Keep your mind open while the Academy is closed with an eclectic array of science content for all ages and all places.
“Could you describe the ruckus, sir?”
The Academy may be closed—and quarantine may sometimes feel like detention—but our science never stops! At 10 am on select mornings, Academy experts bring you discoveries, insights, and stories from around the world, spanning a wide range of subjects through live, informal presentations followed by Q&As with the viewing audience. Streamed simultaneously to our YouTube and Facebook pages, these mini-classes are for everyone (because each one of us is a brain). Sincerely yours, the Academy.
New dates coming soon
Dear Breakfast Club-viewers: While the subjects our guests have discussed since series-launch are important ones, our speakers haven't adequately represented the diversity driving and critical to science today. So we're rescheduling existing Breakfast Clubs, expanding to guests outside of Academy scientists, and working on episodes that can contribute to a bigger and more accurate picture of science—now, and consistently going forward. If you have suggestions for future guests, please email them to email@example.com.
Tuesday, June 23, 10 am
Making a Movement: The Importance of LGBTQ+ Visibility in STEM
Dr. Lauren Esposito, Assistant Curator and Schlinger Chair of Arachnology
I never thought I was a queer activist, until I was. I’m a scientist, I study scorpions, and I spent years being a scorpion scientist, all the while leaving my queer identity at the door to the lab. And I wasn’t the only one—more than 40% of LGBTQ+ people working in STEM fields self-report that they're not “out” to their colleagues. That’s understandable, since even in 2020, STEM workers in more than half the states in our country can still be fired on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We'll discuss the major issues reported by LGBTQ+ STEM faculty and students, and why these issues are a problem not just for those experiencing them, but for scientific and technological advancement itself. We’ll also discuss the gains being made, and how we can all do more to stand up for science by standing up for our identities.
TBD: New date coming
2020 World Oceans Day Panel: A Breakfast Club Special
Dr. Rebecca Albright, Natasha Benjamin, Dr. Emily Darling, Dr. Luiz Rocha, Dr. David Shiffman
Join five incredible scientists—all working on the frontlines of ocean exploration and conservation—for a wide-ranging discussion about the issues, research, and discoveries impacting marine science today. From coral reefs to sharks to the deep waters off the California Coast, celebrate World Oceans Day by joining us live for a series of 10-minute “mini-talks” from our experts, followed by all the questions our viewing audience can ask. Find all the details on our 2020 World Oceans Day webpage.
TBD: New date coming soon
Returning to the Reef: A Virtual Fieldtrip to the Southern Caribbean
Dr. Pim Bongaerts, Assistant Curator and McCosker Chair of Aquatic Biology
Need a tropical escape from lockdown conditions? Just before our March 12 closure, curator Pim Bongaerts returned from his annual fieldwork in Curaçao, a small island off the coast of Venezuela in the Southern Caribbean. There, his team embarked on an ambitious project: imaging and sequencing large sections of coral reef—from close to the surface, down to mesophotic depths. Following thousands of individual corals, the team is hoping to provide important novel insights into the functioning and vulnerability of coral reef ecosystems. Follow along on this visual journey as Pim reflects on his most recent expedition, and takes you through the challenges and excitement of conducting science underwater!
Past Breakfast Clubs
Find links for all of our past Breakfast Clubs episodes below (listed oldest to newest), or see the full YouTube playlist by clicking here.
Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Ferns
Dr. Nathalie Nagalingum, Associate Curator and McAllister Chair of Botany
Ever wonder how to become invisible? If you found a fern seed, you could! In this talk, Dr. Nathalie Nagalingum takes viewers on a search for fern seed: Be transported back in time to the Victorian age, when fern fever gripped the world; join expeditions to deserts, jungles, and mountains around the world to collect ferns; and learn about Dr. Nagalingum’s latest research discoveries. From the science to the folklore of these ancient plants, bring your curiosity—and your questions.
