The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is home to a coral reef, a four-story bubble that encapsulates a replica of a rain forest, and perhaps most famously, Claude the albino alligator. But beneath all that—literally—is a basement chock-full of animal specimens collected from the field by intrepid scientists, tray after tray and jar after jar of insects, fish, mammals, and all kinds of other critters.

Even if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic and the museum wasn’t temporarily closed, those collections would be closed to your average visitor. But hey, your kids in particular could use an hour of educational entertainment, so I reached out to the academy to see if they might show us around the stacks. Last week, we livestreamed the first in a series of chats with their scientists, which you can check out above.

First up is arachnologist Lauren Esposito, who introduced us to her all-star arachnids and insects. There’s the camel spider, which isn’t technically a spider and is certainly not a camel, but is so ferocious that I once called it “death wrapped in mystery.” She also brings out a giant hornet, which you shouldn’t call a murder hornet no matter what The New York Times tells you. (Admittedly I once called it a winged T. rex, so perhaps I’m not helping its image.) And to temper all the death and destruction, we take a look at the stunningly beautiful blue morpho butterfly.

To meet the full cast of characters, take a look at the video above. And stay tuned to our Facebook channel for more livestreams with California Academy scientists in the coming weeks.

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