University of California Museum of Paleontology UCMP in the field See the world (and its fossils) with UCMP's field notes.
About UCMP People Blog Online Exhibits Public programs Education Collections Research

Archive for the ‘UCMP events’ Category.

A Successful Short Course

Pachycephalosaur Illustration

Pachycephalosaur illustration by Mark Simmons from the UCMP Short Course 2017

On March 4th the popular UCMP annual short course featured dinosaurs this year: "A new look at old bones: Insights into dinosaur growth, development and diversity." The short course is an ideal way to connect public audiences, particularly teachers and science educators, with current research in paleontology and Earth history. Past short courses have had regional environmental themes (SF Bay ecosystems) or focused on patterns of evolution and extinction.

After Lisa White kicked off the course with a welcome to the more than 150 attendees, UCMP’s very own Mark Goodwin took the stage to introduce the topic and the speakers who were invited from major institutions across the country and Canada.

Nathan Smith from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County began with a focus on dinosaurs in the Late Triassic and discussed multiple drivers that may have driven dinosaur diversity, including climatic changes in the early Mesozoic.

David Evans from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada presented his current research on late Cretaceous dinosaurs bonebeds in Alberta, Canada, and the existence of preservational biases and taphonomic factors that affect estimates of dinosaur diversity.

Holly Woodward from Oklahoma State University highlighted paleohistological techniques to infer growth rates of Maiasaura, the "Good Mother" dinosaurs named by Jack Horner, Maiasaura was the first dinosaur to show evidence of parental care of the nestings.

Dana Rashid, a developmental biologist from Montana State University uses genetics and embryological studies to further explore the connection between birds and dinosaurs.

Finally Mark Goodwin concluded the short course with new research on pachycephalosaurs and how they grew their unique cranial "dome" structure on top of their skulls. Mark revealed that the dome preserves an internal network of high vascular tissue, while the exterior displays horns, bumps and knobs that functioned in visual communication, signal changing sociobiological status, and allowed juveniles to recognize juveniles and adults to recognize other adults.

Photo of speakers David Evans, Nathan Smith, Holly Woodward, Lisa White, Dana Rashid and Mark Goodwin.

David Evans, Nathan Smith, Holly Woodward, Lisa White, Dana Rashid and Mark Goodwin.

All the while a talented artist was also in the audience. Illustrator Mark Simmons sketched a colorfully illustrated storyboard, containing his notes from each short course presenter. Note the incredible attention to detail, not only to the topics at hand, but the likenesses of the speakers as well. Mark's website is and his twitter handle @toysdream. Thanks Mark!

Short Course Illustration by Mark Simmons

Page 1 from Mark Simmons Sketchbook featuring speakers from the UCMP Short Course

Illustration from UCMP Short Course by Mark Simmons

Page 2

Illustrations by Mark Simmons

Page 3

Illustrations by Mark Simmons

Page 4

Cal Day 2016

Cal Day 2016 Title

Visiting Egyptian scholar Marwa W. Ibraheem sharing some info about fossil insects with visitors. Photo credit Lucy Chang. Museum scientist Diane Erwin and undergraduate Hiep Nguyen pose for the camera. Photo credit Jun Ying Lim. Bottom right graduate student Sara ElShafie answers questions at the “Ask a Climate Change Scientist” booth in the couryard. Photo Credit Helina Chin.


The 2016 Cal Day, held on April 16, 2016, was my first time experiencing Cal Day and I was also the one planning it. Cue scary music! Thanks to the UCMP community for pitching in their time and efforts, it went off without a hitch and was fun experience all around.

As a newer member of the UCMP community, I only knew about CalDay through photos and the well-documented newsletter postings by my predecessor Dave Smith. Annually on Calday, the campus opens up to the public and shares all the research and project activities being done by each department. The UCMP offered up many activities for UC Berkeley alumni, students and the Bay Area community gathered to enjoy a fun day of exploration and learning at the campus open house.

The science on display in the Valley Life Sciences Building is one of the biggest draws to visitors on campus. The unifying theme among the Berkeley Natural History Museums this year was “Our Changing Planet,” a theme that touches upon the concept of global climate change. Many wonder what studying fossils tells us about global climate change. Common questions include can unearthed fossils from rocks beneath our feet really tell us anything about why rain and snow is still showing up in present day April? The answer is yes! And was the focal point of many of the activities and presentations put on by UCMP staff and students - how fossils and deep time inform the future.

At the UCMP on Cal Day, we offer a limited number of exclusive tours of our collections to visitors who arrive early enough to get the coveted tour tickets. Because of the nature of collections, only small groups can be taken through the stacks. The tours were lead by the museum scientists, and they discussed everything from giant ammonites to 3-D printed models of fossil skulls.

