During the first decades of the United States, Philadelphia was the cultural capital and one of the country's commercial centers. Two of the city's institutions, the Library Company and the American Philosophical Society, were centers of enlightened thought and scientific inquiry.
The increasing sophistication of the earth and life sciences, combined with a growing awareness of the great variety of life and landscape in the American wilderness waiting to be discovered, led a small group of naturalists to establish the Academy of Natural Sciences in the winter of 1812. The academy was meant to foster a gathering of fellow naturalists, and nurture the growth and credibility of American science. They frequently looked to their European counterparts for inspiration and expertise and longed to be regarded as equals.
On 25 April 1817 they were incorporated into the society under the title of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia by the legislature of Pennsylvania. By 1 January 1818, eight members were published.
Within a decade of its founding, the Academy became the undisputed center of natural sciences in the United States. Academy members were frequently enlisted to participate in national surveys of the western territories and other major expeditions. Several of its earliest members, including William Bartram, John Godman, Richard Harlan, Charles Alexandre Lesueur, William Maclure, Titian Peale, Charles Pickering, Thomas Say, and Alexander Wilson were among the pioneers or recognized authorities in their respective areas of study. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Edwards Holbrook of South Carolina, Thomas Nuttall and Richard Owen of the United Kingdom, Georges Cuvier of France, and Alexander von Humboldt of Prussia were among the corresponding members (members who lived far from Philadelphia) of the Academy's first decades.
Later during the 19th century, other notable naturalists and scientists, including John James Audubon, Charles S. Boyer, John Cassin, Edward Drinker Cope, Ezra Townsend Cresson, Richard Harlan, Ferdinand V. Hayden, Isaac Lea, John Lawrence LeConte, Joseph Leidy, Samuel Morton, George Ord, and James Rehn were also members. Corresponding members included such luminaries as Charles Darwin, Asa Gray, and Thomas Henry Huxley.
For much of its history, new members had to be nominated by two current members and then elected by the remaining members. These requirements were dropped in 1924. Notable 20th-century scientists include James Böhlke, James Bond, Henry Weed Fowler, Ruth Patrick, Henry Pilsbry, and Witmer Stone.
In 2011, the Academy became affiliated with nearby Drexel University and changed its name to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
Collections are the hallmark of museums and those at The Academy of Natural Sciences are among the more important of their kind. The size and scope of its collections have grown substantially since the early years. Currently, there are over 17 million biological specimens, and hundreds of thousands of volumes, journals, illustrations, photographs, and archival items in its library. These collections grew through a combination of means, including the donation or purchase of existing collections or individual items, the collection activities of Academy-sponsored expeditions, or those of individual scientists, whether or not they work at the Academy. Sometimes the Academy is also enlisted to house and care for collections originally gathered by other institutions. For example, a number of the natural history collections at the American Philosophical Society were relocated to the Academy by the end of the 19th century.
But these collections are not maintained just to collect dust. They provide a library of biodiversity. Traditionally, researchers at natural science (or natural history) institutions such as the Academy engaged in biological taxonomy, the science of discovering, describing, naming, and classifying species: in essence, the cataloging of Nature. In recent decades, research has shifted in emphasis to the science of systematics, the study of the evolutionary relationships among these species.
Either way, the collections are invaluable. They provide the type specimens, the reference material that helps establish a species' identity. They also provide raw materials with which scientists can investigate the nature of these species, their relationships with other species, their evolutionary history, or their conservation status. New questions and new technology illustrate the importance of these collections. Titian Peale (1799–1885) may not have been interested in the conservation biology of the butterflies he collected while Henry Pilsbry (1862–1957) probably did not consider comparing the DNA of his snails. Yet, modern scientists have such options because these specimens are part of the collections.
The most common science currently conducted in natural history museums is biological systematics. It is also the science with which current natural history collections are most intimately associated. The Academy's collections and systematics research are presented below.
