brand new exhibition space in the Museum, one that enables our visitors to "open the door" to our Research Library and archives for the first time. Read more.  Read more.


The San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT) today announced that Judy Gradwohl has been selected as the Museum’s new president and CEO. Gradwohl, who comes to San Diego after 30 years with the Smithsonian Institution, will assume the role on July 1, 2016 at the start of the Museum’s new fiscal year. Read more.  Read more.


The death of an animal as majestic as a whale is a sad event. However, as Museum scientists interested in documenting the natural biodiversity of our region--and in increasing our understanding of the evolutionary and ecological history of that biodiversity--we view such events as learning opportunities. Read more.  Read more.


Get the most out of your visit to theNAT with some helpful hints and great tips on family-friendly activities and programs. Read more.  Read more.


When asking the average person if they’ve ever seen a flying squirrel, there are usually two responses: "Those aren’t real!" or "Like Rocky and Bullwinkle?" Like many other nocturnal animals, flying squirrels frequently go unnoticed, and not much is known about these gliding creatures. But with the help of citizen scientists in the San Bernardino mountain area, the Museum is hoping to learn more about their distribution and habitat use. Read more. Read more.


Digital Storytelling

Posted: February 22, 2016

Part of our mission is to inspire in all a respect for nature and the environment, but that can sometimes be a tricky proposition within the four walls of our Museum. How can we deepen a visitor’s appreciation for the region within our exhibition spaces and through our online presence?  Read more.


The best paleontological discoveries are not always are made in the field. Some new fossils are found in the laboratory by our preparators. One recent find included a partial fossilized skeleton of an ancient crocodile.  Read more.


Where was the San Diego Natural History Museum in 1915 when the Panama-California Exposition opened in Balboa Park and put San Diego on the map? We were not yet located within Balboa Park. Read more about the Museum's history here.  Read more.


Drew Stokes is a veteran wildlife biologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum. In this blog post, you'll learn more about his background and what got him hooked on our winged friends, bats. Read more. Read more.


Top 3 Myths about Bats

Posted: October 26, 2015

With Halloween quickly approaching, we thought it suitable to dispel some common myths about our winged friends, bats. Take a look at some facts and fiction shared by Drew Stokes (a.k.a. The Batman), wildlife biologist with the Department of Birds and Mammals at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Read more.  Read more.


Dig Deeper with Wifarer at theNAT

Posted: October 20, 2015

Have you ever found yourself enjoying an exhibition but really in need of a bathroom? Have you ever wanted to see what happens behind the scenes here at theNAT? Have you ever wanted to see Ms. Frizzle outside of our Wacky Science Sunday shows? Well, we have some exciting news! We are launching a new mobile app called Wifarer at theNAT so you can do just that. Read more. Read more.


Finally, after more than 100 years of being tucked away in our Research Library for safekeeping, Albert Valentien’s elegant and imaginative watercolors of the wildflowers of California will be available to the public. Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science, a new permanent exhibition currently under construction, will showcase Valentien’s stunning works. Read more.  Read more.


The Hidden World of the Maritime Maya

Posted: September 15, 2015

The amazing part about being an archaeologist is the adventurous effort needed in order to discover the facts about an ancient civilization, especially for the legendary Maya. Unearthing venerable relics, climbing through abandoned caverns dedicated to gods, and understanding how it all came to be can be found here, do you dare venture further to learn more? Read more.


After years of research, miles of field work, and countless hours poring over herbarium specimens and scientific publications, Curator of Botany Jon Rebman, Ph.D., has discovered seven cacti that are new to science. These newly named species, just published in the scientific journal Madroño: A Western American Journal of Botany, include six chollas and one species of prickly-pear, all endemic to the Baja California region. Read more.  Read more.


Exhibits are at the heart of the museum experience for most people, but how is an exhibit made? What are necessary steps to see an exhibit come to life? And what do exhibits teams do exactly? This is exactly what a group of middle school campers learned last summer. Read more. Read more.


Volunteer Profile: Julie Blyth

Posted: May 29, 2015

Julie Blyth received one of only four Friends of Balboa Park Inspiration Awards on October 21, 2014, an honor given to volunteers who have contributed countless hours of volunteer service to the Park’s organizations. Read more about Julie's selfless contributions here.    Read more.


By now, the Museum’s Atlas programs should be familiar to you. Years ago, we published the renowned San Diego County Bird Atlas, and we continue to work toward completion of the Plant Atlas and Mammal Atlas. We are proud to announce one more addition to these highly successful citizen science research projects, the Amphibian and Reptile Atlas of Peninsular California.    Read more.


