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NightSchool: The Invisible Forest

They live anywhere and everywhere there’s water, they're invisible to the naked eye, and they're essential to life on Earth: They're diatoms!

Sometimes called “floating solar panels” and “nature’s glass houses,” diatoms are likely the most under-appreciated (and strikingly beautiful) organisms responsible for the air we breathe. Take a tour through the Academy’s world-renowned diatom collection, get a closeup look at these microscopic jewels, and learn how researchers are studying phytoplankton in Antarctica through community science.

  • Join Chrissy Garcia, the Geology Collections Manager at the Academy, for a crash-course in diatoms: what they are, why they’re important, and how the Academy acquired a world-renowned (and most well documented) diatom collection.
  • The cell walls of diatoms are made of transparent silica (i.e. glass), which means they don’t decompose and instead leave a jewel of a fossil record, which artists have been using as a medium since the 19th century. Take a journey through the incredible beauty of the Academy’s collection with Steve Mandel, research associate at UC Santa Cruz and award-winning photographer.
  • Yes, diatoms can even live in polar waters. Join Allison Cusick, biological oceanographer, and Martina Mascioni, phytoplankton ecologist, on a virtual trip to Antarctica, where they’re harnessing the power of community science to investigate how melting glaciers are affecting the phytoplankton along the Antarctic Peninsula.

Thursday, 10/06/22


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California Academy of Sciences

, CA