Botany collections at the Academy, which are housed in the Philadelphia Herbarium (PH), include some of the oldest and most important botanical collections in the Americas. Notable early collectors include Benjamin Smith Barton, Constatine Rafinesque, Thomas Meehan, Thomas Nuttall, and Fredrick Pursh. The current curator, Tatyana Livshultz, studies the systematics of and the development of flowers in the Apocynaceae (milkweed or dogbane family). The herbarium contains approximately 1.5 million specimens of vascular plants, fungi, lichens, algae, and fossil plants. It also contains some special collections, including the plants collected by Johann and Georg Forster during the voyages of Captain James Cook, and by Meriwether Lewis during the Lewis and Clark expedition (Corps of Discovery).
The Academy's Diatom Herbarium, the largest in the Americas and the second largest in the world, contains approximately 220,000 slides of these microscopic algae. The herbarium contains many specimens contributed by notable collectors, a diversity of fossil diatoms, and diatoms collected as part of numerous freshwater environmental surveys in the United States. The Diatom Herbarium also provides collections and taxonomic services for the Phycology Section of the Patrick Center for Environmental Research. Former curators of note include Charles S. Boyer, Ruth Patrick, and Charles Reimer.
Entomology has been important to the Academy since its founding. Two of its earliest members include Thomas Say, regarded as the father of American entomology, and Titian Peale, a leading natural history illustrator and the chief naturalist on the United States Exploring Expedition (1834–1842). The entomology collection currently contains more than 3.5 million specimens and includes the remarkable Titian Peale Moth and Butterfly Collection, the oldest entomology collection in the United States. Senior curator Daniel Otte, an expert on Orthoptera (crickets, grasshoppers, and their relatives) is a pioneer of presenting biological data on the internet through the creation of the Orthopera Species File. Another curator, Jon Gelhaus, an expert on crane flies, manages the Mongolian Aquatic Insect Survey..
Ichthyology has also been a part of Academy collections and research since its beginnings, but the size of the collection was relatively modest until acquisition of Edward Drinker Cope's personal collections in 1898. A few years later, Henry Weed Fowler began his remarkable tenure at the Academy, during which he systematized the collections and described 1,408 species. James Edwin Böhlke, William Saul, and William Smith-Vaniz are among the notable scientist who followed Fowler. The current curator, John Lundberg, an expert in catfishes, pioneered deep channel collecting in large tropical rivers and is the lead author of a seminal scientific paper on the biological and geographic history of the Amazon River Basin. The Ichthyology collection, which currently houses nearly 1.2 million specimens and nearly 3,000 types, is one of the most important such collections in the United States. The department also hosts the All Catfish Species Inventory (a comprehensive online resource on catfish) and Catfish Bones (an online digital atlas of catfish morphology), and is a participant in Neodat II (an online resource of Neotropic ichthyology collections).
Two of the early members of the Academy, Thomas Say and Isaac Lea, were malacologists (see also conchologists). R. Tucker Abbott, Samuel Stehman Haldeman, Henry A. Pilsbry, and George W. Tryon, Jr. were other noted malacologists who worked at the Academy. The Academy's malacology collection is the oldest such collection in the United States and is the 3rd largest in the world. It currently contains over 10 million specimens, including types erected by more than 400 authors. Curator Gary Rosenberg, an expert on Jamaican land snails, is a leader in moving museum collections and research data online. Research websites include the Malacology Georeferencing Project an online database of Atlantic Marine Mollusca (Malacolog), and the OBIS Indo-Pacific Mollusc database. Research associate and former curator Daniel L. Graf, an expert on Unionidae (freshwater mussels), maintains the MUSSEL Project web site.
Just about any ornithologist active in the United States during the first half of the 19th century, including John James Audubon, William Bartram, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, John Cassin, Thomas Nuttall, George Ord, John Kirk Townsend, and Alexander Wilson (the "father" of American ornithology), either operated out of or worked closely with The Academy of Natural Sciences. Later notable Academy ornithologists include James Bond, Frank Gill, Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee, Pete Myers, Fred Sheldon, and Witmer Stone. With nearly 200,000 specimens representing over 9,000 species, the Ornithology collection is one of the largest and most taxonomically complete bird collections in the world. The Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC) has held regular meetings at the Academy since 1890.
