SBnature Journal 2020 Vol. 6 No. 1

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2020 VOL. 6, NO. 1

SBnature Journal S A N TA B A R B A R A M U S E U M O F N AT U R A L H I S T O R Y

KEEPING IT REAL VIRTUALLY Connecting People to Nature Online



THINKING OUTSIDE Our Unique Outdoor Campuses

Lone Woman’s Story Retold by Native Voices

FROM MASKS TO MOLLUSKS Small Things Have a Big Impact in Invertebrate Zoology

SBnature Journal 2020 VOL. 6, NO. 1


KEEPING IT REAL, VIRTUALLY Connecting People to Nature Online


THINKING OUTSIDE Our Unique Outdoor Campuses




ANTHRO UPDATE Lone Woman’s Story Retold by Native Voices



THIS OLD HOUSE Upcoming Infrastructure Improvements at the Museum







FROM MASKS TO MOLLUSKS Small Things Have a Big Impact in Invertebrate Zoology

2559 Puesta del Sol Santa Barbara, CA 93105 805-682-4711 Wed–Sun, 10:00 AM–5:00 PM

211 Stearns Wharf Santa Barbara, CA 93101 805-962-2526 Wed–Sun, 10:00 AM–5:00 PM

A NOTE FROM LUKE President & CEO A Warm Welcome in an Interesting Time

2020 has indeed been a year like no other in the history of the Museum. But in the face of challenges and changes, we have pivoted well, finding the silver linings that enable us to continue our work. We remain committed to our behind-the-scenes work and to continuing to provide our signature guest experience. Our commitment to both of these areas of work continue to inspire everything we do at both the Museum and Sea Center. We were saddened to have to close our doors at the Museum and Sea Center for so many weeks starting in March. But, we are now so appreciative that we can again provide outdoor spaces and activities that delight, educate, and engage our visitors about the wonders and the fragility of our natural world at both of our campuses. How we do the work we do to support our mission and our community has been modified, yes, but the content and impact of our programs has not. The work of the Museum goes on. Scientific research, collaboration, and publication continue; collections care and curation continue. But now, virtual programming is growing as an equal partner along with our continued on-site interactions with visitors. Our reach continues to be deep; now it is growing wider than we could have imagined. Our virtual summer camps, for example, reached young people in Nevada and on the East Coast, and we think this bodes well for the future relevance of your Museum and Sea Center. While the impacts of the pandemic are real and vexing, the cataclysmic extremes of weather and fire that we see unfolding in flames all across the American West because of the climate crisis underscore the importance and urgency of our work to inspire both our own and the next generation of environmental stewards. All of us here at the Museum and Sea Center continue to be proud of the work we do, and the events unfolding around us bring a renewed commitment to our vision of connecting people to nature for the betterment of both. Please stay connected with us, together we can do great things for our community and for our planet. Sincerely,

Luke J. Swetland President & CEO 3

Thank you for shopping local, and supporting not only a small business, but a nonprofit.

Top: Celebrating curbside pickup for the Museum’s new online store Middle: Nature Adventures staff and campers testing virtual camps curriculum Circle: Virtual field trips from School and Teacher Services bring our exhibits into students’ homes.




s docents know, there’s nothing like the excitement of kids on a field trip. In March, that wonderful source of renewable energy disappeared overnight. “Going from seeing hundreds of kids at one time to not being able to see anyone outside my household for months was jarring,” says School & Teacher Services Coordinator Jessica Prichard. With students at home, the need to pivot hit our education staff fast. They rushed to create from-home, a collection of ways to explore nature at home, online, and outdoors. Website visitors and praise from families validated their hard work. Nature Adventures Manager Ty Chin, Ph.D., led her team to adapt their summer camps curriculum, master new skills, and safely assemble and distribute scores of Camp Kits. There’s been no rest, either: fall classes are on. “Just keep swimming,” is Chin’s motto. Kind words from happy camper families help keep her spirits afloat: “In this difficult time, this camp has been a gift,” wrote one eloquent parent.

