The Cal Academy's 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition

Credit: Cal Academy

The schooner Academy that crossed the seas to the Galapagos is a strong icon at the California Academy of Sciences. Its story embodies the mission of the museum to explore, explain and protect the natural world.

The schooner Academy set out for the Galapagos in 1905 and sailed home to find the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and the collapse of all the collections in the museum on Market Street except those Alice Eastwood heroically managed to save. The specimens bundled in the hold of the Schooner Academy became the center and rebirth of the Academy museum and its collections. The Galapagos collection is one of the best and most complete in the world, so it is no wonder that expeditions are a fond and respected part of Academy history.

Once again the Academy is making history with another expedition. On April 26th, Academy researchers and educators started the trek to the Philippines to get the Philippine Biodiversity Expedition underway. Funded by the Hearst family, it is the largest expedition in the Academy’s history. Thirty scientists are investigating shallow-water reefs, the deep sea, and terrestrial and freshwater areas for undiscovered life. Within the first two weeks of this six-week expedition 28 new species have already been discovered!


What is hoped to be gained from this expedition other than finding new species? Just like it is important to know the health of a bay before an oil spill, it is important to document biodiversity and get baseline data to determine health and next steps. Using environmental and genetic diversity data along with specimens, scientists will be able to give reliable data to plan future conservation decisions in this region. Part of the collections will color the Academy Aquarium as well. Biologists have been given permits to selectively collect in order to further sustainable aquarium husbandry and captive breeding programs at the Academy. Results will also be shared with the Filipino public and here in the Bay Area through education, outreach, a symposium highlighting the entire exhibit and various public programs.

Public programs are not being put off until the end of the expedition – a live webcast from the field where Academy scientists will share their discoveries and explorations will be broadcasted in the planetarium at NightLife on Thursday, May 19th. Footage has also already come back from the field and been edited into a wonderful video. The video, more information about the expedition and updated blogs can be found in the Expedition 2011 section of the Academy website.

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