When the Lights Go Out: Arachnid Sex
Dr. Lauren Esposito, Associate Curator and Schlinger Chair of Arachnology
Arachnids are an enigmatic group: Though recognized and feared by all, there are many aspects of their basic biology that remain a mystery. Found worldwide—from the highest mountains to caves 600 meters below sea level—arachnids exhibit complex courtship rituals and bizarre reproductive strategies. They produce materials stronger than steel, and some species may even hold the key to curing some forms of cancer. Nonetheless, there are still dozens of new species discovered each year and the natural history of these secretive animals is still in many ways unknown to us. We’ll enter the fascinating world of arachnids, the discoveries that have been made, and some of the mysteries that remain to be explored.
Love nature or photography? Interested in contributing to scientific research and conservation (and warding off boredom while at home)? This talk will focus on how you can do it all, for science! The Academy’s iNaturalist is a free platform—both a website and an app—that allows users to make photo-observations of plants and animals in nature, share what they’ve found, get identification help from the community, and contribute to a global dataset of biodiversity information used for both science and conservation. Making observations is as simple as exploring, being curious, and taking photos of plants and animals (or evidence of the latter, such as tracks, nests, shells, or skulls), and bonus: The upcoming international City Nature Challenge—which this talk will also introduce—is a great time to join in!
Understanding the Coral Reef Crisis
Dr. Luiz Rocha, Associate Curator and Follett Chair of Ichthyology
It's no secret that corals and the systems they build are declining worldwide. These beautiful and highly diverse ecosystems exist in a delicate balance between thousands of species, from tiny algae to giant fishes. Lose one link in the chain and you can throw the entire system out of balance. And this is what is happening today, as many human activities are negatively affecting coral reefs more than ever before. But is there hope for reefs? Dr. Luiz Rocha thinks so, and he’ll explain why in this talk that will take viewers on a tour of the most spectacular reefs in the world, shallow and deep.
Nudibranchs Part 1: They’ll Steal Your Heart (and Their Prey’s Defenses)
Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Co-Director, Citizen Science
Nudibranchs are having a social-media moment, but how much do you really know about them (besides that they’re cute and colorful, obviously)? Nudibranchs are a type of sea slug—closely related to land snails and slugs—found in almost every marine habitat in the world. They don’t have a shell except in their larval form, and they have really cool egg masses. Nudibranchs are perhaps most famous for the ways in which they repurpose the defenses of their prey and use them to protect themselves from their own predators! Join Dr. Rebecca Johnson to learn more about these amazing slugs.
Nudibranchs Part 2: Meet Our (and Maybe Your) Neighborhood Nudibranchs!
Alison Young, Co-Director, Citizen Science
Now that you’ve learned Nudibranch 101 basics in Dr. Johnson’s April 8 talk, head (virtually) into California’s rocky intertidal with Alison Young to experience a place packed with amazingly rich diversity, where careful exploration will reveal an incredible number of species. In fact, there are more than 100 nudibranch species known from California, and on a good day, 30 species of sea slugs can be found during one walk through the tidepools here in the Bay Area. First we'll journey into the tidepools and discuss some best practices for finding sea slugs, then we’ll explore the common and not-so-common nudibranch neighbors you can find along our local Bay Area coastline.
Life & Times of a Parasitologist: The Perils of Passion When You Tangle With a (Corona)Viral World
Dr. Shannon Bennett, Chief of Science, Hind Dean of Science & Research Collections, Associate Curator of Microbiology
Take a walk on the wild side with Dr. Shannon Bennett and marvel at a microbial world that can be perilously dark. Having emerged from a personal journey as the host of multiple parasites, Shannon will share insights into where many pathogens come from, why and how they can spill over into humans, and what we can do about it, even as we face down one of our newest challenges as a society: wrestling with COVID-19. Join Dr. Bennett to learn how you, too, can be a potential—but more responsible—host.
