The California Academy of Sciences’ homepage

For the last forty-five minutes, I have been perusing the California Academy of Sciences website, trying to think of a topic for this blog piece. It is 10 PM on the day before my entry is due, and I am doing what I have been doing since college – procrastinating! But now the Internet makes that so much more time consuming. Going through the pages and sifting ideas to see what might work, I am drawn into how technology and the Internet are making so much available to the public, and how information interacts at so many intersections. You just need to look at the Academy’s website for examples.

There is a page on the Academy website dedicated to blogs. It follows researchers in the field, or discusses nuances of climate change; one blog category is dedicated to being a fly on the wall. One of these “fly on the wall” blog entries notes that Claude (the albino alligator) is doing well after being pulled off the floor for an injury.  Because these blogs feature a way to leave comments, we can streamline them to answer specific inquiries, and also bring light to the concerns of the public.  People can watch specific animals online through streaming video, such as the Penguin Cams.  The videos and images are not wholly staff generated either; YouTube video and flickr photo uploads are linked in, as well as social commentary from Facebook and Twitter. There is even a  survey (on the bottom right of the homepage) that lets you test your science knowledge against a recent study.  I got all six of them correct, compared to an average of 4.1 right answers, a fact I found out immediately after taking the quiz.

Last week, Google unveiled it’s new Google Ocean feature (for its Google Earth software) at a press conference in our building. A great deal of technical set-up went into the day to have the press conference virtual. A link to the story about the process of creating it is referenced on the homepage. You can also take a quiz to test your Google Earth acumen, again directly from our homepage.

None of this surfing and procrastinating led me to a finite topic, but it did give me a “huh” moment. I remember when the Internet was just disparate websites. Information that before would take me hours to find, if I could at all, I can now access from a home base on one website. Websites and information are integrated, and help form communities along with advanced interactivity. There are now Social Networking Coordinators at various institutions — including the Academy — who work to maintain and enrich this virtual and ever-growing community.

In just getting lost on the Academy site, I was emmeshed in a rich diversity of content and feedback. Evolution has put down strong roots online.

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When Tech Evolves 11 February,2009Cat



Cathleen (Cat) is the former Special Projects Manager at California Academy of Sciences and worked in the public programs division.
Before working at the Academy, Cat got her start as an intern at Lindsay Wildlife Museum for four years and worked with animals ranging from snakes and hawks to foxes and bobcats. She has a deep curiosity about the natural world and native California wildlife.

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