How an Expedition to the Galapagos Islands Saved One of the World’s Largest Natural History Museums | Science

In the spring of 1905, eight researchers from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco set sail on a mission to complete a major comprehensive survey of the Galapagos Islands, something that no other institution had yet to accomplish. For 17 months, well-trained specialists in the fields of botany, geology, paleontology, entomology, malacology (the study of mollusks), ornithology and herpetology went on a collecting spree. They gathered multiple specimens of plants, birds, mammals, insects and reptiles. While they suspected that the collected specimens would help solidify Darwin’s theory of evolution and inform the world about Galapagos wildlife, they couldn’t have imagined that when they returned home, their city would be recovering from a catastrophic earthquake and conflagration that nearly destroyed their own institution.

“The Galapagos expedition was kind of a way to prove themselves. In the vein of, ‘We’re this scrappy little West Coast institution and we want to

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Sky islands and tropical alpine sunflowers at risk of disappearing

Sky islands and tropical alpine sunflowers at risk of disappearing
Páramo with Espeletia plants. Credit: Andrés Cortés, Santiago Madriñán and coauthors

As temperatures rise around the world, many species may escape the heat by migrating to higher elevations. But what will happen to those species that are already as high as there is to go?


A new study in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution is among the first to predict the vulnerability of ecosystems in the Andes to both climate change and human activities. The researchers focused on biodiversity hotspots, called Páramos, and the most diverse plant species of these ecosystems—-relatives of the sunflower in the genus Espeletia. The researchers’ models predict that these habitats will shrink substantially in the next 30 years without conservation efforts. Beyond this potential loss of biodiversity, this is likely to negatively impact the human populations that rely on these ecosystems as well.

“Páramos are one of the fastest evolving biodiversity hotspots on earth and

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