We’ve continued to serve adults directly as well. Our monthly Science Pub at Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant—derailed by the temporary venue closure— returned via Zoom. “It’s been a challenge to connect on this new platform, but we’re reaching people all around the globe, which is exciting,” says Community Education Manager Stefanie Coleman, M.S. She’s planning more dates for online art workshops in the popular Art Meets Science series, as well as ongoing Science Pubs. Senior Manager of Guest Services Kim Zsembik and her team purchased puzzles, games, and art supplies in anticipation of a busy summer. With the Museum closed, they launched an online store ( to funnel those toys to cooped-up kids with fewer outlets for play and learning. Zsembik is grateful to store customers: “Thank you for shopping local, and supporting not only a small business, but a nonprofit.” Development staff organized online events sharing the knowledge of our experts with supporters. Members enjoyed Zoom editions of the Cocktails with a Curator series. They were BYOB (bring your own beverage), but as ever, Museum and Sea Center experts brought scientific expertise to the party. The Leadership Circles of Giving (LCG) presented Legends of the Halls, a series of fascinating talks about people who shaped our institution,

Specimen featured in the workshop Art Meets Science: Agate Painting with Gold Leaf

including Peggy Maximus (of Maximus Gallery), and David Banks Rogers, founder of our Department of Anthropology. We heard tales of the first Sea Center from those who helped build and run it. “We wanted to look back while keeping hopeful for the future,” says Leadership Circles of Giving Development Officer Diane Devine, who wants to hear ideas for future topics from Members. The way we connect has changed, but the reasons we do it remain the same. Throughout the shift to online activity, we’ve continued to center ourselves in nature, and we hope you have, too. “I’ve started paying more attention to the nature in my own neighborhood, and it’s informed the virtual programs I create for schools,” says Prichard. “It’s easy to take this beautiful area for granted, but when you’re stuck in it, you’re also forced to see its beauty and complexity.”


THINKING OUTSIDE The history of this institution and the things it’s weathered in the past are my best teachers in knowing we’ll persist.


n Sunday, June 14, we welcomed guests back to the Museum’s outdoor areas, starting with Members. We knew we’d need your feedback. You’d be the first to sample locally-made hand sanitizer—one of many creative solutions by our Department of Facilities—and experience our new one-way flow. You were the first to discover how amazing Butterflies Alive! was in 2020, at a time when the fate of a century-old institution seemed to be resting on the back of a butterfly. It’s been challenging. While our earnings dwindled, our staff needs rose, both to run the pavilion and help guests stay safe. “Members and guests allowed us to not be


perfect,” Senior Manager of Guest Services Kim Zsembik says. You know that “we try really hard to make you feel safe and happy here.” 2020 took flight as the feedback fluttered in: “better than ever,” “well-organized,” “felt safe,” “impressed with the setup!” Zsembik worked with her team to create that setup, separating the pavilion into zones, with a mellow bell to mark each group’s time in a zone. “I’m really proud of our team,” she says. “I feel joy and gratitude when I hear praise for the details we put in. It took creativity and thoughtful feedback, but guests loved our slowed-down zoned pavilion.” While the Sea Center was closed, Sea Center staff brought their interpretive

talents to the pavilion and marine life to the Museum. Guests could touch sharks and watch butterflies in the same visit! Bringing sea life to the Museum, keeping staff at work, and filling urgent needs in the pavilion was a win-win. “We were happy to help,” says Sea Center Volunteer and Interpretation Manager Sam Macks Franz, M.M.A. “It was a chance to connect with guests and Members that we missed over the last few months.” Volunteers and staff from all over the organization filled gaps in the schedule. “The CEO has donated his time to work in the Butterfly Pavilion, as well as managers and department heads,” notes Nature Education Manager Sabina Thomas, Ph.D.

