Advisory Capacity

True to the cross-disciplinary design of the department, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability faculty from various scientific fields have acted as consultants to exhibits in museums locally, nationally, and internationally.

This summer the general public will flock to museums as a recreational activity. Visitors will become students and take in groundbreaking scientific inquiry—courtesy of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability expertise that helped construct the displays they'll examine.

This is a case of the curricula reaching far beyond the extent of the campus. Here are some of the exhibitions the Institute’s academic leaders have channeled their erudition into creating.

arctic fox

"Arctic & Antarctic: Our Polar Regions in Peril" at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California

The Aquarium’s newest exhibit just opened on May 28, 2011. It transports visitors to the icy edges of the Earth—the North and South Poles. "Arctic & Antarctic: Our Polar Regions in Peril" highlights the animals, plants, and people of these regions and allows visitors to learn how climate change puts these fragile ecosystems at risk.

IoES Director Glen MacDonald and Rich Ambrose, Department of Environmental Health Sciences and IoES professor, served as consultants for the project.

Professor Ambrose elaborated on the role he and Director MacDonald played, “We participated with a small group of experts to help develop the "Poles in Peril" exhibit which will be seen by more than three million people over the next two years. The group of experts focused on the effects of climate change on polar regions, helping to identify the key stories that everyone in the public should know about the causes and implications of climate change impacts on polar ecosystems.” He continued, “After the exhibit concepts were developed, I provided additional feedback on the exhibit elements to help the Aquarium get the most important messages across accurately and effectively.”

ecosystems exhibit

"Ecosystems" at the California Science Center, Los Angeles, California

At "Ecosystems," which opened in 2010, visitors explore the varied ecosystems of land and sea, and discover how the physical and living worlds are connected and shaped by the same fundamental ecological principles. The gallery is divided into eight Zones—each illustrating a different ecological principle:  Extreme Zone, Forest Zone, River Zone, Island Zone, Rot Room, Global Zone, L.A. Zone, and the Family Discovery Room.

Director MacDonald, a biological geographer, consulted on the Extreme Zone. The exhibit includes his research on the widening boreal forest—the tree line that circles the top of the planet—and how it’s darkening the Earth’s surface, accelerating Arctic warming.

Keith Stolzenbach, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and IoES professor, also contributed to the exhibit. He stated, “I was on a small committee formed by Dr. Charles Kopczak, who was at the time (2002) the Curator of Ecology Programs of the California Science Center.  We met to advise him on the design of the "World of Ecology" exhibit, which was in the planning stage at the time.  Since that time he has consulted with me briefly on other water issues that relate to the Center's exhibits and education programs.”

"Science Storms" at the Museum of Science + Industry, Chicago, Illinois

"Science Storms" reveals the science behind seven natural phenomena—lightning, fire, tornados, avalanches, tsunamis, sunlight, and atoms in motion. It investigates the basic scientific principles behind nature's power. The exhibit features more than 50 amazing experiments that take up two floors and 26,000 square feet.

Hilary Godwin, associate dean of academic programming with the School of Public Health and Department of Environmental Health Sciences and IoES professor, served as a science advisor on the scientific advisory board for the this brand new, permanent exhibit. 

A member of the California NanoSystems Institute, Professor Godwin also has an active collaboration with the California Science Center, where the Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology helps with hands-on demonstrations related to Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology.

"Age of Mammals" at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Exhibit Lead Curator Dr. John Harris described this display: “It's the first permanent museum exhibit to trace mammal evolution — from the extinction of large dinosaurs to the rise of humans — within the context of epochal changes in the Earth’s geology and climate.” Age of Mammals features 240 specimens, including 38 articulated mammal skeletons, illustrating to visitors the wondrous diversity of mammal life as it's evolved over the past 65 million years.

Blaire Van Valkenburgh, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and IoES professor, was part of the exhibit’s steering committee. In a USA Today article she said, "Mammalian history is full of remarkable creatures on land and in the sea and it is terrific that the museum chose to emphasize the role of climate change and shifting continents in the history of mammals. This exhibit should help people understand the connections between the rocks beneath their feet and the history of life on the planet."

"Dogs: Wolf, Myth, Hero & Friend" at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
"Cats! Wild to Mild" at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
"Fossil Mysteries" at the San Diego Natural History Museum

"Dogs: Wolf, Myth, Hero & Friend," a traveling exhibition, explored the history, biology, and evolution of dogs and the role of dogs in human societies. "Dogs" had four themed sections including multi-media displays, artifacts, photo murals, and dioramas of taxidermied wild canines and sculpted modern dog breeds. Van Valkenburgh, Department of Urban Planning and IoES Professor Susanna Hecht, along with EEB and IoES Professor Robert Wayne, served as curators.

Professor Van Valkenburgh also worked on these exhibits:

"Cats! Wild to Mild" was an interactive exhibition that ran from November 15, 1997, through January 4, 1998. Focusing on the biology, behavior, natural history and conservation of both domestic and wild cats "Cats!" was an in-depth exploration of felines.

fossil mysteries

"Fossil Mysteries," a highly interactive exhibition, explored big themes in science: evolution, extinction, ecology, and Earth processes. Abundant fossils, models, murals, and dioramas offered unique multi-sensory experiences.


"Marmottes Paradis" (Marmot Paradise) at the park in Rochers-De-Naye, Switzerland

EEB Chair and IoES Professor Dan Blumstein helped develop this marmot alarm calling exhibit.  He provided sounds and results that were integrated into the display.  The resulting exhibit allows visitors to learn all about the 14 species of mountain inhabitant marmots found around the world in Europe, Asia, and America.

"Grass Roots: African origins of An American Art" at UCLA’s Fowler Museum

Judy Carney, Department of Geography and IoES professor, served as an adviser for this 2009 exhibit. Carney stated, “I worked with the staff to indicate the role of African rice in the early settlement period of plantation societies and the tropical landscapes where its cultivation took root. I also indicated the grasses and species used in the rice baskets in West Africa and the American Southeast.”

"Collapse?" at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

"Collapse" was inspired by ideas from Department of Geography Professor and IoES Affiliate Dr. Jared Diamond’s bestselling 2005 book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive.” This groundbreaking, original exhibition examined the possibility of failure by looking at ancient civilizations and the lessons contemporary societies must learn in order to endure. It ran from May 1, 2005 through January 15, 2006.

Photo Credit

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (small image): Flickr, LA lierne.
Ecosystems: Flickr, calvin fleming.
Fossil Mysteries: Flickr, y0aimee.