Why Diversity Reigns Supreme at the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day

Diversity will reign supreme at the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day on Saturday, Feb. 15, when 13 museums or collections will be open to the public. The event, set from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,  is free and family friendly.

As you meander from site to site, pay close attention to the t-shirts the scientists/volunteers are wearing; pay attention for two reasons:

  1. The t-shirt design, the work of entomologist/artist Ivana Li, shows a double-decker bus filled with organisms you'll see during the daylong science-based event. “I wanted a shirt that featured all the collections with a unifying element that felt very UC Davis,” said Li, a UC Davis biology lab manager. “I considered a cow initially, but once I sketched out the double-decker bus, it was the clear choice."

  2. In keeping with diversity, the name tags will indicate the languages or multiple languages each volunteer speaks.  In addition to English and Spanish, they may include French, German, Portuguese, Mandarin, Indonesian and Swahili.

"The double-decker bus is filled with an organism from each type of collection--super cute," commented Biodiversity Museum Day coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator of the Bohhart Museum of Entomology. "The shirts were generously donated by Ink Monkey, a local Davis printing company, making them an in-kind sponsor."

“To the shirts we are adding sticker badges that indicate if the scientist can speak languages other than English,” Yang said.  “There are many ways to make science more accessible and so these simple language badges are just another way to communicate and to celebrate the globalness of our science collections and of UC Davis.  Emma Cluff (Bohart associate) and I got the idea last year after attending a California Association of Museum conference that brought up a lot of issues about diversity ( the human kind) in museums.”

Kyria Boundy-Mills, curator of the Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Food Science and Technology, quipped that her lab "has many cultures—both yeast cultures and human cultures.” Many in her lab are multilingual. For example, Blake Li speaks Mandarin and Irna Sitepu, Indonesian.

In the Jason Bond lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, doctoral candidate Rebecca Godwin speaks  Spanish and Swahili as well as English.

The  UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, always held the Saturday of Presidents' Day weekend, is billed as a “free, educational event for the community where visitors get to meet and talk with UC Davis scientists from undergraduate students to staff to emeritus professors and see amazing objects and organisms from the world around us." The schedule is online at http://biodiversitymuseumday.ucdavis.edu/schedule.html.  Last year's event drew more than 4000 visitors.

The schedule:

The following five will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.:

Two collections will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.:

These five will be open from noon to 4 p.m.:

All 13 sites are within walking distance except for the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road and the Raptor Center on Old Davis Road.

New this year will be public talks from noon to 1 p.m. in 194 Young Hall. The slate of speakers:

  • Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, will discuss “Are Our Butterflies in Trouble?” (“Yes, they mostly are in trouble,” he says. He will discuss “How do we know and why?”)
  • Gabrielle Nevitt, professor of animal behavior (on leave), will speak on “How Do Sub-Antarctic Seabirds Find their Food in the Vast Ocean?” (“They follow their nose," she says, "and sometimes it gets them into trouble.”)
  • Melanie Truan, research ecologist, UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, will cover “Biodiversity Studies at the UC Davis Wildlife Museum.” Biodiversity studies, she says, “can tell us a lot about the world and how it is functioning. This is especially important today where the influence of Homo sapiens is having profound impacts on the planet and its inhabitants.” She will touch on some of the ways that the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology incorporates biodiversity into its research. 

Each scientist will present a 15-minute talk, with a question-and-answer session to follow.

All participating museums and collections have active education and outreach programs, Yang said, but the collections are not always accessible to the public.   Maps, signs and guides will be available at all the collections, and also online at http://biodiversitymuseumday.edu, and on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, @BioDivDay.

Capsule information on each:

Arboretum and Public Garden, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Melissa Cruz Hernandez, outreach and leadership program manager, Arboretum and Public Garden, notes that the Arboretum activities will all be at the Shields Oak Grove, alongside the School of Veterinary Medicine, Garrod Drive. This is a change from last year.  The Arboretum Ambassadors are planning fun-filled oak tree conservation activities the whole family will enjoy. “Learn about the many contributions oaks make to sustaining habitat biodiversity, what UC Davis and the Arboretum and Public Garden are doing to protect the trees, and win prizes for participating in the games at the Shields Oak Grove!”

Hernandez announced the following Arboretum activities:

  • GATEways Outreach Ecological group: Learn what it is like to live as an oak tree through a life size board game and win prizes! Explore the ecological impacts oaks have in our community and discover about how the changing climate is impacting this important species.
  • GATEways Outreach Humanities group: Did you know the US Constitution was signed in oak gall ink? Join us and try out oak gall ink for yourself, and engage in mindfulness activities.
  • Museum Education: Take a self-guide tour through our iconic oak grove and learn about the unique characteristics of 12 of our favorite trees.
  • Emily Griswold Tour: Join oak expert and Director of GATEways Horticulture, Emily Griswold, on an engaging tour of the oak grove. Uncover behind the scenes information about the grove and get your quercus questions answered.

Bohart Museum of Entomology, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
TheBohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building onCrocker Lane, is the home of a global collection of nearly 8 million insect specimens. Insect scientists will meet with the public to help them explore insects and spiders (arachnids). Highlights will include the 500,000-specimen butterfly/moth collection, curated by entomologist Jeff Smith. The Bohart maintains a live “petting zoo,” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Also, the UC Davis Library set up a Mary Foley Benson exhibit in the Academic Surge hallway. It will be up ponly for the month of February. "The library, is, of course full of special collections including very important research materials on bees and on nematodes," noted Tabatha Yang, the Bohart education and outreach coordinator.

