Hello, everyone! Shoutout to my fellow science enthusiasts, I dedicate this post to you! I recently visited the Florida Museum of Natural History, on the campus of the University of Florida. UF is particularly well-known for its science, and this museum is one of my absolute favorites. It focuses on paleontology, natural sciences, fascinating biology, environmental studies, and geology, among other things. Here, I analyze a few of the nature-based exhibits which I connect with the humanities.
We begin with nature on display. The exhibit that most stood out to me was the aquatic exhibit! This underwater wonderland replicates Florida's fresh water bodies. What most stood out to me in this exhibit was the sizing! Notice how human visitors are no longer the "big fish in the pond." Massive marine creatures are everywhere, some camouflaged and others more conspicuous. The detail is fantastic! From the creatures themselves, to the lighting, to the shimmering ceiling, this exhibit gives an amazing underwater feeling. It's rather alarming when a giant croaking frog lunges a bit out of its hiding hole, but the movements and sounds of this exhibit add to its charm. I very much enjoyed this unique creature encounter. It taught me a whole new dimension to the beauty of underwater ecosystems.
The ideal exhibit for considering nature and the ethics associated with it is the Butterfly Rainforest. It allows for immersion in real, living nature, surrounded by wonderful creatures. Over a hundred species of butterflies and moths, as well as a plethora of seed-eating birds, fish, and turtles, call this massive outdoor enclosure home. The Butterfly Rainforest is an embodiment of tranquility; the soft chirping of little birds, the symphony of running water, and the graceful dances of butterflies all around. It brought me a great sense of peace, and it seemed the other visitors felt similarly. There was little conversation, it seemed we were more focused on observing what was around us; such a rare gift in our current lives, with the constant distractions of technology. Technology is a wonderful thing, and I would never deny its benefits! However, it is also unfortunately detaching us from nature. Where once children would go outside and play with dirt, many parents now instead distract them with iPads. Again, I'm not saying that our society is bad. All I wish to say is that we receive profound and scientifically-proven benefits when we interact with nature. I've loved insects for as long as I can remember, and I'm glad that at least some of them get the appreciation they deserve. Arthropods have modified the earth in incredible ways! Through their pollination they enabled the evolution of angiosperm plants, which give us a substantial portion of our food, and they have served as the humble base of the terrestrial food chain for millions of years. Without insects, we simply would not be here, and I think it's time we recognized that even the ones not considered "pretty" deserve respect and appreciation. This exhibit certainly allows one to respect, admire, and love nature.
Another great exhibit here at the Florida Museum of Natural History is the prehistoric section. They have a wide assortment of Floridian fossils, and the one shown in this picture is that of a giant ground sloth. These amazing creatures were driven to extinction by over-hunting done by humans, as is clear by their disappearance shortly after human arrival and the evidence of hunting. Nature is a crucial element of the human spirit. This museum allows visitors to step outside their daily lives by taking them to another world; the world of our past. It teaches where we came from, and how we got to where we are now. Only from learning of our pasts can we appreciate the present. We can appreciate the past for what it had, but also learn from mistakes of the past. If giant ground sloths had persisted human attacks to the modern day, would we learn from the countless extinctions of other animals and protect them? Passenger pigeons, once the most numerous birds in North America, were hunted and shot to extinction. So too were the dodo birds, while creatures including Tasmanian tigers were demonized and killed out of fear. Learning of these stories helps us understand human nature; we are inquisitive and curious. We love, and we fear. We can be ignorant, but also enlightened. The natural world holds immeasurable value and majesty; through learning about it, we can experience a profound appreciation for it.