Monarch overwintering season has officially begun, and most of the monarch butterflies in the country have found their way to overwintering sites up and down the California coast, or high in the mountains of Michoacán State in Mexico. At least that is what we should be seeing.
In the interest of full disclosure I should admit that this subject is quite close to my heart. I grew up in the Anza Borrego Desert and spent a healthy portion of my early life scouring dunes for arrowheads and potsherds at the intersection of the Desert Cahuilla territory in the north, the Kumeyaay/Tipai land in the south and the ancient shore of lake Cahuilla to the east. I was mesmerized by the evidence that this place, which seemed so inhospitable and sparsely populated in my own time, was once positively buzzing with human activity. So, if I wax too romantic I hope you will forgive me.
It is quite unusual to have a big museum in a small town, but this is what makes The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History a rarity among American museums. The collections total around 30,000 items, but the Museum’s space and funding are limited, so only a small fraction of these can be displayed at any one time.
Largest and western-most of the Puebloan reservations, the Hopi Nation is an island of land in northeastern Arizona surrounded by the sprawling Navajo Nation and centered on the three mesas that comprise the traditional home of the Hopi people. The modern Hopi are most likely descended from the ancient Sinagua people, who made this area their home well into pre-historic times, and ancestral Puebloan populations who migrated there during the decline of their classical period.
Have you been out spotting gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) as they head north? You don't have to step far from the Museum to see our celebrity gray whale, affectionately known as Sandy. At January’s Science Saturday, migration was the theme, and true to tradition, Sandy was honored as adoring fans climbed on her and we sang Happy 35th, but what is the story behind her arrival? This seemed like a good time to share a little history of Sandy before Pacific Grove. First, I gathered some information. Then I contacted the artist Larry Foster and enjoyed informative and entertaining conversations with him and his wife, Mary, who are now retired in Fort Bragg.
This third entry is the first in the series to focus on pottery in the modern era, beginning around the mid-to-late 19th century. This may seem to be quite a chronological leap forward, considering the pottery we have discussed thus far came from around the time of Spanish contact or just after, but there is a very simple reason for this: the mission system.
As the first installment of this series focused exclusively on the most famous variety of ancient pottery from the Southwest, I think it is only fair that I round out the picture with a sampling of the other important contemporary styles to be found in our collection. While certainly not comprehensive, the following pieces provide an excellent sampling of the pottery traditions of the ancient Southwest.
As many of you may already know, our museum has an extensive and diverse collection - far beyond what we have on exhibit at any given time. Given this, the purpose of these Treasures from the Basement articles is to show off some of the incredible objects that we have not had the opportunity to exhibit. In addition, we hope it will draw attention to our ongoing effort to make information on, and images of the entire collection, available on our public online database.
The approach of the holidays always feels like an impending hurricane, but here in the education department I feel like the pace of life slows down, just a little. As school children begin to go on breaks our field trips and programming become more sporadic and the department is able to take a breath and spend some time taking care of the small things that accumulate during the rush of the school year.
Who’s ready for our Junior Naturalist Adventure? This exciting new activity will launch at the Museum on Saturday, August 27th, during Science Saturday. As Education Programs Manager, I am always looking for ways to increase the interactivity of our exhibits and create fun, hands-on experiences for our guests. When we think of natural history museums, ‘interactive’ and ‘hands-on’ are not always the first words that come to mind. So, how can we fix that?
I work as the Education Assistant for the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. What does that mean? Well, I get to work on some amazing projects that take me both outside and indoors. I started working for the Museum in September of 2015 to work on the Eco Ambassadors: Fifth Grade Pollinator Gardens project. With Todd Weston, the Museum’s Education Specialist, we taught over 700 5th Graders from 11 elementary schools in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD) about native plants, pollinators, and about the need to create native habitats for them. Part of this program was for students to build native plant gardens on their campus; and it was enjoyable to watch them take ownership of it.
In January 2016 I started to help Todd with our Watershed Explores program in partnership with the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District (MPRPD). We visited K-5 classrooms from Marina to Carmel and taught about watersheds and how our local watershed provides water to the Monterey Peninsula. After our classroom visits, the class took a field trip to Garland Ranch Regional Park. We hiked around the valley floor and down to the river. During the trip, we looked for different examples of life and thought about how organisms interacted with the watershed. At the river, students caught and observed macroinvertebrates, such as Mayflies and Damselflies. The students loved using a sampling net to catch the animals and they got ecstatic if one of them caught a trout fry or tadpole.