Universe Update: From Our Dome to Your Home
Ryan Wyatt, Senior Director, Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization
Usually offered only under the dome of Morrison Planetarium, this special online-edition of our “Universe Update” program takes Breakfast Club viewers on a tour of the Universe—with a sprinkling of the hottest news stories from astronomy today! Ryan Wyatt, Senior Director of Morrison Planetarium, pilots you through the stars and beyond the galaxies, explaining the latest space headlines in easily-digestible terms, and returning you safely to Earth in less than half an hour.
Hope for Reefs: Creative Solutions for Addressing the Coral Reef Crisis—From Restoration to Cryopreservation
Dr. Rebecca Albright, Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Zoology
While they cover less than 1% of the ocean floor, coral reefs support approximately one-quarter of marine biodiversity, the livelihoods of tens of millions of people worldwide, ecosystem services valued at ~$400 billion per year, and more. Already under severe pressure from a number of stressors, these ecosystems are also among the most vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification. We’ve lost an estimated 50% of the world's coral reefs over the last several decades, and are projected to lose more than 90% by 2050. However, challenge often breeds innovation, and there are novel and exciting ideas emerging to address the coral reef crisis. In this talk, Dr. Albright—who helped to create one of the world’s only coral culturing labs at the Academy—will give an overview of the challenges reefs are currently facing, and some of the inspiring solutions being explored. She’ll highlight the strengths and limitations of current approaches, and discuss next steps toward saving these valuable ecosystems.
City Nature Challenge 2020: Bring Nature to You & Connect With People Around the World—Even if You’re Sheltering in Place
Dr. Rebecca Johnson & Alison Young, Co-Directors, Citizen Science
Happy 50th birthday, Earth Day! Celebrate by joining us for a kick-off celebration that will make you—yes, you—part of a powerful community of naturalists who document urban biodiversity around the globe. (PS: It’s fun!) City Nature Challenge is the largest citizen-science event in the world; this year, it runs April 24–27 and you don’t need any special knowledge to make observations that help to map nature in your city, and that give scientists critical data for helping to protect it. Tune in for easy lessons in how to use our iNaturalist app to join this year’s City Nature Challenge, stories of amazing backyard discoveries, and highlights of some of the incredible animals, plants, and insects spotted around the world!
Herpetology 101: The Spectacular Diversity of Amphibians and Reptiles
Dr. Rayna Bell, Assistant Curator of Herpetology
What’s the difference between a frog and a toad? A turtle and a tortoise? A newt and a salamander? Dr. Rayna Bell will start with these basics and introduce you to the fascinating world of amphibians and reptiles, including some of their most extreme adaptations for survival, intriguing courtship behaviors, and more.
Happy World Penguin Day! Celebrate Live With the Academy Colony
Vikki McCloskey, Curator at Steinhart Aquarium
Join Steinhart Aquarium Curator Vikki McCloskey and our colony of nesting, splashing, waddling African Penguins for a live morning feeding, streamed right from the Academy! With Vikki as your guide, learn more about these highly social birds, how our Species Survival Plan colony helps to support and protect the long-term survival of African Penguins in the wild, and how our dedicated biologists feed, care for, and interact with the Academy’s colony every day. Plus, ask Vikki all the penguin questions you can think of!
A Photographic Voyage of Adventure and Discovery Through the World's Coral Reefs
Dr. Luiz Rocha, Associate Curator and Follett Chair of Ichthyology
Embark on this journey through the life, adventures, and misadventures of Academy ichthyology curator Luiz Rocha. Hear how Luiz became a biologist (in his mind) at age 9 and how his passion kept him going and led him to study hundreds of coral reefs throughout the world and publish 150 scientific papers, all while taking more than 50,000 underwater photos to document his favorite animals: coral reef fishes.
