NightSchool: Field Guide to Field Guides

What’s in a field guide? The perfect mix of science, art, and a whole lot of revision. Join us for a look into the history and present of these intricate, stunningly illustrated nature-ID’ers.

How did people look things up when they didn’t know what they were called—especially before the internet? Dr. Sara Scharf shares about the origins of botanical field guides: a story blending histories of botany, limits of printing technology, universal language movements, books written on dares, religious and educational philosophy, and more, all before evolution by natural selection was even discussed.

Field guides make knowledge of plants and animals accessible, but they also can document rich science, local knowledge, and cultural stories. Alicia Diaz, Field Guides Coordinator with the Field Museum’s Keller Science Action Center, walks us through the incredible collection of Field Museum Field Guides—and ways you can make and use your own field guide.

At the heart of field guides lies curiosity and close observation. Naturalist, artist, and educator John Muir Laws shares his process of creating and painting the California Academy of Sciences Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. From spending hours in the field creating illustrations to ensuring an effective and easy-to-use book layout, the final field guide reflects the story of collaborating with scientists and nature-lovers alike to create this place-specific nature catalog.

NightSchool is live on the first & third Thursdays of every month.

All NightSchool virtual programming is intended for audiences 21+

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The Academy has a new mission: to regenerate the natural world through science, learning and collaboration. Please consider a donation to — any amount helps. Thank you!

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The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to regenerating the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it’s the only place in the world to house an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum—plus cutting-edge research programs—all under one living roof.

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