Webcams offer live views of California Academy of Sciences’ African penguins. (Courtesy photo)

Cal Academy brings natural world inside

At-home programs include new virtual NightLife festivities

Even though it’s closed, folks can enjoy the wonders of the natural world by taking advantage of the California Academy of Sciences’ plentiful online programming — with something for everyone — by visiting or checking out the upcoming virtual NightLife event being live streamed on the Academy’s YouTube channel at 7 p.m. April 2.

This experimental online, interactive event will feature regular NightLife scientists, artists and musicians including mixologist Shane McKnight demonstrating a signature cocktail, Vicky Vásquez from Shark Week sharing shark science and DJ King Most deconstructing one of his remixes.

During sheltering-in-place, patrons at home can hang out with frolicking penguins, check out a colorful coral reef or visit the Farallon Islands wildlife refuge off the San Francisco coast, via live webcam.

Among the offerings in the extensive video library are “Butterfly Journey,” which shows how biologists are working with the Costa Rica Entomological Supply to bring pupae to the academy’s massive rainforest exhibit, and “Looking for an Ant on a Mountain with No Name,” which describes ant expert Brian Fisher’s quest to find on ant in Madagascar.

Digital games include “Cornucopia,” a fast-paced farm simulator in which players manage a plot of land and plant crops based varied factors in order to meet food orders.

In Sketchfab, viewers may observe 3-D scans of more than 700 scientific specimens, including skulls, shells, fossils and baskets.

With iNaturalist, a free, kid-friendly mobile app, youngsters can earn badges for plant and animal observations near home, including the backyard.

Virologist Shannon Bennett, the academy’s curator of microbiology and an expert in infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, answers questions from the public about coronaviruses and Covid-19 in a video talk that can be streamed on YouTube (

There’s also a transcript of the interview available at

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