As butterfly season waned, Dr. Thomas enriched our outdoor spaces. “We all got used to the changes,” she reflects, “and recognized that we’re flexible and resilient.” Staff at both our campuses have dramatically shifted resources to create new outdoor activities. “It took many different steps and the input of many departments.” Still, she’s especially proud of her team of naturalists, who—along with long-time docents—work as human field guides in our outdoor spaces, stimulating and answering guests’ questions about nature and science. “They are so talented and resourceful.” The same goes for our volunteers, “part of the Museum family,” as Volunteer Manager Rebecca Fagan Coulter describes them. New barriers to personal connections haven’t changed the fact that “people—volunteers, visitors, colleagues—still want the same things: to lead a purposeful life, with a passion for nature. The history of this institution and the things it’s weathered in the past are my best teachers in knowing we’ll persist.”

Top: Naturalist Betsy Mooney shares Chico, the Backyard’s new California Kingsnake. Middle: Guests meeting Swell Sharks from the Sea Center at the Museum’s Nature Nook Circle: Interpreter Sarah Cowan, one of many Sea Center staff supporting the Museum this summer Bottom: Curator Emeritus of Facilities Gary Robinson volunteering in the Butterfly Pavilion


AT HOME WITH VERTEBRATE ZOOLOGY Our scientists never stopped working.


ur Collections & Research Center is normally abuzz with activity as our scientists facilitate visiting scholars’ research and work with millions of specimens and artifacts. Stay-athome measures abruptly changed that, but our scientists never stopped working.

Research Associate Chris Thacker, Ph.D., misses research trips to museums (lovingly chronicled on her Instagram account @thackfish). Still, lockdown encouraged her to learn new methods to illuminate her specialty: the goby family tree. “It’s now possible to sequence whole genomes from museum specimens,” Dr. Thacker reports. “I’ve been trying new ways to analyze huge amounts of data. There are lots of amazing tools and it takes time to get familiar with them, so lockdown has been helpful for that.” Her recent publications use DNA analysis to confirm relationships between gobies and their sister groups, and trace speciation in New Zealand stream gobies.

For Curator of Vertebrate Zoology Paul Collins, M.A., the changes allowed him to focus on his Channel Islands bird book. “I’ve been compiling and analyzing data on birds of the California Channel Islands for over 40 years,” reflects Collins. “I’m attempting to complete this book so I can finally retire.” It’s shaping up to be a truly impressive lifetime project, with accounts of hundreds of species found on eight islands. These descriptions draw on over 70,000 historical records of bird sightings and 11,000 records of specimens since 1843, as well as papers and reports. Collins’s extensive research also tracks changes in birds using the islands as breeding sites, from the grazing era beginning in the mid-1800s, through the present. Top: Dr. Thacker investigates fish in her home office. Photo by Daniel Geiger

Read more about Collins’s Channel Islands bird research in “Bone by Bone,” SBnature Journal 2019, vol.5, no.1, and “Museum Mysteries: The Disembodied Albatross,” May 8, 2018


Bottom: A new species studied by Thacker. Photo by Daniel Geiger

ANTHRO UPDATE Lone Woman’s Story Retold by Native Voices


he story of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island—who lived isolated on the windswept island for years— has been told many times by non-Natives. Her extraordinary life entered history as conveyed by gesture to English- and Spanish-speaking people. There were no Nicoleños in Santa Barbara when she arrived in 1853. Data on the Nicoleño language are scarce, and scholars have debated its origins and relationships. This summer, researchers including Curator of Anthropology John R. Johnson, Ph.D., published a reassessment of the language drawing on oral histories about

the Lone Woman passed down by Native consultants to linguist J.P. Harrington. They discovered evidence indicating she spoke a dialect of the Gabrielino (Tongva)/ Fernandeño language. Their argument rests in part on linguistic analysis of the Lone Woman’s tokitoki song, familiar to Museum-goers. A Ventureño Chumash man, Melquiades, was a member of the crew which spent a month on the island with her. He taught the song to Ventureño Chumash man Fernando Librado, who shared it with Harrington. Translation of parts of the song include the evocative lament, “my heart is no longer in the sea.”

One of the coauthors— Barbareño Chumash Elder Ernestine Ygnacio-De Soto— is intimately tied to the history. Her Barbareño greatgrandmother Luisa Ygnacio briefly met the Lone Woman, and Luisa’s first husband Policarpio (a Chumash man of Cruzeño and Barbareño ancestry) was one of the crew members who interacted with her for a month on the island.

