Exploratorium + UC Davis: science and sustainability

Global plankton populations are seen close-up in an Exploratorium exhibit created by UC Davis computer scientists Kwan Liu-Ma and Isaac Liao in collaboration with the Exploratorium and MIT. (photo: Exploratorium)
Global plankton populations are seen close-up in an Exploratorium exhibit created by UC Davis computer scientists Kwan Liu-Ma and Isaac Liao in collaboration with the Exploratorium and MIT. (photo: Exploratorium)

Environment, and sustainable energy, food and agriculture in new partnership.

University of California, Davis
May 12, 2014

The University of California, Davis, and the Exploratorium in San Francisco have formally partnered to incorporate the latest scientific innovations into the museum’s exhibits and programs. The two institutions announced the alliance on May 2, during a private ceremony at the museum.

The partnership will encompass a broad cross section of research topics, such as environmental science, sustainable energy, data visualization, coastal and marine sciences, and sustainable agriculture and food science.

"This new partnership brings together two world-class institutions dedicated to discovery and education,” said Linda P.B. Katehi, chancellor of UC Davis. “By collaborating with the Exploratorium, UC Davis has the opportunity to share our knowledge and discoveries with an even broader audience, and our students, faculty and staff will have access to one of the world’s premier public scientific venues while likewise connecting the Exploratorium to the educational and research resources of UC Davis. By stimulating collaboration between our institutions, this partnership magnifies our individual efforts and creates new opportunities that simply would not exist otherwise.”

"This strategic five-year partnership with UC Davis makes perfect sense when you appreciate the future intersections of science, technology and society in areas like sustainability, food and oceans,” said Dennis Bartels, Exploratorium executive director. “It's designed to be an open and generative partnership among our scientific and educational staffs, and it's already resulted in exhibits on our floor like the highly interactive world plankton table, which broke new ground in the hot area of scientific data visualizations. It's just the starting point to take advantage of our mutual strengths in interdisciplinary research and informal learning."

While the formal partnership lays the foundation for more collaborations to come, examples of how UC Davis and the Exploratorium are working together include:

  • “Plankton Populations,” to which Bartels referred, is an exhibit created at the Exploratorium in collaboration with Kwan Liu Ma, director of the UC Davis Center for Visualization, and the Darwin Project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. On display since spring 2013, when the Exploratorium moved to its new location at Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, the interactive exhibit uses data visualizations and touch interactions to allow users to explore plankton populations around the world.
  • The Wired Pier initiative at the Exploratorium helps connect visitors to the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean by using in-water sensors to collect information about temperature, salinity, clarity, acidity and more. That data is linked to parallel measurements at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, yielding new insights into exchanges and connections between the bay and the ocean. 
  • The Energy Efficiency Center at UC Davis and the Exploratorium are collaborating on new ways to manage and demonstrate energy efficient technologies. The partnership is working to tell the story of zero net energy buildings and communities, benefiting from work done at the LEED Platinum-certified Exploratorium building and also from UC Davis West Village, the nation’s largest planned zero net energy community. West Village also houses several of the university’s energy research centers, including EEC.


“We are delighted to formally announce this exciting partnership,” said Paul Dodd, associate vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. “This interaction will provide a wonderful interface to bring cutting-edge research from a broad range of topics to stimulate scientific debate with a broader audience than universities typically can access. We see opportunities in partnering through joint research proposal development, student and staff exchanges, co-development of joint programming and innovative exhibit development.”

The collaboration will also provide opportunities for postdoctorate and graduate students to conduct cross-disciplinary research at the museum.

“The Exploratorium depends on partnerships with scientists to help our teams incorporate current relevant research into the exhibits and programs we develop for the public, for teachers, and for our own educators,” said Mary K. Miller, science partnership director at the Exploratorium. “We are especially excited to invite UC Davis scientists and staff to spend time in our lab and on the exhibit floor, collaborating with us to train museum educators and conduct research with us.” 

(This article was written by Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News Service, May 2, 2014.)

About the Exploratorium
The Exploratorium is the global leader in informal learning, igniting curiosity and inspiring creativity in people of all ages. The world-renowned science museum creates original, interactive exhibits, on display at more than 1,000 science centers, museums and public spaces around the world. Dedicated to education reform in and out of the classroom, the Exploratorium is a premier professional development center for educators and a creator of award-winning educational resources. Since 1969, the Exploratorium has influenced generations of entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, teachers, students, children, museum professionals and everyday doers, reaching nearly 180 million people annually from around the globe. On April 17, 2013, the Exploratorium opened at Pier 15 in the heart of San Francisco's Embarcadero, where it celebrates a new era of experiences that encourage critical thinking and awaken wonder for generations to come. For more information, visit http://www.exploratorium.edu.

About UC Davis
UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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