The Deep Forest Owls of the Pacific Northwest: A Conservation Dilemma
Dr. Jack Dumbacher
Curator of Ornithology and Mammalogy
Jack Dumbacher is curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences, where he's done work on poisonous birds in New Guinea, elephant-shrews in Namibia, and a variety of projects in California, including studying how fires impact bird communities. Today, Jack will dive a little deeper into work being done in California and elsewhere on the federally listed northern spotted owl. The northern spotted owl is a beautiful forest species that has been in decline for 30 years, in part because of another owl that has invaded from the Eastern U.S. What will it take to save the spotted owl, and should we do it? Join us to hear about the latest data on our local forest owl "celebrity," and ask questions about the tough decisions that managers may have to make in the near future.
5 to 500 Feet Below: Academy Dive Operations, from Steinhart Aquarium to the California Coast to Exploration of Earth's Mesophotic Reefs
Mauritius Bell, Diving Safety Officer
Academy Diving Safety Officer Mauritius Bell will discuss the wide range of dive operations conducted by the California Academy of Sciences, from in-house programs that support and drive Steinhart Aquarium, to our involvement with Reef Check California, to our scientific-diving expeditions around the world (many involving deep-reef rebreather teams). Learn about the divers involved, the range of specific activities they perform, the training required at each level, and the impact of this far-ranging program on education and scientific discovery.
Quarantine Life: The Species in Your House and on Your Body
Dr. Michelle Trautwein, Assistant Curator of Entomology and Schlinger Chair of Diptera
Think you're alone in lockdown? Not even close! You're actually living indoors with about 100 different animal species—including a couple of really special ones that live on your face. Tune in to learn more about the overlooked but fascinating diversity in our daily lives, and learn how you can join us on our quest to make global discoveries about the life indoors.
Edible Insects: Where Land Conservation and Protein Meet
Dr. Brian Fisher, Curator of Entomology
At the intersection of climate change, biodiversity loss, and food scarcity lies an unexpected and abundant resource: insects. Brian Fisher has spent three decades documenting biodiversity in Madagascar, a nation off East Africa that's estimated to contain 5% of the world's total plant and animal life. Across the island, harsh economic realities force local people to choose between preserving their unique ecological heritage and clearing the landscape to make way for sustenance farming. To address the twin issues of malnutrition and habitat loss, Fisher and the Academy founded a Malagasy-based organization that manufactures protein-packed cricket powder. The edible insects alleviate pressure on endangered habitat while supplementing local diets, providing a model that can be replicated in other food-stressed areas around the world. Fisher is an unparalleled storyteller with updates from the cutting edge of conservation science—and the future of food.
A Closer Look at Flowers
Dr. Nathalie Nagalingum, Associate Curator of Botany and McAllister Chair of Botany
It’s spring and the flowers are blooming—what better way to celebrate than by joining Dr. Nathalie Nagalingum for a (much) closer look at the flowers in your yard and neighborhood? Learn the botany of flowers, appreciate the incredible variation you didn’t even know existed, and PS: Dr. Nagalingum will even be incorporating some freshly picked flowers into her talk to breathe some extra beauty into your Tuesday.
Universe Update: From Our Dome to Your Home
Ryan Wyatt, Senior Director, Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization
It's back! Usually offered only under the dome of Morrison Planetarium, this monthly online-edition of our “Universe Update” program takes Breakfast Club viewers on a tour of the Universe—with a sprinkling of the hottest news stories from astronomy today. Ryan Wyatt, Senior Director of Morrison Planetarium, pilots you through the stars and beyond the galaxies, explaining the latest space headlines in easily-digestible terms, and returning you safely to Earth in less than half an hour.
Skeletons in the Closet
Lindsay Palaima, Research Collections Registrar
Research Collections Registrar Lindsay Palaima takes Breakfast Club viewers behind the scenes of what it takes to care for the scientific specimens that fill our exhibits on the public floor, and our discovery-powering research collections in the floors below. From giant elephant skulls and blue whales to tiny gems and teeth, she'll walk us through some of the projects, tasks, and tools that define her fascinating work.
The mission of the Academy's Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability is to gather new knowledge about life's diversity and the process of evolution—and to rapidly apply that understanding to our efforts to sustain life on Earth.