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What's Happening at The Nat September through December 2018

August 29, 2018

Hidden Gems makes its debut, a sparkly new edition of the Secret Society of Adultologists, Backyard Wilderness 3D now showing in the SUBARU 3D Experience, a new season of Canyoneer nature hikes kicks off, and the Nat Talks season continues

Get to know The Nat’s sparkly side in an all-new exhibition experience titled Hidden Gems. Opening to the public on November 10, 2018, the “deconstructed” exhibition will display more than 100 stunning objects from the Museum’s mineralogy collection, many of which have never before been on public display. Unlike traditional exhibitions that are housed within a defined gallery space, Hidden Gems is a vertical exploration of The Nat’s collection. Several cases of gems and minerals will be displayed on each level of the Museum. They will be located right outside the elevators so each time visitors reach a new level they’ll experience something new. This unique, vertically aligned exhibition experience is included with admission and free for members. Learn more.

Friday, November 16, 7–10 PM
Join us for the shiniest, sparkliest, and showiest Secret Society of Adultologists yet. Thematically programmed to help celebrate the grand opening of our newest exhibition, Hidden Gems, this 21-and-up event will feature iridescent specimens, opulent foods, and effervescent cocktails. It’s all about the bling, so guests are encouraged to dress to impress. Additional details will be available on our website soon.

Learn about the unexpected wonders of nature that are right under our noses—in our own backyards. Spanning a seasonal year around a suburban home, Backyard Wilderness displays a stunning array of unique wildlife images and behavior. Viewers follow Katie, a young girl, and her family who are absorbed by an array of electronic devices and, at first, oblivious to the natural world just outside their home. Katie gradually discovers the intricate secrets that nature has hidden so close to her front door. Watch trailer.

Beginning Sunday, September 9, San Diegans can experience local hiking trails like never before when the new Canyoneer hiking season kicks off. More than 75 free hikes will be offered from September 2018 through June 2019. Hikes are offered on weekends—with a few midday hikes being offered on select dates—and cover diverse terrain, ranging from the coast to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and from the Tijuana Estuary to Palomar Mountain. To view a list of these free hikes on our interactive map or to learn more about the history of this longtime public program, visit our website.

In addition to the public hikes offered weekly, San Diego students will be able to get outside the classroom and onto the hiking trails as well, through Canyoneer-led hikes offered to local schools at no cost. It’s an opportunity for students to learn about habitats and ecosystems in their own backyards. The guided nature hikes are available for school-aged children in grades 2-12, and are one of the many environmental education programs offered by The Nat. The Canyoneers and the student hiking programs are made possible with support from Subaru of America.

Nat Talks feature Museum scientists and experts from around the country. These thought-provoking and engaging talks focus on the latest in scientific research, conservation, biodiversity, and the natural world at large. Nat Talks take place in the SUBARU 3D Experience in the Charmaine and Maurice Kaplan Theater and are made possible with generous support from media partner KPBS

Ecosystems and Us: Surprising Connections
September 11, 7 PM
Individual habitats, natural populations, and even people are “connected.” What affects one may have profound and often unexpected implications in others. Drew Talley, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental and ocean sciences at the University of San Diego, has been studying these connections in habitats ranging from salt marshes to desert islands and will defend these assertions at this Nat Talk.

The New Chimpanzee
October 2, 7 PM
Craig Stanford, Ph.D. of the University of Southern California will describe new discoveries about chimpanzees and offer new insights and interpretations of what researchers have learned. He will discuss his 20 plus years of research in the lives of wild chimpanzees. He will also draw from results of the seven longest term field studies from which we’ve learned the most about the species. There is one central theme in The New Chimpanzee: that new discoveries about the behavior of wild chimpanzees have re-shaped our view of these apes, and therefore of human nature. Book signing to follow talk.

The San Andreas Fault: So Near and So Silent
November 13, 7:30 PM
What is the San Andreas Fault, why is it here, and what can it do to us when it moves? In honor of the grand opening of Hidden Gems, Isabelle SacramentoGrilo, lecturer in the department of geosciences at San Diego State University, will discuss tectonics of the western United States and associated hazards. She will also suggest ways to mitigate the geologic dangers we face in California.