Look for Morris et al., 2020 “The Lone Woman’s Nicoleño Language” in Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, vol.40, no.1.

Circle: Luisa Ygnacio


FROM MASKS TO MOLLUSKS Small Things Have a Big Impact in Invertebrate Zoology


he first thing guests see when they arrive at the Museum is our Blue Whale skeleton, composed of specimens from our Department of Vertebrate Zoology. As Earth’s largest animal, it makes a big impression. Less known are the unsung heroes of our Department of Invertebrate Zoology, who specialize in answering big questions by investigating small things. The Museum’s scanning electron microscope (SEM) is a key piece of technology in this work. In addition to using it in his own research on marine snails, Curator of Malacology Daniel L. Geiger, Ph.D., puts the SEM to work for others. Dr. Geiger—with Invertebrate Zoology Collection Manager Vanessa Delnavaz, M.A., and former intern Bianca Campagnari—took over 1,000 SEM images to support a major taxonomic contribution recently published by Bret K. Raines, who in turn identified specimens in the collection. Collaborations like this aren’t unusual, but in April 2020, Geiger received an unusual request: UCSB Chemical Engineering Professor Eric McFarland, Ph.D., M.D., and Brian Vicente, Ph.D., asked if our SEM could be used to study materials used in masks.


Sample SEM image of mask material taken at a standard magnification of 1,000x. SEM imagery by Daniel Geiger

“At that time, masks were very difficult to come by, and had to be reused,” Geiger explains. Cottage Health needed to know if alternative fabrics would be safe, and whether cleaning masks for re-use would affect their structure and diminish effectiveness. This required SEM imaging and chemical analysis using Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS), an accessory of our SEM. With emergency permission to access the building, Geiger was able to provide images fast. Fortunately, the evidence provided by the SEM and EDS showed that cleaning hadn’t altered the materials, and no chemicals causing concern were found. “It alleviated concerns by Cottage Health about proper protection for the folks at the front line,” says Geiger. “All investigations were pro bono. As a local nonprofit, we’re small enough to be flexible when it counts, and we have the equipment and the expertise to provide cutting-edge emergency assistance.”

A marine snail’s tiny shell, one of many in our collection documented to support the taxonomic research of snail expert Bret K. Raines.

Coauthors Zelaya, Coan, and Valentich-Scott on a 2016 research trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History


Another big contribution to arise from the department during lockdown is the publication of Bivalve Seashells of Western South America. This is the third in a hefty series of books coauthored by Curator Emeritus of Malacology Paul Valentich-Scott. Delnavaz provided many of the book’s images. The monograph encompasses all previously known species of bivalve mollusks (clams, mussels, etc.) ranging from Northern Peru to Southern Chile, plus describing two species and two genera new to science, with discussions of 16 potentially new species. To support this definitive resource, the

authors examined museum specimens in collections around the world. However, it’s a special point of pride that of the 256 species listed, 85% have representatives in the department’s own collection. With Research Associate Eugene V. Coan, Ph.D., and Diego G. Zelaya, Ph.D., at the University of Buenos Aires, Valentich-Scott has been drafting the final volume for eight years, and is extremely gratified by its completion, as is the global community of malacologists and mollusklovers who have come to appreciate his thorough and persistent care in assembling this series.


THIS OLD HOUSE Upcoming Infrastructure Improvements at the Museum

A Counter-clockwise from top: The Museum’s front entry was renovated and made ADA accessible as part of the Centennial Project in 2018, Fleischmann Auditorium received extensive updates and restoration in 2019, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology Krista Fahy, Ph.D., shows bird study skins to grants administrators from the California Cultural & Historical Endowment in 2019. CCHE provided critical support for new cabinets in the Department of Vertebrate Zoology.


