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April showers bring … Cal Day and crowds!
On Saturday, April 16 which turned out to be sunny and pleasant the UC Berkeley campus once again opened its doors to the public for the Cal Day 2011 open house. The Valley Life Sciences Building houses the collections of five natural history museums and, as you might expect, is always a huge draw. Thousands of visitors enjoyed the lectures, student information sessions, poster and specimen displays, hands-on activities, and other events presented by the Departments of Integrative Biology and Molecular and Cell Biology, as well as the individual Berkeley Natural History Museums: the University and Jepson Herbaria, Essig Museum of Entomology, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and of course, UCMP.
These museums, along with the UC Botanical Garden, Integrative Biology, and UC Press, collaborated once again on the Biodiversity Roadshow. Through advertising in the local media, Cal Day visitors were encouraged to bring in found natural objects (insects, bones, fossils, feathers, leaves, flowers, shells, etc.) for identification by experts from the participating museums. But even visitors who came empty-handed had plenty to enjoy as the Roadshow's ten tables were covered with a wide assortment of live, fossilized, and preserved animals and plants.
Naturally, UCMP sponsored a number of events of its own. Grad student Katie Brakora gave a fascinating talk on the diversity and evolution of cranial appendages (e.g., horns and antlers) of animals such as cattle, antelope, deer, and giraffes.
On the third floor, "Fun With Fossils" also known as "fossil picking" attracted the predictable crowds of fossil lovers, both young and old. Few can resist the opportunity to use microscopes and brushes to discover the vertebrae of Cretaceous fish and small reptiles or the teeth of early mammals … and even dinosaurs!
Downstairs behind the Tyrannosaurus rex, faculty and grad students prepared a series of displays sharing a common theme of climate change through time: the effects of past climate fluctuations on mammal evolution, populations, and anatomy; how climate change may threaten gray whale habitat and food sources; what fossils and geology tell us about climate in the American southwest during the Triassic; and the "living fossil," Metasequoia, also known as the Dawn Redwood. Though it once had worldwide distribution, this redwood was thought to be extinct until a small population was discovered in China.
The entire UCMP community (faculty, staff, grad students, undergraduates, and Friends of UCMP volunteers) all contributed to the success of this annual event. Next year, you can expect UCMP to present another full schedule of events and displays, but a word of advice: come early if you want free tickets for a tour of the collections chances are they'll be gone by 10:00 am!
Photos of Jenny, Theresa, kids with microscopes, Susumu with Kaitlin, Robert with Renske, and Dave with Mike by Jessica Jedvaj; Roadshow tent, Mark with Rosemary and Theresa, kids and adults with microscopes, Kevin with Zach, and Pat's tour by Dave Smith; Frances and Irene, Jean with Rosemary and Molly, Kaitlin with kids, and Judy and Sue by Mariska Batavia
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