Vertebrate paleontology in the United States originated in Philadelphia through the efforts of naturalists and scientists associated with the American Philosophical Society (APS) during the first decade of the 19th century and at The Academy of Natural Sciences thereafter. By the end of the 19th century, the holdings from the APS, including the Thomas Jefferson Fossil Collection, had been transferred to the Academy for safekeeping. Currently, the collection contains more than 22,000 specimens, including many types. Richard Harlan was an early member who introduced many American naturalists to the groundbreaking works of Georges Cuvier. Joseph Leidy, who described Hadrosaurus and alerted the scientific world to the paleontological treasures of the American West, is considered the "father" of American vertebrate paleontology. Edward Drinker Cope, who also worked extensively on other vertebrates, is best known for his rivalry with Othniel Charles Marsh during the infamous Bone Wars. Curator Edward B. Daeschler is currently studying the evolution of Devonian tetrapods. He is a co-discoverer of the transitional "fishapod" Tiktaalik roseae from the Canadian Arctic and the discoverer of two tetrapods, Hynerpeton and Densignathus from the Catskill Formation in Pennsylvania.
The Academy houses several collections of smaller size yet historical and scientific importance. The general invertebrate collection contains about 22,600 specimens, while the invertebrate paleontology collection contains about 105,000 lots. Both contain numerous type specimens. Generally, 21,500 specimens are gaunt, 13,500 are affiliated skins, and 1,700 are wet-preserved specimens. The Frank J. Myers Rotifer Collection is the most comprehensive collection of rotifers on microslides. The herpetology collection contains about 40,000 specimens, including more than 500 type specimens. The mammalogy collection contains about 36,000 specimens and 180 holotypes. Among the naturalists and scientists associated with these collections are Timothy Conrad, Edward Drinker Cope, Richard Harlan, John Edwards Holbrook, Henry Charles Lea, Isaac Lea, Joseph Leidy, Samuel G. Morton, and Thomas Say.
Formerly the Limnology Department, the Patrick Center for Environmental Research concerns itself with applied ecology. Founded in 1947 by Ruth Patrick, formerly of the Diatom Herbarium, it was one of the earliest U.S. environmental consulting concerns. Its attachment to the Academy led it to become the first to employ interdisciplinary teams of scientists to study freshwater systems and the first to regard biodiversity as a central criterion of water quality.
Its 1948 biological survey of the Conestoga River Basin in Pennsylvania, a milestone in environmental research, led to similar surveys and studies throughout much of the United States. Characteristically, these earlier projects were joint projects of the Limnology Department and private industry. Since the rise of the environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s and the resulting increases in governmental regulation of water pollution, the environmental assessments pioneered at the Academy are increasingly conducted by private environmental consulting firms.
As of 2013, much of the research at the Patrick Center is conducted with regulatory agencies and other governmental bodies, in fields such as diatom autecology, environmental chemistry and toxicology, habitat restoration, long-term environmental trends, species conservation, and watershed management. Some of the work employs most of the center's expertise and capabilities, such as recent studies on the ecological effects of small dams or the ecological benefits of riparian reforestation.
Other studies may involve only one or a couple of the research programs. For example, a current project sampling sediment cores in tidal marshes throughout the Delaware Estuary. This undertaking, possibly the most comprehensive core sampling in any estuary, relies extensively on the center's expertise in biogeochemistry and phycology. Once the sampling is completed, scientist will be able to investigate historical trends in marsh development, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, water pollution, salinity variations, and climatic change by analyzing the core's sediments, chemistry, and diatom assemblages.
The Biogeochemistry Section of the Patrick Center is concerned with the influence of aquatic organisms on the sources, fate and transport of chemicals in aquatic systems. Studies frequently deal with the carbon and nutrient cycling as well as those of trace elements (e.g., lead, copper, mercury, and zinc) and organic contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The section regularly provides water, sediment and tissue analyses for government, intergovernmental agencies, and private companies from around the country. In addition to the sediment core project mentioned above, it has recently studied the effects of small dams on sediment contaminants, photochemical transformation of marsh-derived dissolved organic matter, and sedimentation and eutrophication in salt marshes.
The Ecological Modeling Section employs sophisticated and rigorous mathematical modeling techniques to address a variety of questions in basic and applied research. Examples include watershed-scale modeling and risk assessment; nonlinear population models structured by age, body size, or space; particle transport in turbulent aquatic systems; and the ecology and control of exotic invasive plants in urban parks.