California Raptor Center, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Visitors to the The California Raptor Center, located at 1340 Equine Lane, Davis, just off Old Davis Road,  will see a living collection of non-releasable raptors. The center's educational ambassador birds will be out "on the glove," so visitors can get a close view of the birds of prey, and talk to the volunteers. Julie Cotton, volunteer and outreach coordinator, said visitors will see "on the glove" Swainson's hawks, a white-tailed kite, barn owl, great-horned owls and a eregrine falcon. Viewable in their exhibits will be golden eagles, American kestrels, turkey vultures, prairie falcon and Western screech owls.

Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m
The Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, located in Room 1394 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane (off LaRue Road)  will feature an action packed morning with displays highlighting carnivores, bats, reptiles and fish, said director Andrew Engilis Jr.  Visitors will see specimen preparation demonstrations. Also planned is a kids' craft table.

Paleontology Collection, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Visitors at the Paleontology Collection, located in the Earth and Physical Sciences Building, 434 LaRue Road, can view fossil specimens dating from as old as 550 million years ago to more recent animal skeletons. Paleontology graduate students in invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology will answer questions and provide interesting factoids.

Phaff Yeast Culture Collection and Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Phaff Yeast Culture Collection in the Department of Food Science, and the Wine Yeast and Bacteria collection in the Department of Viticulture and Enology, are jointly hosting exhibits and tours. They are located at the Robert Mondavi Institute Teaching Winery and Brewery Building, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus. Visitors to the yeast collection exhibits can taste kombucha and Vegemite, smell lots of different species of yeast, look at yeast and bacteria cells under the microscope, learn about the history of yeast research at UC Davis, and hear about the latest discoveries coming out of the UC Davis yeast collections, says Kyria Boundy-Mills, curator of the Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Food Science and Technology.

Anthropology Museum, noon to 4 p.m.
Visitors to the Department of Anthropology Museum, located in 328 Young Hall, will see collections of archaeological, ethnographic, biological and archival materials. They will "experience our cultural diversity through art pieces from around the world, our complex evolutionary history through primate skeletons and fossil hominin casts, or how archaeologists at UC Davis work across the globe to understand past cultural diversity through the artifacts people leave behind," said Professor Christyann Darwent of the Department of Anthropology. "There will also be an opportunity for visitors to learn to make tools from obsidian stone and to throw a spear with an atlatl."

The Botanical Conservatory, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"We again expect our cacao tree to be loaded with ripe fruit for display amongst the plethora of plant we'll be displaying!" says collections manager Ernesto Sandoval. "We'll also be showcasing our very well established pond that made a splash last year and newly added small epiphyte tree along with three towering Titan Arums in leaf!  if the outdoor weather is good, Visitors will be encouraged to take a walk over to the nearby Joe and Emma Lin Biological Orchard and Gardens and bask in the biodiversity of these sizable plots of Biodiversity and the neatly pruned fruit tree orchard." The Botanical Conservatory is located on Kleiber Hall Drive.

Center for Plant Diversity Herbarium, noon to 4 p.m.
Visitors to the Center for Plant Diversity Herbarium, located in Room 1026 of the Sciences Laboratory Building, central campus (off Kleiber Hall Drive),  can tour the collection area, see plant pressing and mounting demonstrations, “pet our plant zoo” (a table showcasing the diversity of plants, including mosses, pine cones, ferns and flowering plants); look and plants under a microscope, and view oak exhibit. The children's activity? Making herbarium specimens, says curator Ellen Dean.

Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, noon to 4 p.m.
Visitors to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee demonstration garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Bee Biology Road, can learn about bees and see the plants they frequent, said manager Christine Casey. Guests will learn how to identify bees. They can also use a bee vacuum to  catch, observe and release bees. A six-foot long sculpture of a worker bee by artist Donna Billick of Davis anchors the haven.

Nematode Collection, noon to 4 p.m.
The nematode collection will open from noon to 4 p.m. in the Science Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive. It will feature both live and slide-mounted nematodes, as well as jars of larger parasites. Nematodes, also called worms, are described as “elongated cylindrical worms parasitic in animals or plants or free-living in soil or water. They exist in almost every known environment.”

Marine Invertebrate Collection, noon to 4 p.m.
The Marine Invertebrate Collection in the Science Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive, will have  touch tanks, preserved specimens, and some displays showing aspects of marine ecology and evolution. There will also be a seashell activity for kids, said Ivana Li. "In our touch tanks, we'll likely have sea stars and sea urchins. We are showing all the different geographical locations from which they were collected. This means that people can match up where specimens like our slipper lobster or salp came from. Other displays that we will have are on how to distinguish true crabs from other animals, and a display on seaweed ecology." 

The sponsors made it all possible to have this event free to the public, Yang said. Ink Monkey provided 300 t-shirts for the volunteers, and Marrone Bio Innovations and Novozymes are also major supporters. Other supporters include the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, UC Davis Library, White Labs Inc., Margaret Berendsen, Fletchers Real Estate, Peter Lash and Dan Potter.  

"Also, individuals can donate to the Biodiversity Museum Day cause by going to our link on our website," Yang said. "We set up a giving page through the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences."

Further information is available on the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day website.