Among all of the exciting opportunities the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History offers its volunteers, the newest is NOAA’s Phytoplankton Monitoring Network program.
If you close your eyes and listen very carefully you can imagine your very own river. It has dark, rich soil that stains your fingertips. It is filled with cold rocks dappled with sunlight. Your river has perfect sandy banks. It is shaded by the bright green leaves of cottonwood and willow, and on a very good day countless green and golden speckled, scarlet-striped fish called steelhead rush past you, upstream against the current, racing hard for the treasure of new life that is waiting there somewhere in the mountains in the place where they were born.
The Museum’s community science programs do more than provide a democratized space for participants to learn about local ecosystems and contribute to scientific understanding. These programs allow participants to see themselves in new roles and to illuminate potential paths that are available to them.
Sandy arrived as a temporary loan to coincide with the 1981 gray whale winter migration.
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History (PGMNH) was interested in updating displays. “ We had the idea of a gray whale exhibit. With me, I'm always thinking of more and bigger,” recalls Paul Finnegan, the Assistant Director at the time. Paul worked at the Smithsonian Institution in the mid-1970s where he met Larry Foster who was engrossed with thousands of photographs researching whale anatomy. Paul learned about Larry’s lifesize whale sculptures and asked Museum Director Vern Yadon about renting one. Connections were made, Sandy arrived on a truck and kids came running!
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.