During breaks from our programs with MPUSD and MPRPD I have been fortunate enough to work with school groups in the Museum and was able to share a piece of everything we have to offer. I did talks about monarchs, birds and about predators and preys. I also led the school groups on scavenger hunts through the Museum.
This spring I have been busy planning and producing the activities for the Museum’s Summer Camp. We will have eight, one-week long camps with different topics each week. The camps range in age from 4 to 12-years-old and range in topics from Art and Nature to Physics and Chemistry. This year we also have a week dedicated solely to girls and science! It should be a fun summer.
I have enjoyed working with the Museum so far and I am excited to see where the future here takes me.
Our staff took a few moments to reflect on their favorite exhibit items and here's what they had to say:
- Beverly Bruno - My favorite exhibit at the Museum is the Native Plant Garden, specifically our huge buckeye tree. It is a wonderful space for events and I love utilizing it when I can.
- Emily Gottlieb - I love the new geology cases. The models of the radiolarians are my favorite things in the museum right now. Rads are so tiny, but they can tell us so much information about the Earth's past, plus they’re beautiful!
- Annie Holdren - My favorites are the glass models of butterfly life cycle stages - eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises - displayed in the Monarch Gallery. In fact, I like them so much I'm planning a blog about them.
- Jeanette Kihs - I love our refurbished insect and butterflies display and how close visitors can get to the specimens. Where else can you do that? The display was refreshed almost entirely by a volunteer, and when I pass it by, I'm reminded of the dedication of our volunteer corps. We have awesome volunteers.
- Stacey Limone - I call my favorite Museum exhibit “The Bobcat, Fox & Bunny Exhibit” - because they seem to be arranged with personality as a group of friends, similar to how I would set up my collection of stuffed animals across my bed when I was a kid. At the same time, they seem in their own worlds. The bunny is washing its face, the bobcat is chasing a butterfly, etc. Also, every time I close the Museum and shut off the lights, they are the last creatures I see when I walk down the stairs. This reminds me of “The Waltons” TV show. At the end of every episode the siblings called good night to each other in the dark. I sometimes say, "Good night Mary Ellen, Good night Jim-Bob!" It makes me happy.
- Martin Morones - My favorite exhibit is of the bobcats batting down the moth. Even though they are wild, they have similar characteristics of our domesticated cats at home.
- Deanna Sinsel - My favorite is the sand vial case. I love the idea that someone took the time to collect the sand, store them, and catalog them. I love the penmanship on the vials. It’s becoming a lost art.
- Paul Van de Carr - My favorite exhibit item would have to be "Leucothea," the jade sculpture by Don Wobber. It's incredibly beautiful, and I love how visitors are drawn to it and can't resist touching it.
- Mary Martha Waltz - I love the exhibit case with the bobcat, foxes, and rabbits. I see at least one of them each day while walking in Carmel Valley. I never get that close to them, so I love seeing their coloring, shape, and markings in the Museum.
- Ann Wasser - The bird collection. People are blown away that there are that many birds in Monterey County.
- Todd Weston - My favorite display right now is the gynandromorphic (half male and half female) monarch butterfly. I think it's a great example of how amazing and interesting nature can be.
- Patrick Whitehurst - As a fan of old mad scientist movies from the 1940s and 1950s, the whale eyeball in the jar of denatured alcohol is one of my favorite items. It’s a little creepy, but fascinating at the same time.
Walk the trails of Del Monte Forest this summer, and you may find a wild orchid in bloom under the Monterey pines. The one you’re most likely to see is Yadon’s rein-orchid (Piperia yadonii). It’s named after Vern Yadon, a botanist, Director Emeritus of the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, and also member of the Forest Open Space Advisory Committee.
In October, shells of every shape and color, size and distinction, hailing from all over the world, arrived at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. The collection, part of a large donation from Richard Anderson, constitute years of diligent work on the part of the Anderson family. The collection (called The Fern Georgia Anderson Shell Collection) is so large, in fact, that it took a moving truck to get them all to the Museum.
Eco Ambassadors: Fifth Grade Pollinator Gardens project is a school-based service and learning project aimed at teaching 800 fifth grade students, from all eleven schools in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD), in school yard science and art activities over the course of the 2015-2016 school year.
I am the LiMPETS intern based at The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. For those of you that don’t know, LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students) is a unique program that combines citizen science and environmental education for students and community members in California’s National Marine Sanctuaries. In 2011, the Museum began coordinating LiMPETS for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.