nyone who has had the good fortune to visit the Museum is immediately struck by the beauty and historic charm of its collection of galleries, auditoriums, and offices — all of which have grown organically alongside Mission Creek since we opened our doors in April 1923. For those of us who have the high privilege to work and volunteer at the Museum, we know intimately the quirks, aches, and creaks of this old house. While the Master Plan we developed will address improvements for several areas of the Museum, it by no means contemplates the needs of the entire fifteen-acre campus. We are proud to have completed Phase One of the Master Plan with our Centennial Project that took three years (2016–2018) of on-the-ground transformative work.

weddings, birthday parties, and memorial services under the lovely oaks on the south side of the creek. Just imagine trying to navigate the Santa Barbara Wine + Food FestivalŽ with only our vehicle bridge in play – yikes! Happily, the design and permitting process for repairs to the pedestrian bridge are well underway and that work will likewise be underway next spring.

Docent Glenn Grayson leading schoolchildren across the Towbes Family Bridge in 2019

When the heating system in Fleischmann Auditorium failed entirely, we executed a top-tobottom renovation, completed in 2019. We look forward to Phase Two of the Master Plan which will address both the exhibits and the building structures in the middle of our campus (the Chumash Life gallery, the Earth & Marine Sciences gallery, public restrooms, and accessibility challenges that restrict movement through the center of the campus). But first, we have two other significant repair projects that must be completed to ensure the safety of our collections, and to meet the ongoing operational and programmatic

needs of the Museum. In past communications, we have described the significant scope of our Collections Care Project in our Collections and Research Center; this project will dramatically enhance our ability to provide stable environmental controls to meet the unique needs of our various collections. That project is scheduled to begin next spring. A more recent discovery, however, was that our pedestrian bridge over Mission Creek, the Towbes Family Bridge, needed structural repair. The Towbes bridge provides critical visitor circulation for daily guests, for school group visits, and for the many families who host

Finally, we used the closure caused by the state’s stay at home order to develop a systematic and comprehensive plan for repairs to every aspect of the infrastructure at both the Museum and the Sea Center, both above and below ground. Staff and the Board of Trustees now have a complete view of what needs to be addressed for this old house in the years ahead. It will take significant financial support from the community, and the goodwill of staff and visitors who will have to contend with repair work now and then, and here and there, but together we will meet the challenge. Those that come after us will have a Museum that continues to be safe, sound, and well cared for. We accept the responsibility to make that happen and we will do it together. For more information or to support these projects contact Director of Development Caroline Grange at or 805-682-4711 ext. 109.





his summer, masked superheroes visited the Museum to make an extraordinary gift of rare books: a complete set of three octavo volumes of John James Audubon’s 1849 Quadrupeds of North America. Maximus Gallery Curator Linda Miller and Librarian Terri Sheridan were overjoyed. “This set is the perfect complement to the Museum Library’s royal octavo edition of The Birds of America,” explains Sheridan. “It adds text and context to the larger mammal prints in the Maximus Collection.” It will be preserved in our climate-controlled rare book room for access by scholars and appearances in exhibits. The gift came from a couple with a long, fulfilling history with us: Penny (Elizabeth) and Joe Knowles. The Knowleses live in Santa Ynez and are Members of the Mission Creek Legacy Society, which recognizes donors who have included the Museum in their estate plans. “We cannot overestimate the gift to our family that the presence of the Museum has been in our lives,” the Knowleses reflected. “We think it makes sense that an inheritance from Penny’s family might enhance the experience of future members of the Museum family, and inspire other donations.” The couple shares a lifelong history with art and museums which makes them highly

qualified to know the artistic value of their gift. Joe Knowles, Jr., the son of artists, has had his own artwork represented in shows on both coasts. His passion for natural history was nurtured by friendships with SBMNH curators and directors. Penny is an art historian who began her museum career as curator of education at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. After a decade leading East Coast museums, she returned to California to become the first executive director of the Wildling Museum, whose work and mission is close to our hearts. The Knowleses learned about the gap in our Audubon collections at a Leadership Circles behindthe-scenes Science Salon last year. Although in-person Science Salons are now on hold, Leadership Circles Development Officer Diane Devine organized the Legends of the Halls Zoom series to entertain and inform a wider audience. “Development is all about connections,” says Devine. “Those personal faceto-face interactions are greatly missed. Yet the ‘why’ of what we do—and the importance of developing advocates for nature—remains more important than ever.” A survey conducted by the American Alliance of Museums reported in July 2020 that a third of museums in the United

Penny and Joe Knowles present a volume of their generous gift outside the Museum’s Maximus Wing.

