Nobody likes moving. The packing, taping, lifting, shipping… it can be major hassle. But nobody’s experience compares to what’s going on at the California Academy of Sciences. They’re moving to their new 400,000 square-foot building in Golden Gate Park after three years in downtown San Francisco. But they’ve got a lot more to move than most people. Try 38,000 live animals and 20 million scientific specimens.

From fossils and gemstones to bird eggs and a stuffed Kodiak bear, it takes a lot of creativity to pack their collection. Everything seems to have special requirements. Their fish collection is made up of 200,000 jars – all filled with alcohol. And since it’s a flammable liquid, they’ll need a licensed hazmat driver to take it across town.

The live animals take extra care, of course. In this story, we followed the move of three black tip reef sharks. They hadn’t been fed in a few days (so they wouldn’t make any, um, deposits in their holding tank) and they weren’t easy for the staff to catch, but they made it safely to their new exhibit. Even the largest of the three, F3 as she’s known, made it ok, despite being a little groggy at first from too much oxygen.

As curator Bart Shepherd put it, their new Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit is a giant science experiment. The water for the 200,000 gallon tank comes straight from the Pacific Ocean through a four mile pipe. But most impressively, the Academy has been growing coral just for the exhibit. Just managing the water chemistry alone has been a major project, but now several dozen colonies of coral are happily planted in their new home.

Make sure to check out the audio slide show for this story to see how the new building is shaping up. And check out a few of the posts from QUEST science blogger Cat Aboudara, who is an Academy staff member, for more details on what it takes (here, here and here).

Watch the “Moving Day” audio slide show online, as well as find additional links and resources.

Lauren Sommer is an Associate Media Producer for QUEST.

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Reporter’s Notes: Moving Day 12 June,2013Lauren Sommer

  • AaronTaylorHarvey

    Good story, but I wonder how you could get through that whole thing witout mentioning the architecht of this ultra green building? Renzo Piano managed to design many elegant solutions to these issues of sustainability and animal presentation.


  • Unfortunately we didn’t have quite enough time to fit it all in! But QUEST has done another story on the architecture of the building. You can watch it here:


Lauren Sommer

Lauren is a radio reporter covering environment, water, and energy for KQED Science. As part of her day job, she has scaled Sierra Nevada peaks, run from charging elephant seals, and desperately tried to get her sea legs - all in pursuit of good radio. Her work has appeared on Marketplace, Living on Earth, Science Friday and NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You can find her on Twitter at @lesommer.

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