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.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s object with a story is a pelican. To be more precise, it’s the taxidermy mount of a California brown pelican. At what point in its life and after-life did it become an object? While touching lightly on that philosophical question, I’ve undertaken a search for the identity of this particular pelican—and through it find threads leading to the story of its species.
Have you ever wondered what inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds? The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that thousands of crazed sooty shearwaters were regurgitating anchovies, flying into buildings and dying in the streets in August 1961. This event, along with a short story written by Daphne du Maurier, inspired the thrilling movie. Scientists examined the stomach contents of sea turtles and shorebirds from samples that were saved at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and almost 80 percent of the plankton the animals were eating were diatoms that produced domoic acid. This toxin causes confusion, disorientation, scratching, and even death.
In 1602, Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino discovered and named a number of features along the California coast. He and the members of his fleet were probably the first Europeans to see these sites. They camped under a prominent oak tree near what is now Monterey's Lighthouse Avenue tunnel, adjacent to the present-day Lower Presidio Historic Park. Fast forward 167 years, to 1769, and another Spaniard, Garpar de Portola, sailed up the coast. One of his traveling companions was Father Juan Crespi, for whom Pacific Grove's Crespi Pond is named. The following year, Portola returned, this time with Father Junipero Serra. (Serra is scheduled to be canonized by Pope Francis on September 23rd, 2015.)
The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is in its 131st year. Just under one year ago, I joined our guest services team upon earning my degree in visual and public arts from California State University, Monterey Bay. From my perch at the point of welcome to the public, my inner anthropologist has been inspired through directly experiencing our museum’s role in the community.