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April showers bring … Cal Day and crowds!

On Saturday, April 16 — which turned out to be sunny and pleasant — the UC Berkeley campus once again opened its doors to the public for the Cal Day 2011 open house. The Valley Life Sciences Building houses the collections of five natural history museums and, as you might expect, is always a huge draw. Thousands of visitors enjoyed the lectures, student information sessions, poster and specimen displays, hands-on activities, and other events presented by the Departments of Integrative Biology and Molecular and Cell Biology, as well as the individual Berkeley Natural History Museums: the University and Jepson Herbaria, Essig Museum of Entomology, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and of course, UCMP.

These museums, along with the UC Botanical Garden, Integrative Biology, and UC Press, collaborated once again on the Biodiversity Roadshow. Through advertising in the local media, Cal Day visitors were encouraged to bring in found natural objects (insects, bones, fossils, feathers, leaves, flowers, shells, etc.) for identification by experts from the participating museums. But even visitors who came empty-handed had plenty to enjoy as the Roadshow's ten tables were covered with a wide assortment of live, fossilized, and preserved animals and plants.

Jenny Hofmeister lets a visitor hold a hermit crab The Biodiversity Roadshow tent Roadshow volunteers
Theresa Grieco discusses a display Frances and Irene demonstrate stomatopod feeding techniques Jean Alupay, Rosemary Romero, and Molly Wright

Top left: Jenny Hofmeister lets a visitor hold a hermit crab. Top middle: The Biodiversity Roadshow tent in the VLSB courtyard. Top right: Mark Laidre (white tee shirt), Rosemary Romero, and Theresa Grieco are flanked by undergrad volunteers Vincent (glasses) and Nicole. Bottom left: Theresa Grieco discusses a display showcasing a selection of fossils found in the Monterey and SF Bay areas. Bottom middle: Undergrad volunteers, Frances and Irene, demonstrate stomatopod feeding techniques. Bottom right: From left, Jean Alupay, Rosemary Romero, and Molly Wright enjoy a laugh with Cal Day visitors.

Naturally, UCMP sponsored a number of events of its own. Grad student Katie Brakora gave a fascinating talk on the diversity and evolution of cranial appendages (e.g., horns and antlers) of animals such as cattle, antelope, deer, and giraffes.

On the third floor, "Fun With Fossils" — also known as "fossil picking" — attracted the predictable crowds of fossil lovers, both young and old. Few can resist the opportunity to use microscopes and brushes to discover the vertebrae of Cretaceous fish and small reptiles or the teeth of early mammals … and even dinosaurs!

Fun With Fossils kids Fun With Fossils participants Kaitlin Maguire helps some young paleontologists

Kids of all ages love looking for tiny fossils in the popular "Fun With Fossils" activity. At far right, Kaitlin Maguire helps some young paleontologists.

Downstairs behind the Tyrannosaurus rex, faculty and grad students prepared a series of displays sharing a common theme of climate change through time: the effects of past climate fluctuations on mammal evolution, populations, and anatomy; how climate change may threaten gray whale habitat and food sources; what fossils and geology tell us about climate in the American southwest during the Triassic; and the "living fossil," Metasequoia, also known as the Dawn Redwood. Though it once had worldwide distribution, this redwood was thought to be extinct until a small population was discovered in China.

Susumu Tomiya makes a point about climate change Robert Stevenson and Renske Kirchholtes
Dave Lindberg and Mike Holmes Pat Holroyd with a tour group Kevin Padian and Zach Morris with Bob Full

Top left: Susumu Tomiya makes a point about climate change while Kaitlin Maguire looks on. Top right: Robert Stevenson and Renske Kirchholtes enjoy talking about Metasequoia. Bottom left: Dave Lindberg and Mike Holmes (Hlusko Lab) are ready to talk about gray whales. Bottom middle: Pat Holroyd with a tour group in the collections. Bottom right: Kevin Padian and undergrad Zach Morris are visited by Integrative Biology's Bob Full.

Judy Scotchmoor and Sue Hoey

Judy Scotchmoor and Friend of UCMP Sue Hoey proudly display UCMP's latest tee shirts.
 
Cal Day visitors ritually stop by the museum's tee shirt table to check out the latest design. This year, UCMP featured the aforementioned Metasequoia as well as a reprinting of the always popular T. rex. UCMP also continued the Cal Day tradition of providing tours through the museum's extensive research collections — 150 early arriving visitors were able to obtain free tickets for this once-a-year opportunity.

The entire UCMP community (faculty, staff, grad students, undergraduates, and Friends of UCMP volunteers) all contributed to the success of this annual event. Next year, you can expect UCMP to present another full schedule of events and displays, but a word of advice: come early if you want free tickets for a tour of the collections — chances are they'll be gone by 10:00 am!
 

Photos of Jenny, Theresa, kids with microscopes, Susumu with Kaitlin, Robert with Renske, and Dave with Mike by Jessica Jedvaj; Roadshow tent, Mark with Rosemary and Theresa, kids and adults with microscopes, Kevin with Zach, and Pat's tour by Dave Smith; Frances and Irene, Jean with Rosemary and Molly, Kaitlin with kids, and Judy and Sue by Mariska Batavia