Life Without Light: Creatures in the Dark With Sarah McAnulty - Atlas Obscura Experiences

Life Without Light: Creatures in the Dark With Sarah McAnulty

4 sessions
$75 per person
See Dates
$75 per person
$75 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

In this 4-part lecture series, learn about some of the planet’s most fascinating creatures that dwell in the dark.

Course Description

As night falls, saucer-eyed aye-ayes high in the trees begin tapping their skeletal fingers on branches in search of food. On a dark beach, hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs erupt from the ocean for a midnight orgy. Some of the most magnificent creatures on the planet have survived and thrived in the dark for millions of years, and in this course, Dr. Sarah McAnulty will introduce us to some of these characters rarely seen in the light of day. We’ll cover nocturnal species, looking at the senses they rely on and extraordinary ways they’ve adapted to moving and communicating through darkness. We’ll plunge into the deep sea and burrow way underground, where some creatures’ lives don’t revolve around the sun. Along the way, we’ll take a look at how human life is affecting nocturnal species and consider the importance of building a world that maintains and values its darkest corners.  

Syllabus at a Glance

This course includes four total sessions, each lasting for 1.5 hours on four Tuesdays beginning April 30.

Session 1 (Tuesday, 4/30, 8:00–9:30 PM ET) | Dark Nights: Land animals that live without light

From bats to bugs, we’ll take a look at land animals that come alive in the dark.  

Session 2 (Tuesday, 5/7, 8:00–9:30 PM ET) | Dark Seas: Underwater creatures

 We’ll explore hydrothermal vents, color-changing fish, and more.

Session 3 (Tuesday, 5/14, 8:00–9:30 PM ET) | Life Underground: Burrows, caves, and soil creatures

We’ll look at termite mound airflow, spider butts, and go down all kinds of fascinating, deep rabbit holes. 

Session 4 (Tuesday, 5/21, 8:00–9:30 PM ET) | Night Turns to Day: Nocturnal life in a brightly lit world

In our final class, we’ll take a look at how lights affect nocturnal life, and how design can better accommodate dark-dwelling creatures.  

Between Sessions

Dr. McAnulty will provide some suggested reading for students who wish to delve deeper into material touched on during class. 

Pricing Options

This course is available at three ticket prices. This tiered pricing model is designed to increase access for a wider range of students as well as to support our instructors. In addition to tiered tickets, we offer a limited number of no-pay spots for students who would not otherwise be able to take this course. No-pay spots are selected via a randomized drawing two weeks before each section begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page.

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Atlas Obscura Online Courses

Atlas Obscura Courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here.

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Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.

About Your Instructor
Sarah McAnulty
Sarah McAnulty

Dr. Sarah McAnulty is a squid biologist and science communicator. She received her Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology working on Hawaiian bobtail squid symbiosis in 2019. She is currently the executive director of Skype a Scientist, a non-profit that connects over 10,000 classrooms to scientists every year. Dr. McAnulty is a prolific science communicator, with an active presence on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Tiktok (@SarahMackAttack). She’s been featured by Nature, Forbes, NPR Shortwave, along with many others, for her work.

What Else You Should Know

This lecture series is designed so students can participate live or watch a recording of each session, after it airs, at a time that is convenient for them. Sessions will take place live over Zoom, with dedicated Q&A segments for students to ask questions via video or chat. Within 72 hours after each session meets, students will receive access to a recording of the live session, which they can watch for up to two weeks after the course concludes.

Instructors may use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors may use this platform to post resources, discussion questions, or assignments. This platform also offers a space for students to connect with one another about course material between sessions.

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses and can share transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions, requests, or accessibility needs.

Dates and Availability

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