A Galápagos tortoise specimen from the California Academy of Sciences In the spring of 1905, eight researchers from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco set sail on a mission to complete a major comprehensive survey of the Galápagos Islands, something that no other institution had yet to accomplish. For 17 months, well-trained specialists in the fields of botany, geology, paleontology, entomology, malacology (the study of mollusks), ornithology and herpetology went on a collecting spree. They gathered multiple specimens of plants, birds, mammals, insects and reptiles. While they suspected that the collected specimens would help solidify Darwin’s theory of evolution and inform the world about Galápagos wildlife, they couldn’t have imagined that when they returned home, their city would be recovering from a catastrophic earthquake and conflagration that nearly destroyed their own institution. “The Galápagos expedition was kind of a way to prove themselves. In the vein of, ‘We’re this scrappy little West Coast institution and we want to compete with the other globally recognized leaders in biodiversity research,” says Rayna Bell, the Academy’s assistant curator of herpetology. “To do that we’re going to do this large comprehensive survey of the Galápagos.” Last month, the Academy kicked off […]

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