Petaluma – Wildlife & Natural Science Museum

Petaluma Wildlife & Natural Science Museum is a student-run museum in the city of Petaluma, CA area that focuses on wildlife and natural science. It is the largest student-run museum in the United States, with over 50,000 visitors every year. Its purpose is to “inspire the next generation via practical environmental education and conservation,” according to the organization’s website. It is a non-profit organization that relies on donations to cover its operating costs. On the Petaluma High School campus, students can enroll in elective courses such as “Wildlife Management” and “Museum Management,” which are both taught by museum professionals.

The collection comprises dozens of live species, such as snakes, lizards, and chinchillas, as well as taxidermy and other preserved specimens. Currently, the Petaluma Wildlife Museum’s current tour guide is Phil Tacata, who has switched the emphasis of the museum’s tours to wildlife conservation and the preservation of natural ecosystems around the world.

The museum began as a classroom, where Ron Head taught history and geography classes. Hugh Codding generously gave the whole collection of the Codding Museum to Head in 1989. In order to accommodate the collection, the Codding family purchased a new bus garage on the school site, which allowed them to convert the old one into a 9000 square foot museum. It had always been Head’s desire to work with high school kids to assist them develop their career, leadership, and management abilities. “I witnessed what children might accomplish and how a museum could inspire them,” Head remarked.

The tours are typically provided to primary school students by docents from high schools. The tours last an hour to an hour and a half on average, depending on the age of the children in the tour group. A group of roughly seven people being guided through the museum by docents. The trip is mostly concerned with conservation and preservation efforts. Camouflage, animal adaptations, fossil history, invasive species, natural history, and live animal demonstrations are some of the topics that will be covered. During Saturdays, when the museum is open to the general public, visitors can go around and ask questions while also getting to see a larger variety of animals.

The museum is governed by a board of directors, which is in charge of setting the museum’s agenda. Casey Brechbill serves as the board’s president, and Neal Ramus serves as the organization’s executive director. The museum is maintained by students who receive voluntary service hours as well as hands-on experience in subjects such as biology, animal care, and business management while working at the museum. There is a “Wildlife Management” course offered at the school that serves as an introduction to wildlife topics such as fauna biology and husbandry as well as ecosystem and conservation issues. In the secondary level, students can take “Museum Maintenance,” which allows them to train to be docents and gain valuable hands-on experience working with animals.

Petaluma Trolley Living History
Critical Control – Restoration service