The Fisheries Section of the Patrick Center conducts research into the ecology, conservation, and management of lotic and estuarine fishes. Studies may range from the analysis of fish tissues for contaminants, monitoring fish populations for environmental assessments, to investigating the life histories of individual species. Recent and ongoing work include, glass eel (the larvae of freshwater or American eels) recruitment in the Delaware River basin, the ecology and genetics of bridal shiner (a fish that's endangered in Pennsylvania), and the impacts of flow management (dam releases) in the Upper Delaware River to native and introduced fish populations.
Benthic macroinvertebrates (primarily aquatic insects, crustaceans, and mollusks) are useful for biological monitoring programs. Their varied life spans, ranging from weeks to years, are long enough to reveal intermittent and continuous pollutants, yet short enough respond to worsening or improving water quality. The Macroinvertebrate Section at the Patrick Center has extensive experience in bioassessment, biomonitoring, and inventorying of freshwater habitats throughout the United States.
Because of their great diversity and specific ecological requirements, algae, particularly diatoms, make excellent indicators of water quality. Moreover, diatoms are readily preserved in sediments, which make them ideal organisms for studying paleolimnology (the long-term trends of streams and lakes). Because of their expertise and their close working relationship with the Academy's Diatom Herbarium, the Phycology Section of the Patrick Center is able to provide algal analyses for governmental and other agencies interested in both assessing water quality and long-term environmental trends. One such undertaking is the analyses of diatom assemblages in lake sediments (sediment cores) throughout the eastern United States. This work, part of a large project managed by the EPA, will try to establish reference (pre-anthropogenic) conditions for lakes throughout the country.
In addition to these research efforts, the Phycology Section of the Patrick Center has developed a set of online resources for using algae in environmental research. These include an algal image database, autecology datasets for freshwater algae, algae research with the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program, and a diatom paleolimnology database.
For most of its history, biological taxonomy and systematics were conducted using comparative morphology. In recent decades, however, advances in molecular biology and computational technologies have opened new possibilities for studying the diversity and history of life through the use of cladistics and computational phylogenetics. These technologies also offer new opportunities for molecular ecology and conservation genetics.
Academy scientists have been early adapters of molecular biology techniques. Allozymes, DNA-DNA hybridization, immunoelectrophoresis, restriction site analyses of mitochondrial DNA and serology were used extensively since the late 1960s. Recent molecular work mainly employs DNA sequencing, microsatellites, and AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism). In 2004, the Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Ecology (LMSE) was formed as a shared, multi-user facility to improve access to and provide training for the use of molecular data in systematic and ecological research. In addition to supporting staff, the lab offers research opportunities for students and post-doctoral fellowships.
The Asia Center is a new initiative to develop programs and partnerships for research and capacity building throughout Asia. Clyde Goulden is the director of the Asia Center. It is modeled on a series of successful programs conducted in Mongolia since 1995 under the auspices of the Academy's Institute for Mongolian Biodiversity and Ecological Studies (IMBES). The main activities of IMBES occur in the vicinity of Lake Hovsgol in northern Mongolia, but a separate program, the Mongolian Aquatic Insect Survey, extends to other parts of the country. More recently, the Asia Center has undertaken joint-projects with Nanjing University, Nanjing Paleontological Museum and Zhejiang Ocean University in China and the Institute of the Biological Problems of the North in the Russian Far East.
The Academy's work in Mongolia started with the realization of the unique research opportunities available at Lake Hovsgol (Hovsgol Nuur). This large lake and its watershed were remarkably pristine and relatively unknown, especially in comparison to its sister lake in Russia, Lake Baikal. In 1995, a multidisciplinary team of scientists from the Academy, as well as from other American institutions, Mongolia, Russia, and Japan started a multi-year study of the lake's biodiversity, limnology, and watershed.
Although this research was scientifically rewarding, it was apparent that issues concerning environmental protection and sustainable economic development needed addressing. Consequently, work at Hovsgol shifted to ecosystem studies and capacity building. One early undertaking was the enhancement of the operational and physical infrastructure at Hovsgol National Park. Long-term ecological monitoring of several tributary watersheds began in 1997 and soon the site would be adopted into the International Long Term Ecological Research Network.