Tour through UCMP

At left: UCMP Assistant Director Mark Goodwin leads a group through tours of the museum. Photo credit Jun Ying Lim. Top right: Museum scientist Erica Clites talks about a fossil ammonite. Photo credit Renske Kirscholtes. Bottom right: a young visitor is enamored by baby triceratops skull. Photo credit Renske Kircholtes.

In front of T. rex and friends, UCMP debuted new shirt designs for the year with T. rex rocking sunglasses as well as Bothriocidaris eichwaldi, an echinoid beautifully illustrated by May Blos, a staff illustrator of UCMP between 1965 - 1973. Also available were tote bags featuring images of the Pleistocene McKittrick Fossil Collection! New this year was the debuted selfie booth. Please check out our t-shirt page to get yours! ( We also had visiting Children’s Book Author Illustrator Hannah Bonner come and sign copies of her book “When Fish got Feet, When Bugs got Big and When Dinos Dawned” after her talk.

UCMP Shirts and Selfie booth

At left, visiting Children’s book Author-Illustrator Hannah Bonner adds some prehistoric life to the chalkboard. Photo credit Helina Chin. At right. Renske Kircholtes modeling the new T. rex shirt design. Photo credit Renske Kircholtes. Assistant Director Lisa White and her young friend pose with dinos at the Selfie Booth. Photo credit Lisa White.

Fun with Fossils was held on the 3rd floor of Valley Life Sciences and still sparks the magic of discovery with children (and their parents too!). While digging through small sections of matrix, they encountered shark teeth and tiny bones or larger animals. The icing on the cake is a receipt of their very own Junior Paleontologist certificate!

Fun with Fossils at UCMP

At left, Fun with Fossils activity is enjoyed by the whole family. At right, graduate student Lucy Chang sharing the story of the scale fish with young visitors. Photo credit Jun Ying Lim.

In the VLSB Courtyard, UCMP shared an array of fossils illustrating evidence of changes in taxa over time. The fossils on display include species living at a time when changing climate events lead to an extended ice age and eventually extinction. Also on display were marine fossil invertebrates that matched with the live marine invertebrates on display with the live kelp forest display put on by Integrative Biology. Fossils we featured included giant barnacles, brittle sea stars, sea urchins and corals. On the megafauna side, we had a casts of proboscideans, ancestors to our modern day elephants. In addition, we had the top half of a mastodon skull as well as a cast of a baby mammoth, with UCMP grad students discussing how studying their teeth tell us about the what food was available at the time.

UCMP in the courtyard

Top left: Ashley Poust and Natalia Villavicencio pose with mammoth fossils. Photo credit Jun Ying Lim Right: Daniel LaTorre discusses a giant fossil barnacle. Photo credit Helina Chin. Bottom left: Camila Souto engaging with visitors about fossils in climate change. Photo credit Renske Kircholtes.


UCMP Cal Day speakers

UCMP Director Charles Marshalls speaking about effects of global climate change on California fauna and flora

Past the courtyard, we had a variety of speakers from the UCMP and IB communities who shared their how their research relates to global climate change in the lecture halls. UCMP museum scientist Pat Holroyd and UCMP Director Charles Marshalls presented as well as visiting professor Julia Sigwart.

Fishbowl activity at UCMP

Graduate student Eric Holt, undergraduate Armita Manazadefah and Post Doctorial Candidate Brian Rankin engaging visitors in the story of McKittrick Fossils. Photo credit Lucy Chang. At right, a young visitor takes a look at tiny marine invertebrate fossils presented by the Finnegan Lab. Photo credit Jun Ying Lim.

Finally in our “Fishbowl” meeting room, UCMP staff and students shared fossils from the ongoing McKittrick restoration project, the digitizing fossilized insects from the Stewart Valley and research regarding the mass extinction of plants at the end of the Permian done by the Looy Lab; all that speak to “Our Changing Planet."

Cal Day at UCMP would not have been possible without the help of the UCMP community! Thank you!

Fishbowl activity

Activity in the Fishbowl at UCMP on CalDay 2016. Photo/gif credit Renske Kircholtes.


UCMP science casual: Dinosaur NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences

Imagine over 3,000 adults in San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences (Cal Academy) for a night of fun special exhibits, drinks, and a serious science social. Now imagine it every Thursday. On July 23rd a dinosaur-themed Cal Academy NightLife event called upon volunteers from UCMP to showcase and explain the mysteries of these monsters beside their contemporary chews.

The NightLife also featured a tour of Cal Academy’s library archives about the historic “Bone Wars” between Victorian paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope and a showing of the 1993 classic Jurassic Park in the Tusher African Hall. Indeed, there was something uncannily familiar about watching the Dilophosaurus scene from Jurassic Park amongst stuffed African lions and cheetahs, who had also certainly taken their fair share of prey during life.

