zachary cava


Remains of an “outdoor museum” built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933. The concrete enclosures originally held fish, turtles, snakes, and other creatures. The museum was only open during the summer, and so captive animals were released at the end of the season.

But apparently some animals have decided to stick around! The concrete foundation still holds water, and was teeming with frogs (Lithobates clamitans) and tadpoles when I visited.

©Zachary A. Cava

Fossil seed ferns (Alethopteris sp., Macroneuropteris scheuchzeri, and Neuropteris ovata). 300 m.y.o. St. Clair, PA. 185mm. 

One of the coolest fossil hunting experiences I’ve had. The amount of detail preserved in these fossils is incredible—some appear as if the leaves had just fallen! Exploring this area was like being transported back in time. Looking at a fossil like the one pictured here, it is not difficult to imagine the ancient carboniferous swamp coming back to life. 

For me, fossils are all about stress relief, and keeping things in perspective; a sobering—yet comforting—reminder of how briefly we are here, and where our priorities should lie. When I feel overwhelmed, it is relieving to recall how petty our day-to-day struggles are in the grand scheme of things. Life goes on.

©Zachary A. Cava

I’ve been taking advantage of wintertime in Buffalo by staying in and honing my studio photography skills. Considering my room has been turning into a natural history museum, I’ve got a lot of subjects to choose from!

Finished cleaning up this juvenile snapping turtle shell. I decided to remove ½ of the scutes to show the underlying bone. Aside from its relatively small size (carapace length=17cm), another indication that this animal was a juvenile are a series of spaces along the margin of the right side of the shell. These openings are called fontanelles, or “soft spots,” and are analogous to the gaps between cranial bones that our own species has during infancy. As in humans, these spaces usually become ossified and “fill in” as a turtle matures.

©Zachary A. Cava