Recent work at Hovsgol is focusing on the consequences of and sustainable responses to climate change. The region lies in a transitional zone between the semi-arid Eurasian Steppe (grasslands) to the south and the Eurasian Taiga (boreal forest) to the north. As such, it is an ideal mid-continental site at which to monitor the ecological effects of climate change. In addition, changes in livestock herding practices raise concerns about overgrazing and desertification. In response, the team at Hovsgol created and distributed a Herder Handbook and continues to conduct research and work with nomadic herders to develop sustainable practices.
The Mongolian Aquatic Insect Survey is a multi-year biodiversity survey, environmental monitoring and capacity building project managed by Jon Gelhaus of the Academy's Entomology Department. A total of 217 sites from the Selenge River Basin, the most populous and most extensive drainage in Mongolia, were surveyed from 2003 to 2006. Most of these sites are in rivers or streams, but some are in freshwater and saltwater lakes, hot and cold springs, and marsh wetlands. Additional sites from the remote drainage systems in western Mongolia will be sampled in 2008.
The survey has yielded numerous new species and hundreds of geographic records for known aquatic insects, provided an extensive dataset for ongoing environmental monitoring, and has helped develop research and technical infrastructures in Mongolia. This capacity building includes, in collaboration with the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, the building of the first research laboratory in Mongolia dedicated to the study of aquatic invertebrates. It also includes training of Mongolian scientists and students.
The Center for Environmental Policy informs and engages various constituents, promotes solutions, and builds public and professional awareness on important environmental topics. Much of its activities focus on public programs and working groups.
The center hosts or participates in a number of public programs that are free and open to the public. Urban Sustainability Forums feature panels of local and national experts discussing environmental and sustainability topics as they relate to the Philadelphia region. Town Square, which may feature a panel or an individual, addresses a variety of topics relating to the environment or public science. The center also hosts candidate forums, conferences and workshops.
The center acts as a logistical hub for a number of Working Groups organized around sustainability issues. Currently active groups one for condominium and building co-op owners, a network of faith-based environmental groups, and a forum of senior executives in the private sector.
The Library and Archives were established at the Academy's founding meeting in 1812 with the express purpose of supporting its natural science research. The library currently provides a variety of services to Academy staff, visiting scientists and scholars, and others by utilizing the Library and Archives collections, providing imaging services, sharing resources with other libraries, and accessing information available electronically.
The library is notable for the historical depth of its collections. It currently houses nearly 200,000 volumes ranging from works published in the 16th century to current journals and books. Its holdings also include numerous illustrated works from as early as the 15th century, including Konrad Gessner's Historia animalium, Maria Sibylla Merian's Insects of Surinam, Edward Lear's Psittacidae or Parrots, and a double elephant folio of John James Audubon's The Birds of America.
The Archives is comprised not only of administrative records and official Academy documents, but also an abundance of scientific and personal unpublished materials derived from the collections of scientists and others associated with the Academy. It houses a wide diversity of media including manuscripts, correspondence, field notebooks, personal diaries, and many photographic formats. The Archives also houses an important portrait collection and more than 8000 original works of art on paper.
The Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences was the first peer-reviewed publication in the United States devoted to the natural sciences. The first volume was published in 1817. By 1842, it had been superseded by the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences. The Proceedings have been published continuously since 1841. The Journal was reborn in 1847 as a larger-format publication that could accommodate longer articles and monographs. The last volume was issued in 1918.
The Academy publishes three other series. The occasional series Notulae Naturae began in 1939 as a means to quickly publish short items, usually not longer than 16 pages on subject areas such as zoology, botany, ecology, geology and paleontology. The Monographs series, which began in 1935, is composed principally of larger systematic reviews of selected taxonomic groups. The Special Publications series, begun in 1922, includes works such as biography, taxonomy, historical reviews, and collections surveys.
VIREO (VIsual REsource for Ornithology) is the most comprehensive collection of bird images in the world. Started in 1979, the collection contains over 140,000 photographs representing more than 7,000 species. The collection contains work by some of the world's most talented photographers. VIREO licenses bird images for a wide variety of commercial and non-profit uses.
The Academy first opened its collections to the public in 1828. The popularity of its exhibits soared in 1868 with the debut of the world's first mounted dinosaur skeleton, Hadrosaurus. In fact, the size of the crowds flocking to this display prompted the Academy to relocate to its present-and roomier-location in 1876.