Resident bug expert and head honcho of our research department Michael Wall bugs out on baseball. In the first of a series of blog posts featuring fun science fodder and natural history musings, he wonders: why do insects hate the home team? Is it bug sabotage—or pure statistics?  Read more.


You probably know us well for our exhibitions and public programs, but did you know we have an entire department of scientists who are actively involved in involved in research projects, environmental studies, expeditions to relatively unexplored areas within our binational region, and much more? A recent expedition to the Sierra Cacachilas in Baja California Sur sums up why these research projects are so important to science and future generations. Read more.    Read more.


World-famous Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass is a tireless advocate for archaeological exploration and conservation of Egypt’s extraordinary ancient monuments, having served as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and as the first Minister of State for Antiquities. He is also the author of more than 150 scholarly articles and 40 scholarly and popular books. We chatted with Dr. Hawass about how he got into the field of archaeology, what he’s up to now, and the treasures he believes are still waiting to be discovered.     Read more.


Ever notice the spectacular tree outside the Museum’s north entrance? Of course you have! It’s the iconic Moreton Bay Fig tree, which—like most of the other large trees in the Prado area of Balboa Park—was planted in preparation for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Since it was a few years old when it was planted in 1914, its age should probably be computed from about 1910, making this majestic tree more than 100 years old today. While many people would like to attribute its planting to Kate Sessions, San Diego's pioneer horticulturist and street tree planter, there is no documentation to verify this claim.   Read more.


Gray whales are one of the most interesting sights to see off the coast of San Diego each winter. From mid-December to April, these whales pass by San Diego as they migrate from the Bering and Chuckchi seas in the Arctic to the warmer lagoons on the Baja peninsula where they calve and breed. They typically leave the Arctic in the late fall as it begins to freeze over.    Read more.


Start Here!

Posted: March 9, 2015

Words cannot describe the fever pitch of excitement barely contained within the walls of our Museum the past several months as we led up to opening our latest home-grown exhibition, Coast to Cactus in Southern California. If the walls could move, they would definitely have been pulsing with the high energy imbued in this new show.    Read more.


Ancient Egyptians were connected with nature in many ways. In the physical sense, the lush Nile Valley between two hostile deserts and the rhythm of the Nile with its annual flood contributed greatly to the fertility of the land. Metaphorically speaking, countless murals in royal palaces and tombs depicted landscapes, gardens, and an array of animals and plants, indicating the natural world was revered by ancient Egyptians. Read more.


In 1908, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley mounted an expedition to the San Jacinto Mountain region, pioneering the exploration of southern California’s biology. On the 100th Anniversary of this expedition, from 2008 to 2010, the San Diego Natural History Museum retraced its path to see how the area’s wildlife has changed over the last century. This blog details one of the key findings of the San Jacinto centennial resurvey, the Gray Vireo.   Read more.


San Diego’s secret summer is post-Labor Day when the San Diego Natural History Museum (theNAT) Canyoneers come out of hibernation to begin a new season of free nature walks. This season, nature enthusiasts can enjoy 73 free hikes from September 6 through June 28. Read more about the types of areas explored and what to expect on these fantastic nature walks.    Read more.


As any local can attest, fires are a part of life here in San Diego. This year, the wildfires came four months earlier than usual and scorched more than 27,000 acres of land. Learn more about the life cycle of the chaparral, a ubiquitous California plant community that covers much of San Diego’s hillsides, and how it’s affected by wildfire.   Read more.


In this blog, Erica Kelly, exhibition developer at the San Diego Natural History Museum, shares how she made her debut into the museum field and what her typical workday looks like. She also highlights her favorite aspects of being a key player of the Coast to Cactus in Southern California team. The exhibition is scheduled to open to the public on January 17, 2015.   Read more.


We asked our staff to compile a list of book recommendations for you this summer… and here they are! From biogeography and evolution to hungry little caterpillars, explore some of the most beloved nature-based books from our research and education departments.    Read more.


The pages of history of this Museum are full of colorful characters, and none more so than Charles R. Orcutt, the quintessential citizen scientist, collector, and entrepreneur. Discover more about Orcutt’s adventures, collections, and his participation in founding the San Diego Society of Natural History, the parent organization of our Museum.    Read more.


Jim Melli has been an exhibition designer at the San Diego Natural History Museum on and off since the 1970s. Learn more about his experience in the field and the contributions he is currently making to our upcoming core exhibition, Coast to Cactus in Southern California, opening January 17, 2015.    Read more.