Tickets for all Nat Talks can be purchased online, by phone at 877.946.7797, or in person at the Museum’s admissions desk. Doors open at 5:30 PM giving guests the opportunity to come enjoy a bite or a beverage in The Flying Squirrel Café before the talk begins. Each lecture begins at 7 PM with the exception of the November Nat Talk which will begin at 7:30 PM.


Family Days
Join us for monthly Family Days at The Nat, September through May, as we celebrate the natural world and our Museum. Each month has been uniquely themed to allow us to explore nature’s wonders, participate in hands-on activities, and create crafts to take home. Family Days run from 11 AM to 3 PM and are included with paid general admission and free for members. Not a member? Join today.

Upcoming dates and themes:

  • September 3 (Labor Day): Buggin’ Out Family Day
  • October 27: Halloween Family Day
  • November 18: Rocking Out! Family Day
  • December 2: Winter Wonders Family Day

ASD Mornings
ASD Mornings serves the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community by opening the Museum one hour early (at 9 AM) for adults and children on the autism spectrum and their families, friends, and caregivers. This innovative program encourages individuals to explore, play, and discover the treasures The Nat has to offer in an environment that is comfortable for them. General admission rates apply.

Every second Sunday:

  • September 9
  • October 14
    • Special National Foundation for Autism Research (NFAR) event, register online here
  • November 11
  • December 9

Nature & Me Storytime
Calling all budding naturalists! Come enjoy an imaginative journey into nature through dynamic readings and visits to exhibitions. Nature & Me Storytime, now being offered in our permanent exhibition Extraordinary Ideas, is held every second Thursday at 10:15 AM. Open to all ages with a parent or guardian, but recommended for ages 1-5. Free with paid admission and always free for Museum members.

Upcoming dates and themes:

  • September 13: Butterflies
  • October 11: Bats
  • November 8: Rock On
  • December 13: Winter Animals

Click here or call 877.946.7797 Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM for more information on The Nat’s family programs.

The Backyard
Adventures begin in The Backyard, a brand-new exhibition at The Nat that allows little learners to expand their horizons and learn and explore the natural world through play. This new space provides children 0-5 years old with a safe, dedicated place to play while parents and caregivers sit, relax, and observe. The Backyard is included with admission and free for members. Learn more.

Unshelved: Cool Stuff from Storage
The Museum has many fascinating specimens in storage that have never been on display—until now. Unshelved: Cool Stuff from Storage offers visitors a rare “backstage” glimpse of the Museum’s storage areas. Specimens arranged on shelves and in cases offer the opportunity to revel in the natural world in all its beauty and strangeness. Learn more.

Baja’s Wild Side
Baja’s Wild Side features the breathtaking photography of shark expert and Scripps marine biologist Dr. Dan Cartamil as he explores Baja California’s Pacific coast region. This exhibition chronicles a fragile paradise of remote and hauntingly beautiful landscapes, wildlife, and ancient rock art—on the verge of being taken over by modern civilization. Dr. Daniel Cartamil is a shark expert based at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. With more than 20 years of experience as a marine biologist, Cartamil is also an adventure photographer, environmental consultant, and avid conservationist. Learn more.

The Cerutti Mastodon Discovery
An Ice Age paleontological-turned-archaeological site in San Diego excavated by Museum staff preserves 130,000-year-old mastodon bones, molars, and tusks that show evidence of modification by early humans. Analysis of these finds dramatically revises the timeline for when humans first reached the Americas, according to a paper published in the April 27, 2017 issue of the prestigious science journal Nature. This display is located between Fossil Mysteries and Coast to Cactus in Southern California on Level 2. Learn more.

Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science
Located in the new Eleanor and Jerome Navarra Special Collections Gallery, Extraordinary Ideas from Ordinary People: A History of Citizen Science features approximately 70 rare books, works of art, and photographs from the Research Library’s 56,000-volume collection that demonstrate how everyone can participate in science. New objects on display include seven never-before-displayed rare books, objects, specimens, and video to expand upon our theme of the significance of citizen science in natural history. Some of the new features include Kate Sessions’ own herbarium from her 14th birthday, images of the largest salamander in the world that can reach five feet long, and a rotating display of beautiful historical maps of San Diego and other areas. Learn more.

