Dawn of a new Cal Day
by Dave Smith
On April 18, Cal Day visitors saw something completely different in the Valley Life Sciences Building. In previous years, each academic department and museum put together its own program of Cal Day events but in 2009, departments and museums decided to do something that they'd never done before: collaborate. In fact, they collaborated on three events.
One event featured a timeline of the history of life on Earth that wrapped around the perimeter of the VLSB courtyard. Researchers, students, and volunteers from the Departments of Integrative Biology and Molecular & Cell Biology, as well as the UC Botanical Garden and UCMP, prepared posters and displays that highlighted their evolution-based research.
|Click on any photo on this page to see an enlargement. Left: Molly Wright, Maya deVries, and Joey Pakes with their display on the evolution of stomatopods (mantis shrimp). Middle: Brian Swartz discusses the evolution of early tetrapods, backed by a portion of the timeline highlighting important events in the history of life on Earth. Note the cast of Tiktaalik under the plexiglass case. Right: Theresa Grieco explains to a visitor how our evolutionary history affects us in our day-to-day lives.|
Another collaboration was an expansion of UCMP's 2008 "Fossils Roadshow," which featured a panel of paleontologists that helped identify fossils brought in by Cal Day visitors. This year's "Biodiversity Roadshow" included panels of experts from the Essig Museum of Entomology, the University and Jepson Herbaria, and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, identifying insects, plants, and anything from mammal footprints to bird songs. And once again, UCMP was there to identify fossils.
|Left: Experts from four museums helped visitors with plant, animal, and fossil identifications at the Biodiversity Roadshow. Middle: Emily Lindsey and Jann Vendetti are kept busy with a steady stream of visitors. Right: The lunch break is over and Susumu Tomiya and Lorraine Casazza are ready to start the afternoon shift.|
The third, and most complex, collaborative event was a retracing of Darwin's circumnavigation of the globe on the HMS Beagle, using actual quotes from "The Voyage of the Beagle" and specimens and photos from the BNHM (Berkeley Natural History Museums) collections. The whole display was laid out on tables under a huge canopy kindly provided by the campus's Cal Day office. Originally, the museums planned to do their own events using Darwin as a common theme, this being the bicentennial year of Darwin's birth, but suggestions made by Tim Herrlinger (Integrative Biology Instructional Support) and Jere Lipps "evolved" into this cool collaborative approach. UCMP's Cal Day coordinator Dave Smith described the idea to the UCMP community back in early February: "It has grown to become a collaboration between all the Berkeley Natural History Museums … and the Biosciences Library too … and will be located out in the courtyard. Jere's idea is still at the core of this collaborative display, but it will be augmented by the entomological, botanical, zoological, anthropological, and cultural. Visitors will get a much fuller picture of Darwin's Beagle voyage and see a sampling of the incredible collections housed in the BNHM … all in one place. … It will be tricky coordinating this event with all the museums but ultimately, I think it will be worth it." And judging from the day's crowds and positive feedback, it was.
Left: This sign provided an introduction to the Darwin display. Middle: The display begins with specimens from the Cape Verde Islands, the first port of call for the HMS Beagle. Right: In this photo, specimens contributed from four museums can be seen.
Left: Organisms and fossils like those that Darwin observed and collected in South America. Middle: Michele Weber is amused by Erin Meyer's attempt to explain corals to a young visitor. Right: After giving a morning lecture, Sarah Werning pitched in at the Darwin display.
Left: Dick Beidleman, retired zoologist and Darwin expert, enjoys sharing his knowledge with the Cal Day crowds. Middle: Dave Smith, UCMP's Cal Day coordinator, encourages visitors to read Darwin's comments about the many specimens in the display. Right: Carol Spencer, a curator of the herpetology collections in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, tells visitors about some of the creatures Darwin encountered on the Galapagos Islands.
Another Cal Day first for UCMP was the sponsoring or cosponsoring of five lectures—presented by Faculty Curators Tony Barnosky, Jere Lipps, and Kevin Padian; Assistant Director Mark Goodwin; and grad student Sarah Werning.
The only "usual" things that UCMP did on Cal Day was conduct its always-popular tours of the research collections and sell t-shirts. Regarding the latter enterprise, the T. rex design of a few years ago was reprinted by popular demand and, as a result, a new sales record was achieved.
|Left: T. rex and Pteranodon remain calm amidst the Cal Day tumult. Middle: Jere Lipps presents his morning lecture. Right: Following his own lecture, Tony Barnosky signs copies of his new book. Emily Lindsey handles sales.|
The new collaborations presented new challenges working with several units toward a common goal is certainly more difficult than one museum doing its own thing but as such collaborations become the norm, and not the exception, the process should become somewhat easier. And as Dave Smith said to a colleague after Cal Day was over, "With the resources of all the BNHM, we should be able to do some incredible things, year after year!"
Emily & Jann at the Roadshow, stomatopod evolution display, Darwin display sign, row of Darwin display tables, and Tony signing books by Jennifer Skene; Brian, Theresa, Roadshow activity, and Sarah by Mariska Batavia; Susumu & Lorraine, Michele & Erin, Dick, and T. rex & Pteranodon by Pat Holroyd; specimens from four museums, South American specimens, Dave, and Carol by Anand Varma