As with most museums in the 19th century, there was little separation of the Academy's collections, which were vital to scientific work, and the public spaces. Not only did this subject the collections to extra wear and tear, but visitors were typically confronted with a bewildering assemblage of specimens with little in the way of supplemental information. Over time, however, museums such as the Academy started to showcase their more popular specimens while sequestering the bulk of the collections. In addition, they spent more effort interpreting their public displays. Museums started to play a more active role in educating the public.
One expression of this transformation was the rise of that icon of natural history museums, the diorama. These three-dimensional displays were the virtual reality of their time, providing generations of museum visitors with their only opportunity to experience distant places and exotic wildlife. By presenting the wilderness to the public, dioramas nurtured an appreciation of our natural heritage, which, in turn, contributed to the growth of the Conservation Movement in the United States. The Academy currently has 37 dioramas, most of which were installed in the 1930s and 1940s. They feature a variety of animals from Africa, Asia, and North America. Some of these, such as the caribou, lion, and plains zebra are familiar and relatively common, but others, such as the desert bighorn, kiang, Kodiak bear, panda, and passenger pigeon, are threatened, endangered, or extinct.
Another icon of natural history museums is the dinosaur skeleton. The first of these, the Hadrosaurus mount created by noted natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, made its debut at the Academy in 1868. Hadrosaurus mounts also found their way into other public venues, including Princeton University, the Royal Scottish Museum, the Smithsonian, and the 1876 American Centennial Exposition. A special exhibit on the history of Hadrosaurus foulkii ran from November 22, 2008 to April 19, 2009.
A skeletal mount of a related dinosaur, Corythosaurus, served as the centerpiece of the Academy's "Hall of Earth History" during the middle of the 20th century. In 1986, the Academy opened a new exhibit, "Discovering Dinosaurs." This was the first large-scale exhibit to incorporate the findings of the "dinosaur renaissance." Instead of cold-blooded and lumbering reptiles, dinosaurs were conceived as active-and possibly warm-blooded-animals more akin to birds than lizards.
In 1979 another type of dinosaur was the subject of an exhibition at the academy when it featured Jim Gary's Twentieth Century Dinosaurs and found that it was an enormous success with the public. This unconventional exhibition for a museum of science that featured contemporary sculpture, which focused upon the subjects of intense scientific inquiry, began a trend among its peer institutions, who then began to invite Gary and several other artists who specialized in scientific topics and subjects to museums that always had shied away from anything identified as "contemporary art" as exhibitions.
In 1979, the academy also opened "Outside-In", a hands-on children's nature museum. In 1995, it pioneered the hands-on simulation of a dinosaur dig, with its "The Big Dig." Other permanent exhibits include "Butterflies!", a live butterfly zoo, and "Science at the Academy", which showcases current Academy research.
The museum also has special, changing exhibits. Recent changing exhibits include "Amazon Voyage: Vicious Fishes and Other Riches", "Frogs: a Chorus of Colors", "The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Exhibition", and "The Scoop on Poop: The Science of What Animals Leave Behind."
Four weekend festivals organized around scientific disciplines, are held during the year. Paleopalooza, held in mid-February, features fossil collections and talks by leading paleontologists. Earth Day Festival, held in mid-April, features scientists from the Academy's Patrick Center for Environmental Research. Bug Fest, held in mid August, features entomologists, insect collections and live insects. The Philadelphia Shell Show, held in mid-October, features an international shell market and competitive shell displays.
The Academy began offering lectures to the public as early as the 1820s. Current offerings include natural history author talks, lectures by scientists, workshops and classes. In addition, the Center for Environmental Policy produces public programs on environmental issues.
Since its Nature Club in the 1930s, the Academy has offered programming just for children. Several programs appropriate for different age groups are currently offered. Safari Overnight sleepovers (camp-ins) are held on selected weekends during Fall, Winter, and Spring. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can participate in day workshops and sleepovers to fulfill badge and pin requirements. Tiny Tot Explorers is a program for toddlers. A new series of Family Workshops designed for both adults and children was launched in early 2010.