Coast to Cactus in Southern California
San Diego is known for its incredibly diverse terrain, ranging from the beaches and chaparral near the coast, to the mountains and the desert farther afield. This terrain is what makes the region one of only 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world, areas that have the highest concentration of different species of any geographic area of similar size. Coast to Cactus in Southern California illustrates that richness by taking visitors on a journey through these habitats and the plants and animals that live in them. Learn more.

Fossil Mysteries
From dinosaurs to mammoths, discover the rich fossil history of southern California and the peninsula of Baja California. Visitors can play the role of paleontologist: ponder a mystery, examine the strong fossil evidence from the Museum’s collection, and use scientific tools to discover answers. Traveling through a 75-million-year timeline, from the age of dinosaurs to the Ice Ages, experience an unfolding of the prehistory of southern California and the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico. Learn more.

This exhibition contains nearly 200 skulls from the Museum’s research collection of animals from all over the world, from the tiny to the spectacular. Mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians are all on display, showcasing an eye-popping array of horns, beaks, bills, teeth, and more. Learn more.

Water: A California Story
Learn about current, local issues on land and in the ocean. Examine the infrastructure of the regional water system, and discover how we import the majority of the water we use in this region and the costs associated with this practice. Water: A California Story also looks at effects of a changing climate on the region’s water supply and reveals how southern Californians can help protect water for future generations. Learn more.

All ongoing exhibitions are included with paid admission and free for members. Click here for more information on current exhibitions.

Ocean Oasis 2D—Ongoing
Produced by the San Diego Natural History Museum, Summerhays Films, and PRONATURA A.C., Ocean Oasis takes viewers on a fascinating journey into two remarkably different but inextricably linked worlds—Mexico’s beautiful Sea of Cortés and the Baja California desert. Witness the beauty of life in Baja California’s rich waters and seemingly barren land. Ocean Oasis is the winner of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and the International Wildscreen Film Festival. Watch trailer.

Oceans: Our Blue Planet 3D—Through December 8, 2018
Oceans: Our Blue Planet by BBC Earth takes us on a global odyssey to discover the largest and least explored habitat on earth. New ocean science and technology has allowed us to go further into the unknown than we ever thought possible. From the coastal shallows to deeper, more mysterious worlds, we reveal the untold stories of the oceans’ most astonishing creatures. Watch trailer.

Films in the SUBARU 3D Experience in the Charmaine and Maurice Kaplan Theater are free with paid general admission (except on Residents’ Free Tuesdays), Balboa Park Explorer Passes, Go San Diego Cards, and for Museum members. Film schedule and trailers online here.

The Flying Squirrel Café, located in the Atrium on Level 1, provides visitors with a unique and fresh dining experience. We serve brewed-to-order espresso drinks and California casual fare including salads, sandwiches, wraps, and more. The café is open daily from 10 AM to 4 PM with the entrance on the north side of the building by the giant fig tree.


Gray Whale Watching Begins December 8, 2018
Every year from December through April, gray whales pass through San Diego’s coastal waters on their way to and from their breeding grounds. Gray whales spend the summer months in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and then leave for the breeding lagoons along western Baja California and off southern Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico. The gray whale makes the longest migration of any mammal on earth traveling 10,000—12,000 miles each year. Learn more.


The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) is one of California’s oldest and most respected cultural and science institutions. Founded in 1874 by a small group of citizen scientists, the Museum’s mission is to interpret the natural world through research, education, and exhibits; to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of Southern California and the peninsula of Baja California, Mexico; and to inspire in all a respect for nature and the environment. The Museum is located at 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 in Balboa Park and is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. For more information, call 877.946.7797 or visit To stay up to date on Museum news, follow The Nat on Instagram and Twitter and join the discussion on Facebook.

April Green
Public Relations and Social Media Manager
619.255.0189 |

Rebecca Handelsman
Senior Director of Communications
619.255.0262 |

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