OMCA Galleries

Gallery of California Natural Sciences

“We want visitors to see that nature in Oakland is worthy of research, conservation, and appreciation! Our Gallery not only showcases California's iconic ecosystems, like Yosemite or the Coachella Valley, it also highlights the ecosystems within our own city.”  —Sarah Seiter, Associate Curator of Natural Sciences

Discover the Golden State like never before in the Gallery of California Natural Sciences.  The Gallery features 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. Offering a thoughtful and comprehensive representation of the interaction between humans and the natural world, the Gallery features immersive habitat installations, world-class dioramas, and emerging technologies. Hear the story of California’s natural world through the voices of local community members and scientists, and discover how you can make a difference.

Gallery Highlights

Note: Beginning September 20, the area that comprises the Coastal Grassland, Coastal Scrub, and Streams sections will be closed to the public. Thank you for your understanding as we make some exciting changes to the gallery. 

Oakland is a complex urban environment that includes remnants of earlier habitats. Examine the importance of the human imprint on California’s diverse ecosystems and how nature in the town affects us.

The Sutter Buttes, a range of mountains rising above the Sacramento Valley, are remnants of the vast number of habitats and species now largely eliminated in this area, and present 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 variety of habitats.

Yosemite’s spectacular beauty and diversity are known the world over. Analyze how this iconic park balances 3 million visitors per year with the important goals of conservation and environmental education.

Dive into the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, an underwater, coral-topped mountain west of Point Reyes, and learn about the upwelling of nutrient-rich waters that feed marine animals visiting 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. Check out our dioramas that 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. Learn how desert species thrive in this arid environment, including OMCA’s own glow-in-the-dark Desert Hairy Scorpion, and explore the tensions between enjoying and preserving the desert that Coachella residents must navigate.

Featured Natural Sciences Collections Held By OMCA

The 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


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.