Lab space in the Academy's Center for Comparative Genomics

The Academy's Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability offers a number of resources to support practicing scientists in their research efforts, as well as opportunities for students looking for mentorship and hands-on experience in scientific research. 

Resources for Practicing Scientists

Lab technician in the Academy's Center for Comparative Genomics

Center for Comparative Genomics
The Center for Comparative Genomics was established in the summer of 2008 to serve the California Academy of Sciences Research Division and its students with the resources necessary to participate in the growing field of genomics. The CCG is a three-unit facility that includes a comparative genomics laboratory, a 280-core high performance computing cluster and a CryoCollection of genetic resources. The CCG has three primary objectives: to provide our researchers with the latest tools available from the field of comparative genomics, to encourage large scale collaborative projects with researchers from other institutions, and to attract top graduate students, post-docs, and future curators. Headed by Brian Simison and managed by Anna Sellas, the CCG includes nine rooms, two capillary DNA sequencers, eight PCR machines, two ultra-cold freezers (-80ºC), six desktop computers, a supercomputer, and all equipment and instruments required for DNA sequencing, cloning and computing. Acadmey researchers are currently involved in more than 20 molecular systematics projects, including analyses of Caribbean turtles and seahorses, Chinese melastomes, nudibranchs from the “Coral Triangle,” birds of New Guinea, spiders, beetles, and barnacles from Madagascar, and many others.
More about the lab
More about CCG projects

The Project Lab
In addition to our behind-the-scenes research laboratories, the Academy offers scientists a chance to showcase their work on the public floor in The Project Lab. The Project Lab is a multi-user, state-of-art lab outfitted with equipment needed for researchers to prepare, process and catalogue specimens from any of the Academy’s collections. Unique to this lab is the opportunity it provides for Academy visitors to observe researchers as they work. Examples of current Project Lab workstations include: a bird and mammal prep table outfitted with an overhead camera which projects live footage of specimen dissections and preparatory procedures to screens viewable to the public; an Automontage and long-range microscope station where screens portray magnificent, high resolution images of insects as they are catalogued; and a DNA workbench set-up close to the public floor that enables visitors to watch as researchers carry out the steps of DNA Extraction. The lab is also equipped with a Quad-core Mac Pro computer complete with three 30” cinema displays. This powerful computer has a Windows emulator and is outfitted with software including: ArcGIS, Specify, ACDSee, Syncroscopy and various DNA sequence editing and analyses programs. Projects showcased in the Project Lab rotate to accommodate various incoming Academy projects and to keep the exhibit new and different for returning visitors.
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Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) Lab
The Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) lab consists of a LEO/Zeiss 1450 VP SEM and several pieces of ancillary equipment. The SEM is based on a tungsten thermionic electron gun and is capable of magnifications above 100,000X. Features as small as 50 nanometers can be resolved. The SEM images are in digital TIF format, with a maximum resolution of 3072x2300 pixels. Normally all specimens must be fully dried and mounted on an SEM stub and coated with a very thin layer of gold before being put in the SEM. The instrument has 3 electron detectors, a normal secondary electron (SE) detector, a variable pressure electron detector and a backscatter detector. There is also a vacuum sputter coater for coating specimens with a thin layer of gold (around 20nm thickness) and a CO² critical point drier. The lab is located in a new space designed specifically for the SEM on the lowest level of the building so as to eliminate vibrations that would otherwise ruin the imaging. The lab is supervised by Scott Serata and I am available to either run the SEM for researchers or train users so they can run by themselves.


Opportunities for Practicing Scientists

Ant with pupae

Ant Course
​Ant Course is a workshop designed primarily for systematists, ecologists, behaviorists, conservation biologists, and other biologists whose research responsibilities require a greater understanding of ant taxonomy and field research techniques. Emphasis is on the evolution, classification, and identification of ant genera. Lectures include background information on the ecology, life histories, and evolution of ants. Field trips emphasize collecting and sampling techniques, and associated lab work focuses specimen preparation, sorting, and labeling. Information on equipment, literature, and myrmecological contacts are also presented.
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Opportunities for Students

A Summer Systematics Institute intern surveys a tidepool.

Summer Systematics Institute
Gain hands-on experience while working alongside renowned scientists—and jump-start your career in natural sciences research—with an eight-week, museum-based, paid internship. SSI offers undergraduates important insights into the contributions that collections-based research can make to critical issues such as worldwide threats to biodiversity, and the origins and diversification of life.
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Biological Illustration Internship
Collaborate with Academy scientists to develop publication-ready scientific illustrations of biological specimens during an eight-week, paid summer internship. Using ink, watercolor, and/or computer-assisted design, the Biological Illustration intern will learn how to present clear, accurate visual messages about scientific subject matter.
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In the Canopy with Waterbears and Wheelchairs
​Gain valuable hands-on experience with cutting-edge ecological analysis during this 10-week summer research opportunity for eight undergraduate students—four with ambulatory disability and four without. The project’s goal is to define the taxonomy and distribution of tardigrades (water bears) in the forest canopy, and to document insect herbivory in a North American deciduous forest.
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Graduate Student Advisors

The Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability and San Francisco State University have a long standing partnership and many of the Curators at the California Academy of Sciences have graduate faculty status in the Biology Department as Research Professors.  As faculty of both the California Academy of Sciences and San Francisco State University, they may accept and direct their own graduate students.  Graduate students advised by Academy Curators/Research Professors are enrolled at SFSU in the Biology Department.  To learn more about the opportunity for applying to SFSU, under the advisory of a Curator/Research Professor from the California Academy of Sciences, please visit

Current Academy Research Professors are as follows:

Rebecca Albright, Assistant Curator, Invertebrate Zoology

Shannon Bennett, Chief of Science, Hind Dean of Science and Research Collections, Associate Curator, Microbiology

Meg Burke, Director of Science Integration and Operations

Jack DumbacherCurator, Ornithology and Mammalogy

Lauren EspositoAssistant Curator and Schlinger Chair of Arachnology

Brian FisherPatterson Scholar and Curator, Entomology

Terry GoslinerSenior Curator, Invertebrate Zoology

Rebecca Johnson, Co-Director, Citizen Science and Research Associate, Invertebrate Zoology

Durrell Kapan, Senior Research Fellow, Entomology

Rich MooiCurator, Invertebrate Zoology

Nathalie Nagalingum, Associate Curator and McAllister Chair of Botany

Luiz RochaAssociate Curator and Follett Chair of Ichthyology

Peter RoopnarineCurator, Invertebrate Zoology and Geology

Brian SimisonAssociate Curator and Director of the Center for Comparative Genomics

Michelle TrautweinAssistant Curator and Schlinger Chair of Diptera

Gary WilliamsCurator of Invertebrate Zoology


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About IBSS

The mission of the Academy's Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability (IBSS) 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.

Volunteering at the Academy

Prospective volunteers, we offer a wide range of opportunities to match nearly any interest, whether your preference is helping visitors to explore our exhibits, preparing specimens in our research collections, or caring for our aquarium tanks.