Florida Museum of Natural History My Experience - Anqi Zhou

Zhou, Anqi. Giant wall of butterfly specimens. Digital Image, 20 Jan. 2017.


My experience at the FLMNH was very rewarding because it is my first time at a museum solely dedicated to natural history; my past experiences have been limited to zoos, safaris and aquariums. My experience was heightened by the museum's detailed descriptions of the evolutions, migrations and creations of species both alive and extinct and their physical terranes and habitats. Furthermore, the museum is beautifully decorated and constructed such that walking through an exhibit allows us to physically enter a ecosystem and interact with it's inhabitants. Overall, this experience taught me a great deal about the plants and animals who share our world and bring color to our lives, and inspired me to respect, cherish and protect those that are endangered.

Hu, Zheqi. Anqi Zhou leaning against a railing in the Butterfly Rainforest. Digital Image, 20 Jan. 2017. (Photo by Zheqi Hu, consent to use given)


It was no surprise that the exhibit that captured my attention the most was the giant recreation of the inside of a Calusa leader's house. The dim lighting, straw seats, realistic statues of the natives and the haunting musical stimulation of a storm together create an unforgettable and dramatic experience. By sitting on the straw bench facing the beautifully adored Calusa chief and absorbing my sorroundings, I was able to truly immersed myself into the Calusa culture and learn of their lifestyle and values in a way a bland text description could never have shown me. The Calusa people were a population of natives in Florida southwest. Prior to their contact with European explorers, they sustained themselves purely on the natural environment: their food source was the fish they caught in estuaries along the cost and in the Everglades. The recreations of Calusa people looked so regal that their mere presence was chilling and I was thrilled to be a participant in their ceremony/rituals. This exhibit was amazing to me because it artfully represented the intimate relationship between early humans and nature.

Zhou, Anqi. Inside the Calusa leader's house. Digital Image, 20 Jan. 2017.


I am a firm believer that economic development must precede the conservation of nature. This may seen like a selfish world view but by Leopold's logic of identifying ourselves as members of the "biotic community" we must be responsible for the protection of everything and anything on this planet, which is a ideal that is marvelous but also unpractical and unfeasible. Species of plants and animals come in and out of existence on our planet because of the guiding laws of evolution, and the spending of time to protect those that are destined to leave is a waste that is frankly detrimental to our well being as a species. However, this does not mean that as humans we can not appreciate nature or enjoy the experiences in which we are able to "love, respect, and admire" nature. The Butterfly Rainforest at the FLNHM provides such an experience. Upon entering the exhibit I was reminded of my childhood favorite movie "Barbie as the Island Princess". I was enchanted and at awe and felt as if I were the beautiful princess who was able to communicate with plants and animals. The two friends who were there with me were also visible amazed by how closely we were able to interact with the animals as they attempted to lure butterflies onto their hands. I loved seeing the butterflies in their natural habitat, eating fruit and flying around the beautiful garden, and this unique experience made me much more appreciative of the beauty and wonder of the biotic life that humans had no part in creating (which is saying a lot because butterflies scare me).

Zhou, Anqi. Butterflies eating fruit. Digital Image, 20 Jan. 2017.


I agree with Heschel that development and the face-paced lifestyle of most humans have caused us to lose some of our wonder for the natural world. It is essential that we take time once in awhile to stop working and worrying and to instead connect with elements of the earth that used to bring us awe and wonder. Having lived in big cities my whole life, and having my ordinary live be consumed with goals and responsibilities, there is very little time in which I can appreciate the land I live on, that provides me with resources and it's millions of natural wonders and beauties. Even on vacations I am often obsessed with the comfort provided by hotels and transportations. Thus the FLNHM and this activity forced me to step out of my ordinary life and come face to face with the eternal land that I live on. Although I am not religious and do not believe in any sort of spiritual enlightenment, this experience was wonderful in that it helped me take a break from the busyness of life to enjoy something that is relaxing and that clearly mad me more content with life on earth. The FLNHM showed me how there are many more facets of nature created by the universe that are more beautiful and intricate than what humans can ever conceive of. Nature is a critical part of my good life because I would love to discover and enjoy more of the wonders the universe has to offer.

Zhou, Anqi. Black and yellow butterfly resting on flower. Digital Image, 20 Jan. 2017.

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