"Wild Weekends", held on selected weekends throughout the year, offer a variety of children's programs, including hands-on exploration of museum specimens, crafts and live animal shows with mammals, birds and reptiles. Live animal shows are also presented at regular times on other days and featured prominently in the educational programs.
Field Trips to the Academy are available throughout the year for schools, summer camps and other groups. Optional directed programs include Discovery Lessons for younger age groups (pre-K and higher) and Science Explorers for older children (grades 7 through 9). "Academy on the Go" is an educational outreach program that visits schools, camps, and community centers.
WINS (Women in Natural Sciences) is an innovative and successful science enrichment program conducted by The Academy of Natural Sciences in collaboration with the School District of Philadelphia. Since its founding in 1982, WINS has been providing female public school students with hands-on science classes, scientific literacy and skill-building activities, and opportunities for personal growth in a uniquely nurturing setting.
Academy Explorers Camp is a day camp program offered during Spring Break and the Summer. The George Washington Carver Science Fair is held in February or March. Science fair participants are eligible for the George Washington Carver Scholars summer program, which is also held at the Academy. Educator workshops are held throughout the year. The most recent series covered the integration of science and literacy skills. Self-guided workbooks tailored for younger children are available for some of the museum exhibits.
The Hayden Memorial Geological Award is given to prominent scientists working in geology or paleontology. It was established in 1888 in memory of Ferdinand V. Hayden, a distinguished American geologist and pioneering surveyor of the American West who had extensive ties to the Academy.
Established in 1980, the Gold Medal for Distinction in Natural History Art is awarded to people whose artistic endeavors and life's work have contributed to our understanding and appreciation of living things.
The recipients as of 2015 are:1980 — Roger Tory Peterson
1981 — Ansel Adams
1982 — Sir Peter Scott
1983 — Eliot Porter
1984 — Peter Matthiessen
1987 — BBC Natural History Unit
1992 — William Cooper
1995 — Guy Tudor
2005 — John McPhee
2007 — Ray Troll
2012 — James Prosek
The Richard Hopper Day Memorial Medal, established in 1960 by his granddaughter, Margaret Day Dilks, is awarded in recognition of outstanding contributions in interpreting the natural sciences to the public. As of 2015, the recipients are:1960 — Jacques Piccard, Lawrence A. Shumaker, Don Walsh, Andreas B. Rechnitzer
1964 — L. S. B. Leakey
1966 — H. Bradford Washburn
1967 — Charles A. Berry
1969 — Ruth Patrick
1973 — Harrison H. Schmitt
1979 — Stanton A. Waterman
1980 — Crawford H. Greenewalt
1983 — David Attenborough
1985 — Lewis Thomas
1988 — Gerald Durrell
1991 — Robert McCracken Peck
1997 — Stephen Ambrose
2000 — Thomas Lovejoy
2004 — Sylvia Earle
2010 — Scott Weidensaul
The Joseph Leidy Award honors research in the natural sciences. It was established in 1923 as a tribute to the many contributions and long association of Joseph Leidy with the Academy.
The Böhlke Memorial Endowment Fund honors the memory of James E. Böhlke and Eugenia B. Böhlke who were prominent ichthyologists at the Academy. This fund provides support for graduate students and recent postdoctoral researchers to work with the Ichthyology Collection and the Academy's Library.
The John J. & Anna H. Gallagher Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for original, multi-year, postdoctoral or sabbatical research on the systematics of microscopic invertebrates, especially Rotifera. The research focus must be on systematics and may employ ecological, behavioral, physiological, molecular or developmental tools.
Jessup and McHenry Awards are competitively awarded to students wishing to conduct studies at the postgraduate, doctoral and postdoctoral levels under the supervision or sponsorship of a member of the curatorial staff of the Academy. The Jessup Award is given for any specialty in which our curators have expertise. The McHenry Fund is restricted to botanists.
The Eckelberry Endowment helps support the efforts of wildlife painters, sculptors, printmakers, and other artists to better acquaint themselves with the natural world through both museum and field research. In addition, artistic and scientific mentors counsel and assist these artists as their careers develop. One grant will be given each year.
Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), a program of the National Science Foundation, provides summer research experience for students attending colleges and universities. Each summer the Academy offers 5-10 separate research projects which can include collections, field, imaging and/or lab work. The projects vary but typically include environmental, library collections, and/or systematics research.