Make Everyday Earth Day
Plan a trip to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park
The San Francisco Bay Area has had above average rainfall this past winter and the living roof glistens as we look over Golden Gate Park. There are four honeybee colonies in residence and the local birds flit about in the warm sunlight. Photovoltaic cells line the roof edges and capture 250,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy each year. The roof retains 98% of the rainwater that falls on it—approximately 3.6 million gallons per year. The 360º view of San Francisco is spectacular and the roof has seven “hills” just like the city. The two largest globes are the tops of the indoor rainforest and planetarium—an architectural masterpiece.
The special exhibit, Extreme Mammals, that runs through the summer, explores the biggest, smallest and most amazing of prehistoric extinct species and some still with us today— although, unless we’re environmentally careful— maybe not be with us for long. Curious fingers can touch the fur of a skunk and fossil dinosaur armor. There are hands-on exhibits and computer interactives developed in conjunction with the Museum of Natural History in New York.
Leaving the giant sloth we stroll along indoor estuaries, salt marshes and tide pools before entering the domed rain forest environment. The temperature and humidity hit us as we pass into the sealed system. Butterflies and birds flutter and dart through the treetops, landing here and there among the tropical flora.
We view bats, rat snakes, vipers and horned frogs from Borneo. We move on to Madagascar with its six foot deep Leafcutter Ant hill. Exotic reptile displays of Sambaya Tomato Frogs, Freshwater Fish, Tree Boas, several Gecko varieties and a Panther Chameleon rounds out the display.
In the canopy at the top of this world Saffron Finch’s glide past as we look for Green Basilisks, Giant Cockroaches and Poison Dart Frogs hidden in their enclosures. Then when we think we’ve seen the best of this world, an elevator takes us down to the flooded Amazon forest. We look above to see the bellies of the fish we spied from above and gaze in awe at the Giant Anaconda. The Piranha look scary and we are glad to be on the safe side of the glass.
The Steinhardt Aquarium, completely re-done, is now state of the art, closely resembling the Monterey Bay version with its kelp forest. Tropical coral reefs house the more exotic species. In the darkened regions we see Nautilus and then re-emerge to learn about seahorses.
We break for lunch; feasting on local organic cuisine, then take in the show at the Morrison Planetarium. Last stop the African Hall, with our old friends, newly cleaned and refurbished in their painted habitats. We give a wave to the South African penguins, shop in the gift store and head home after a perfect Earth Day.