The event runs every Thursday from 6-10pm and requires a 21+ photo ID for entry. Stay tuned for the next time UCMP crosses the bay for another paleo-themed NightLife gathering!

UCMP participates in the Bay Area Science Festival for fourth straight year

On November 1, UCMP participated in Discovery Days at AT&T Park, the closing event of the annual Bay Area Science Festival. The museum has been a Science@Cal exhibitor at the Festival for four years running. This year, over 30,000 people enjoyed 200 free activities and exhibits at the Festival, a “science extravaganza.” The Festival is meant to entertain and inspire; it’s where visitors can unleash their inner scientist.

BASF 2014 photo

Museum Scientist Erica Clites and undergraduate volunteer Dianne Quiroz (pictured) staffed the UCMP table during Discovery Days at AT&T Park. Photo by Erica Clites.

UCMP expands its Homecoming Weekend program

In previous years, UCMP’s involvement with UC Berkeley’s Homecoming Weekend was limited to a single tour of the collections (normally closed to the public), but this year, the museum decided to expand on that and offer something a little different for its Friends and donors.

On Friday, October 10, Assistant Director for Collections and Research Mark Goodwin started things off with his annual tour of the collections, but that was followed by an afternoon lecture by UCMP Curator and Integrative Biology Professor Tony Barnosky on “Dodging Extinction,” based on his new book of the same name. Barnosky’s book addresses the looming Sixth Mass Extinction and what we can do to prevent it.

The big weekend event was an invitation-only “Night at the Museum” for Friends and donors organized by Assistant Director for Education and Outreach Lisa White. Guests enjoyed food, wine, and cocktails (with such names as “Mammoth Mojito” and “The Trilobite”) while listening to introductory comments by UCMP Director Charles Marshall, Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming, and Dean of the College of Letters & Science G. Steven Martin in the Valley Life Sciences Building’s Wallace Atrium.

The guests were split into smaller groups and led into the museum’s collections where a number of stations were set up, each highlighting the research of select UCMP students, staff, and Curators. The plan was for each group to spend about eight minutes at each station before moving on to the next, but they became so absorbed with the presentations that they were reluctant to leave; therefore, the time spent at each station was extended to about 15 minutes. Because of this, the event, which should have ended shortly after 8:00, ran closer to 9:30 pm. But as far as we could tell, our guests thoroughly enjoyed themselves and UCMP intends to sponsor more special events during future Homecoming Weekends at Cal.

A few photos from the evening’s special event, all taken by Lucy Chang, follow.


UCMP Director Charles Marshall (beneath the T. rex’s ribcage) addresses the gathered guests and members of the UCMP community.


Grad student Jeff Benca explains how he’s looking at modern plants and pollen to answer questions about the end-Permian extinction, the largest mass extinction in the Earth’s history.


Assistant Director for Collections and Research Mark Goodwin discusses bone structure and growth in the horns and skull of Triceratops.


Recent graduate Sarah Tulga describes her work with fossil vertebrates that lived alongside the earliest dinosaurs in the Triassic period.


Grad student Sara ElShafie is interested in documenting changes in the growth rates of both extinct and living herpetofaunas (reptiles & amphibians) in response to climate change.


Grad student Lindsey Dougherty explains her work with Ctenoides ales, the so-called “disco clam.” See the blog post about Lindsey and the clam’s flashing behavior.

Diane and Zixiang

On the left, Senior Museum Scientist Diane Erwin talks about a UCMP collection of fossil insects. At right, first-year grad student Zixiang Zhang discusses the differences between the skulls of saber-toothed cats and modern lions.

UCMP hosts phylogenies and fossils workshop

On September 23-25, 2013, the UCMP hosted a workshop on Integrating Molecular Phylogenies and the Fossil Record supported by the France-Berkeley Fund. Led by UCMP Director Charles Marshall and Hélène Morlon from École Polytechnique in France, the workshop brought together leading researchers who are developing methods for inferring diversity dynamics using molecular phylogenies or fossil data. The gathering of approximately 25 people included UC Berkeley faculty and UCMP graduate students and provided an opportunity to integrate both sources of information in a common framework.

An evening with Neil Shubin

UCMP has partnered with the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco's Arts & Ideas series to present a lecture by Neil Shubin on Wednesday, January 16.

Paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin is famed for discovering the fossilized Tiktaalik roseae, the missing link between ancient sea creatures and land dwellers. His bestselling book, Your Inner Fish, shows parallels between human anatomy and the structures of the fish that first wriggled landward 375 million years ago. In his new book, The Universe Within, he goes one step further, explaining how the universe’s 14-billion-year history is reflected in our bodies, right down to our molecules. Neil Shubin is a professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago and a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. Academy Fellows are a distinguished group of eminent scientists recognized for notable contributions to one or more of the natural sciences.