Many do not realize that there was a direct correlation between pirates and natural history during the 17th and 18th centuries and beyond. In many respects, pirates were considered among the world’s first citizen scientists. Learn more about how pirates were some of the first to document the flora, fauna, and peoples around the globe.    Read more.


Meet one of the key members of the San Diego Natural History Museum’s exhibits team that is developing our upcoming core exhibition Coast to Cactus in Southern California, set to open in January 2015. Learn more about his contributions to the meticulous undertaking that is building an exhibition.   Read more.


It’s not every day that a new species of porpoise is introduced to the scientific world. However, that’s what recently happened when a team of paleontologists, including representatives from the San Diego Natural History Museum, discovered the fossil remains of a 3 million year old animal with a unique skull anatomy not represented in any living or fossil dolphin or porpoise.   Read more.


We all know Snoopy is a well-known California icon. But we’re most excited about the Snoopy License Plate because proceeds will support California’s museums—such as theNAT—through a new grant program.    Read more.


An Underwater Discovery

Posted: February 20, 2014

The three-masted, 300-ton galley Whydah was built as a slave ship in London in 1715, but only made one such voyage before being captured by Captain Sam Bellamy and his crew in 1717. Just two months later, the Whydah sank off the Massachusetts coast, where she lay on the sea floor until underwater explorer Barry Clifford found the remains of the ship in 1984. In a decades-long recovery operation, Clifford and his team have excavated thousands of artifacts that shed light on this tumultuous period of American and world history.   Read more.


Gray whales are getting a head start on migration. The Museum Whalers, theNAT’s volunteer naturalists, saw an unexpected number of gray whales much earlier in the season this year.    Read more.


The Buzz on Coffee

Posted: December 30, 2013

Every cup of coffee we buy and drink connects us with a web of hidden stories around the world. In this global age, an exhibition currently on view at theNAT explores the important question: What is the true story behind one of the world’s most widely traded commodities?    Read more.


Fossils Withdrawn from Auction

Posted: November 18, 2013

The San Diego Natural History Museum has made a decision to withdraw the 12 fossils listed for sale in the Bonhams public auction scheduled for November 19, 2013. The fossils in question include seven large vertebrate fossils collected and sold to the Museum by Charles Sternberg in the 1920s, and represent a fraction of the Sternberg specimens currently housed in our research collection. The remaining five auction specimens are Green River Formation fish fossils added to the Museum’s collection in the 1970s. Read more.


Fossil Deaccession

Posted: November 15, 2013

The San Diego Natural History Museum’s mission is to interpret the natural world of southern California and the peninsula of Baja California. The Museum is permanently removing 12 fossils from our collection that are unrelated to our mission. The proceeds will be used to acquire scientifically important fossils from our region as well as gems and minerals from southern California and Baja California. These will be strong additions to our collection while enhancing our mission. Read more.


With only a few days left on the binational Baja expedition, the Herpetology team is starting to tally their numbers. We have observed a total of 28 species of amphibians and reptiles. Seeing the large diversity of lizards was somewhat expected, but the abundance of snakes is a completely different matter.    Read more.


Despite tropical storm Sonia directly hitting our area, we have collected approximately 250 different plant specimens, with a focus on collecting species that have not been documented in this area.  Read more.


Bugging Out in Baja

Posted: October 30, 2013

Today the expedition’s entomology team went out to do some scouting for sampling sites in the Sierra Cacachilas. We saw two very unusual critters that are only found at the southern tip of Baja California Sur, and even then aren’t seen very often.     Read more.


Expedition: Baja

Posted: October 28, 2013

There aren’t too many unexplored places left, but there is one in our own backyard (or close to it) that almost 30 scientists and researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum and counterparts in Mexico will explore beginning this week. Read more.


Over 715 different plants in more than 350 genera in 111 families are described in the third and newest edition of Baja California Plant Field Guide. Authored by the 2011 San Diego Horticulturist of the Year, Dr. Jon P. Rebman, the book offers tribute to the late Norman C. Roberts, author of the first two editions.  Read more.


The Docent program at the San Diego Natural History has come a long way since that first meeting in February 1968. At that time guided tours in San Diego museums were unheard of, and the word "docent," meaning "teaching guide," was new to many people. The purpose of the new Docent program was to make the Museum interesting and accessible to children and their families and to teach them what a regional museum offers. Read more.