Cal Day preview
Rarely seen collections will open their doors for April 20 event

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs



Fossil like this adult Triceratops skull will be on display at Cal Day.
Mark Goodwin photo

03 April 2002 | While some campus museums are open to the public nearly every day of the week, other Berkeley collections are typically available only to researchers and scholars.

But on Cal Day — Saturday, April 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — the curtains are pulled back on these amazing treasures for all to enjoy.

Exotic critters, such as Birds of Paradise and the shy Tuco, a mole-like creature from Argentina, will be on display at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

“We use these and other mammals, as well as lizards and reptiles, to demonstrate how the evolutionary process works,” said museum director Craig Moritz of the lectures and exhibits that will be featured on Cal Day in 3102 Valley Life Sciences Building.

“For example, we’ll bring out a unique species of mouse that can change its fur color to match the surrounding soil,” he said.

Because such specimens are rarely seen, the museum is a popular Cal Day destination. Moritz estimates that more than 2,000 visitors stopped by the Valley Life Sciences Building last year.

“It’s wonderful to show the kids and their parents things they’ve never seen or even heard about,” he said.

At the Museum of Paleontology, visitors can touch prehistoric dinosaur fossils and talk to researchers who spend their summers digging in the dry, hot desert to find precious bits of the distant past.

Kids of all ages can use the museum’s microscopes to search for vertebrate microfossils from material excavated at a site in Montana.

And tours of the world-renowned collection will be given for groups of 10 every half hour.

“This is a wonderful time for the public to get a sense of the wealth of resources housed in the museum, and to hear from the scholars involved in this fascinating research,” said Judy Scotch-moor, outreach coordinator for the museum.

Many-legged denizens of the Essig Museum of Entomology will also emerge on Cal Day, on the second floor of Wellman Hall.

Termites, giant millipedes, huge beetles and scorpions are among the creatures that will be on view.

Adventurous guests can let a live tarantula crawl across their arm or eat fried crickets, mealworms and other insect delicacies.

“They’re all very delicious and nutritious,” boasted museum director Rosemary Gillespie of the unusual taste treats students will cook up that day.

Visitors who have found mysterious bugs in their gardens or homes can bring them to the “bug doctor” for identification. Or they can find creatures right here on campus during one of the “bug hunts” scheduled to take place throughout the day.

“Insects and spiders are often underappreciated for their importance in the environment and in our lives,” Gillespie explained.

“They play critical roles in plant pollination, control of pests and cycling nutrients in the forest,” he said. “Cal Day is a great way for people to see the relevance and importance of our research.”

For information on Cal Day activities, see


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