States may never reopen after the pandemic. Thanks to the gifts of our supporters, we can be confident that our Museum has a future and will continue to serve the community through the lifetimes of coming generations. “Estate gifts to the Museum have given us a financial cushion during these challenging times,” reports Legacy Giving Development Officer Rochelle Rose, CFRE. Rose is organizing a series of virtual educational events for Mission Creek Legacy Society Members and those considering joining their growing ranks. If you’re thinking about making a gift to the Museum family as part of your legacy, or joining the Leadership Circles, learn more at or

The 21st Annual Mission Creek Gala: Pollinators took place Saturday, March 7. The sold-out event raised more than $445,000 to support Museum and Sea Center education programs including field trip scholarships to low-income schools. Gala Committee Members included co-chairs Elisabeth Fowler and Susan Parker, as well as Stacey Byers, Jenna Savage Davis, Sheri Eckmann, Venesa Faciane, Caroline Grange, Heather Hambleton, Pippa Hames-Knowlton, Tamara Jensen, Emily Jones, Bobbie Kinnear, Kaliope Kopley, Tracy Krainer, Meridith Moore, Robyn Parker, Luke Swetland, and Pam Valeski.

Union Bank is a generous longtime sponsor of the Gala. Union Bank President Vincent Caballero, Colleen Anderson Caballero, Penny Sharrett posing for a photo with Museum President & CEO Luke J. Swetland and his wife and Committee Member Stacey Byers


Guests first enjoyed a lovely reception in the Museum’s exhibit halls with pollinator education stations including bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies. The signature cocktail, the Agavinator, was inspired by the agave plant which is pollinated by long-nosed bats. After the reception, guests made their way to the newly restored Fleischmann Auditorium for the dramatic dÊcor reveal which had been transformed into a beehive by Joy Full Events, Inc. and Hogue & Co.








1. Committee Member Robyn Parker, Gabrielle Carey, Shannon and Brad Vernon, and Sam Carey 2. Museum Trustee Carolyn Chandler and Kurt Koenig enjoying the Honey Bee Tableau 3. Dancer Ahna Lipchik entertained guests with a spirited dance of the Honey Bee Waggle. 4. Museum Trustee and Committee member Bobbie Kinnear and Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree in the Queen Bee Tableau 5. Keith and Lorraine Reichel 6. Mandy Lopez Hollis, Gala Committee Member Heather Hambleton and Kelly Milazzo 7. Charlie Thrift is an alumnus of the Quasars to Sea Stars program, who provided a passionate account of his time at the Museum.


MUSEUM LIFE This summer was like no other in the Museum’s history. Thanks to support from the community, and especially our Members, we were able to safely open outdoor exhibits and welcome guests with modifications.

Getting a fun workout on

Coggeshall Bowl’s giant steps

Swell Sharks

Touching at the Museum...... and at the Sea Center on the opening of outdoor exhibits

Welcoming families at the


Refreshing play in the

Backyard Creek on a hot summer day

Taking a closer look at live insects with

Backyard Naturalist Sarah Robinson


Sea Center School & Teacher Services Coordinator Steve Keller shows off his


Nature Adventures

a l a

b e t i ch


An up-close look at whale-related artifacts during

Conversations with a Curator

agic moment Am wit



team readying Camp Kits for space exploration and other kid favorites


2559 Puesta del Sol Santa Barbara, CA 93105

SBnature Journal is a publication of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. As a Member benefit, issues provide a look at the Museum’s exhibits, collections, research, and events. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a private, non-profit, charitable organization. Our mission is to inspire a thirst for discovery and a passion for the natural world. For information about how to support the Museum, contact Director of Development Caroline Grange at 805-682-4711 ext. 109 or



Cover photo: Naturalist Sarah Robinson shares a mantis in the Museum Backyard


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