Big Bang Gala speakers

Top row (from left): Hilda C. Heine, Ed.D.; Rayna Bell, PhD; Lauren Esposito, PhD. Bottom row (from left): Marie Christina Kolo; Selina N. Leem; Madame Gandhi.


SAN FRANCISCO, CA (March 20, 2023) — The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park will host Big Bang | Islands 2030 on Thursday, April 27. This year’s fundraising gala will spotlight the Academy’s Islands 2030 initiative, which leverages community-based conservation strategies to slow and reverse biodiversity loss across five key tropical archipelagos—the Galápagos, Lesser Antilles, Madagascar, Philippines, and Gulf of Guinea islands—by 2030.

The Academy is honored to welcome environmental advocate and keynote speaker Hilda C. Heine, Ed.D., former President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Dr. Heine is the first Marshallese woman to hold this office and currently serves as an advisor to Women United Together Marshall Islands, a non-governmental organization she co-founded. In her keynote address, Staring Down the Rising Seas, Dr. Heine will share how her advocacy efforts have helped mitigate the causes of global warming and lessen the impacts of sea level rise on livelihoods of vulnerable island communities.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception featuring live music by the Sutro String Quartet. Guests will explore Islands 2030 strategies and impact with initiative co-leads Lauren Esposito, Ph.D., Curator and Schlinger Chair of Arachnology and Rayna Bell, Ph.D., Curator of Herpetology. “Islands are the vanguards for what life on Earth will face next. They harbor the greatest concentration of biodiversity on our planet and are one of our best chances to learn how interventions can stop—or even reverse—the biodiversity crisis,” said Dr. Lauren Esposito, Islands 2030 initiative co-director.

Gala guests will be welcomed to a seated dinner in the museum’s Piazza, featuring a locally sourced, sustainable menu by McCalls. Scott D. Sampson, Ph.D., Executive Director and William R. and Gretchen B. Kimball Chair, will take the audience on a journey through the institution’s impactful, global work to regenerate the natural world.

Following dinner, guests will be transported to the five tropical archipelagos through immersive experiences at Party After Dark—which returns for the first time since the pandemic. Guests will enjoy tasty bites, craft cocktails, and high-energy live music performed by Thievery Corporation's Rob Garza and Madame Gandhi. Party After Dark speakers—Selina N. Leem and Marie Christina Kolo—representing their island nations of the Marshall Islands and Madagascar, respectively, will share their experiences at the forefront of climate change and social justice.

Big Bang is a fundraising event to support the Academy’s mission to regenerate the natural world through biodiversity science, nature-based learning, and collaborative engagement. Tickets can be purchased online or over the phone at (415) 379-5411.

Event Co-Chairs Kevin and Julia Hartz and Corporate Chair Janet Lamkin, United Airlines, invite guests to attend in festive attire. Big Bang is generously supported by Autodesk, Big Bang Presenting Sponsor, and Carmel Partners, Party After Dark Presenting Sponsor.

About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution with a mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in biodiversity science, environmental learning, and collaborative engagement—all under one living roof. Museum hours are 9:30 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday, and 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Sunday. Admission includes all exhibits, programs, and shows. For daily ticket prices, please visit or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.

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