OMCA Galleries

Gallery of California Natural Sciences

Showcasing a fresh focus on California’s natural history, the reinstalled Gallery presents seven places throughout California that depict the state’s diversity of climate, geology, habitats, ecosystems, and wildlife, while exploring current research, contemporary issues of land use, environmental conflict, and conservation projects.

Gallery Highlights

Oakland is a complex urban environment that still has remnants of earlier habitats. This compelling section of the gallery underscores the importance of understanding the human imprint—for better or worse—on California’s diverse ecosystems.

The Sutter Buttes, a range of mountains rising above the Sacramento Valley, were chosen as remnants of the vast number of habitats and species now largely eliminated in this area, and a context for presenting contemporary issues of land management and ownership.

Mount Shasta, an iconic California landmark, plays a defining role in the region’s ecosystems. Learn about the habitats that surround the volcano and how the water from it feeds two major rivers, the Klamath and the Sacramento, and sustains local wildlife in a myriad of habitats.

Yosemite’s spectacular beauty and diversity are known the world over. The gallery will not only depict its magnificence but also show the impact of the more than 3 million visitors to the park each year.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, an underwater, coral-topped mountain west of Point Reyes, features an upwelling of nutrient-rich waters that feed marine animals that visit from all over the Pacific.

The Tehachapis, a mountainous hub where the Mojave Desert, San Joaquin Valley, Sierra Nevada, Great Basin, and Coast Ranges all meet, is an important area of ecological evolution. Impressive dioramas will reveal how diverse species, including tule elk and mountain lions, coexist in this unique region of many habitats.

Coachella Valley is a desert of palm trees and sand dunes. Visitors will learn how uniquely Californian species thrive in this arid environment; they will also see how the growing human population taxes the scarce water supply and how local communities are working to preserve the land.

More about the Gallery

At 25,000 square feet, the vast gallery space is the only museum presentation of its kind to showcase a collective portrait of California’s rich biodiversity alongside humans' interaction with the natural world. The Museum collection of the Natural Sciences showcases California as one of the world’s top ten hotspots for biological diversity in the nation.

Innovative displays present the fusion of world-class dioramas with emerging technologies, citizen science projects, and visitor contribution to tell the story of California’s amazing natural world through the voices of local community members and the many scientists of these regions.

The Natural Science Collection numbers more than 100,000 research specimens and other artifacts, including over 10,000 identified and pinned entomology specimens, over 5,000 specimens in the malacology (shell) collection, more than 2,000 bird and mammal study skins and mounts, several thousand bird eggs, more than 3,180 herbarium sheets, over 2,330 freeze-dried exhibit specimens, as well as collections of reptiles and amphibians, fishes, terrestrial and marine invertebrates, and fungi. The new Gallery showcases over 2,000 California species—the only museum in the world to do so.

Featured Natural Sciences Collections Held By OMCA

The Bob Walker Collection

Bob Walker, untitled, 35mm color slide. Oakland Museum of California Bob Walker Collection

The Bob Walker Collection

Bob Walker (1952-1992) was an environmental activist and photographer who moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s after graduation from Oberlin College in Ohio. He began taking photographs in 1982 after a friend sold him his first camera—a Pentax ME. Armed with his Pentax, Walker traveled to the East Bay hills to capture the natural beauty of the area. He said, "I've really felt evangelical about making people stop and realize that they're in the middle of a very stunning landscape. It's all around them, and so accessible, but often they've overlooked it because California is loaded with so many superlatives." (December 1992, Diablo magazine.)

Walker was an influential environmentalist. He was chairman of the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club and was active in many organizations, including Save Mount Diablo, the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, the Greenbelt Alliance, and the Bay Trail Steering Committee, as well as being a founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Sierrans.

Bob Walker died in 1992. During his last months, he spent time looking for someone to care for his life's work. He particularly wanted a place that would make his images available to the organizations to which he had dedicated his life. His collection was placed at the Oakland Museum of California by his executors in 1993. The collection includes over 30,000 images taken around the Bay Area during the last ten years of Bob’s life. Under contract to the East Bay Regional Park District, Bob photographed almost all of the District's properties from the Carquinez shoreline to Mission Peak. As an environmental activist, Bob also photographed the progress of development around the East Bay, using his images in numerous slide presentations. Approximately one quarter of the images are aerial views that reveal the topography of the East Bay region.

Prints of the Bob Walker Collection are available from the Oakland Museum of California and rights may be purchased for publication. The collection is available for viewing by appointment; please contact Carolyn Rissanen, Registrar, at 510-238-3885.

More at OMCA Collections Online

Rustler Ranch Mastodon

Excavation site at Rustler Ranch.

Rustler Ranch Mastodon

This mastodon, Mammut Americana, lived in northeastern California on the Modoc Plateau, a volcanic region east of Mount Shasta. It was discovered in 1997 when a ranch hand on the Rustler Ranch in Modoc County found a portion of a tooth emerging from a stream bank and thought he had found an arrowhead. Upon digging out the tooth he realized this was something much bigger. Removing the top layer of soil revealed a nearly intact mastodon skeleton in the exact position in which it died, lying on its side. The only parts missing were the tusks, which were probably eroded away by the nearby stream. Nonetheless, it is the most complete specimen of this species found in California.

Six staff members of the Museum's Natural Sciences Department joined the rancher and his family at the site and within eight days had the entire skeleton excavated from the ground and carefully placed on a flatbed truck for transport to the Museum.

The Museum's science preparation staff prepared the mastodon skeleton and made a casting of the skeleton to put on permanent display in the Natural Sciences Gallery when the gallery is renovated. While the work was in progress, the work was visible from the gallery. With the work complete, the skeleton has been returned to the owner and the cast stored until installation.

More at OMCA Collections Online

Guide to San Francisco Bay Area Creeks

San Mateo Creek

Guide to San Francisco Bay Area Creeks

This is the online version of a long-term project of the Museum's to promote neighborhood betterment in the Bay Area through preservation, restoration, and appreciation of our network of creeks. The foundation of the project is the publication of 15 creek and watershed maps. The maps locate former and existing stream courses in their neighborhoods. You can follow a stream's entire course via the creek bed, channels, storm drains, and canals from its headwaters to the Bay or the Pacific Ocean. You may view them and additional informative material online.

The maps provide public access to information about the urban watersheds in an accurate and easy-to-use format to facilitate public understanding of the urban watershed, and are powerful tools for teaching prevention of urban runoff pollution. They also provide accurate information for use by the professional community. The maps serve as a springboard for discussion of community issues such as creek restoration and the changes resulting from development in the natural watersheds. 

California Library of Natural Sounds

American Robin

California Library of Natural Sounds

This collection of audio recordings is a comprehensive collection of nature sounds with an emphasis on California species and environments. It includes the sounds of specific insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, as well as natural, ambient soundscapes. Portions of this collection are also available online.

Recordings may be purchased for commercial or nonprofit uses, and may be previewed by appointment.

Special thanks to the generous community of donors who made The Museum of California Campaign such an astounding success, including the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation, and special support for the Gallery of California Natural Sciences from the National Science Foundation, California State Parks Nature Education Facilities Program funded by Proposition 84, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the OMCA Natural Sciences Guild.