Arts & Culture, Photography

NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences

If you think science is sexy, then the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco has the date night for you! Every Thursday, Cal Academy hosts NightLife from 6 – 10 pm for a 21+ crowd.

Not only are NightLife guests able to wander through the exhibits with cocktail in hand, but every week there is a different theme with special events and guests. So far I have heard Adam Savage speak, watched a movie with Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and watched Lower Dens play.

But my favorite part is how intimate each of the exhibits feels after hours.

The rainforest exhibit is a sealed off area that retains humidity and feels like a futuristic greenhouse

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Butterflies flutter freely

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Terrariums house amphibians and camouflaged reptiles

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This is not a two headed monster: just a gecko and his reflection

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Then there are the aquariums

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And the dioramas

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10 out of 10 recommend

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Travel

Death Valley Lizard Friends

If you know Philip, then you know that he wants to be friends with all the animals — especially those that are difficult to catch, like lizards. His ability to wrangle lizards has earned the praise of naturalists and frightened indoor dwellers alike.

Death Valley presented Philip with a unique opportunity to encounter new lizard species. While walking through Titus Canyon, one of Death Valley’s largest canyons, Philip befriended three lizards — and by befriended, I mean mercilessly stalked.

While a walk through Death Valley’s largest canyon is worth the trip in and of itself, Philip and I needed a little more convincing that our midday hike through Titus Canyon would yield a return on our sweat investment.

I had read on the National Park Service website that there were petroglyphs in this canyon. Meanwhile, an illustrated Chuckwalla lizard on the Death Valley map had caught Philip’s attention.

It wasn’t until we admitted that we were searching for these things aloud to each other that they manifested around the next bend. My eye caught a white etching on a nearby rock face, while Philip saw the slightest movement out of the corner of his eye.

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I have not verified the authenticity of this petroglyph, but from what I could tell, it was clearly etched into the stone. It appears to depict a bighorn sheep, which are endemic to the area, and a crescent moon.

When I turned around to show Philip, the photo below illustrates what I saw: Philip carefully crouching at the mouth of this rock, engaged in a staring contest with a lizard hiding in the furthermost corner of this boulder. It was a Chuckwalla!

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I like how Philip’s hat balances on the boulder here. For a closer look at the lizard from Philip’s point of view, here is a picture Philip posted to Instagram:

 

Later we would encounter what Philip believed to be a Desert Spiny Lizard. Here you can see Philip trying to act natural, while only succeeding in completely freaking this lizard out. This was as close as he got. I have edited the photo to make the location of this well camouflaged animal more clear.

Lizard Spotting

While Philip was engaged in lizard standoffs, I was keeping an eye out for new wildflowers:

I don’t have a positive ID for the tiny white flowers I found, but they may have been Scented Cryptantha (Cryptantha utahensis). We also saw more purple Notch-Leaf Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata) and white Desert-Star (Monoptilon bellioides). And when there weren’t flowers, there were rocks. Luckily, even rocks without petroglyphs are still interesting to me.

Thanks to me keeping an eye out for wildflowers, I was able to see a flash of bright turquoise that turned out to be a kind of Skink lizard. Philip tried over and over again to catch this little guy in his hands, but he was just too quick.

Just as I was ready to give up hope, Philip was able to secure it against a rock that he picked up. With his own little piece of the desert to cling to, this lizard let us have a closer look. You can see some yellow Golden Evening-Primrose (Camissonia brevipes) in this first shot of the lizard.

 

We deemed our short jaunt into the canyon a success. Our next adventure that day would not allow us to so passively achieve our goals.

To read more about our Death Valley adventures, stay tuned for more blog posts and read:

Dorky Hats in Death Valley

No Sleep ‘Till Death Valley

Death Valley Birthday

 

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