Get more event/ticket information.

A special night at UCMP

Cal Day is the one day of the year when lucky members of the public can tour UCMP's collection. But this year, on the night before Cal Day, UCMP hosted a special event to take some of our closest friends behind the scenes.

Excitement is in the air. Also, a T. rex tail!


This invitation-only event included sneak previews of Cal Day exhibits, tours of the collection, the paleo art of William Gordan Huff, and fossils recovered during the construction of the Caldecott Tunnel's fourth bore.

UCMP-affiliated faculty curators, scientists, students, and educators were on hand to present a night that our guests won't soon forget. After some mingling and introductory remarks from Director Charles Marshall our visitors were whisked into the collection to enjoy a glimpse of the exciting work happening at UCMP.


Charles in action.


Ken Finger serves up some local fossils, fresh from the Caldecott Tunnel site.


Renske Kirchholtes and Robert Stevenson explain the story of Metasequioa to our guests.


Theresa Grieco showed off monkey fossils and talked about her upcoming trip to Olduvai Gorge (photo by Silvia Spiva).


Pat Holroyd revealed some of the hidden treasures of UCMP being uncovered thanks to our latest archiving grant.


Dave Lindberg neatly demonstrated how our vast collection provides an essential historic baseline for the natural history of California.


Anna Thanukos took visitors beyond the collection through the museum's many education and outreach projects.


Ash Poust dazzled onlookers with phytosaurs, pareiasaurs, and other impressive fossils from our broad collection.


Brian Swartz led the group from the sea to dry land with close-up looks at some of our fishy ancestors.


Diane Erwin pieced together a climate change puzzle using UCMP's California plant fossils.


This exciting, unique UCMP experience produced many smiles and set the tone for the Cal Day to come.

For more photos from the evening see this album on Facebook.

Find out how to become a Friend of UCMP.

Paleo-cartoonist Hannah Bonner visits Berkeley

Writer and illustrator Hannah Bonner paid a visit to Berkeley on January 11 to discuss the scientific and creative processes behind her series of paleontology books for children.

Born in and based out of Mallorca, Spain, Bonner received a degree in art and has since worked primarily as a freelance artist and illustrator. Her credits include creating artwork for Scholastic, WGBH, and the Smithsonian Institute. At the latter she met her UCMP host, Cindy Looy, who, along with Ivo Duijnstee, subsequently served as advisers for Bonner's reconstructions illustrating the biotic recovery following end-Permian extinction.

Bonner's interest in combining paleontology and art began when a friend asked her to draw a reconstruction of a fossil dwarfed goat from Mediterranean islands. She then partnered with National Geographic Children's Books to create a series of books focused on making the lesser known facets of ancient life -- giant insects, coal swamps, the transition to land of both plants and animals, and more -- accessible to children and adults alike.

Bonner's colorfully illustrated and intricately detailed books depict characters in all forms of terrestrial and marine life, spanning five geologic periods, including two mass extinctions. Her latest book, "When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got Munched, and Pterosaurs Took Flight," to be released April 2012, tells the history of life starting with the recovery from the end-Permian mass extinction and concludes with the end-Triassic mass extinction.

Bonner's talk featured personal anecdotes from the creative and editing work that went into the final product, the struggles involved with accurately communicating the science and depicting paleoenvironments, and behind-the-scenes looks into the illustration process. Primarily an illustrator, Bonner comments that making the leap to writing for her books was easy with this subject matter because, as she states, "the plot is already written in stone."

To find out more about her books, click here.

Scans of artwork provided by Hannah Bonner.

UCMP at the Bay Area Science Festival

UCMP joined the other Berkeley Natural History Museums, the Space Science Lab, Departments of Physics and Chemistry, SynBERG, nanotechnology experts, and a host of other science units as part of the campus-wide participation in the first annual Bay Area Science Festival – a 10 day celebration of science extending from San Jose to Santa Rosa!

Dave Lindberg gave a great talk on The History of Kelp Forests: Global and Local Surprises at the November East Bay Science Café and Rosemary Romero and Jenna Judge intrigued the huge crowds at the "fossil booth" at the culminating festival event at AT&T Park last Sunday! At last, it was revealed who lived there before the San Francisco Giants!

Under the umbrella of Science@Cal these were just two of numerous activities to engage the public of all ages and to share the value of science research at Cal. Read more on the Science@Cal site.

Science@Cal efforts were also a little outside of the box including science at local farmers' markets and in local art studios – see Art in Science.

And for more on the festival, visit Bay Area Science!