Florida Museum of Natural History Erin Snyder

Nature on display

The Estuary Up-Close exhibit was one that really captured my attention the second I entered the room. The purpose of the exhibit was to show the ecosystem within an estuary by placing visitors directly inside of one, as if they were inhabitants themselves. This is how I felt immediately upon entry. The fish and other sea creatures were greatly enlarged among the larger than life aquatic vegetation. Blue light illuminated the entire room, creating an immersive experience that intrigued me to really take the time to absorb the setting created in the exhibit. Currently, I am taking a course that is entirely dedicated to the study of water, placing a large focus on water in the environment, especially in Florida. However, listening to a lecture about estuaries and aquatic environments is not nearly as effective of a learning experience as being able to see what it is like to be a part of the ecosystem, which this exhibit offers. It entices visitors more to learn about this ecosystem and to care about it more, meaning a stronger desire to want to live environmentally friendly lives and actively work to be conscientious of and protect environmentally important ecosystems, like estuaries. I really enjoyed how the museum was centered on Florida's environment, as it allows for a more personal connection with the materials presented for me and other students at the University of Florida. This relatability of the exhibits to our daily lives is helpful in fostering a sense of importance in caring about the protection of nature.

Nature and Ethics

The exhibits of the Florida Natural History Museum all served to immerse visitors in the natural habitats of Florida. By recreating these environments within the displays, visitors are able to walk through the exhibits and feel as though they are actually walking through the environment being presented instead. Pictures and information about the nature and history are provided, but I believe that the full scale representations are what is really impactful in engaging viewers. In this ways, I did see myself and my place within nature, as interacting with it instead of trying to control it. Natural ecosystems are so complex, and humans are just one part of these intricate habitats, as demonstrated by the museums portrayals of them. In the exhibit about Florida's Environment and People, it was illustrated how the first Florida inhabitants interacted with the habitat, serving as another member of the natural community instead of entirely conquering the land. By being placed back in time with these people, I was a little saddened, as although I recognized much of the environmental features shown, like mangroves, there was an absence of urban developments and exotic, non-native wildlife. The Florida ecosystem has been altered so much, especially in the past century with a great increases in human development. Many of the other visitors during my visit were small children, who were in awe when they entered these model environment exhibits. I feel that we should be able to embrace nature with this sense of amazement in our everyday lives, and it makes me wish that the native habitats were still in tact. Though returning to this natural state would be nearly impossible, I do think that visiting these exhibits makes we want to practice being environmentally friendly and doing all that I can personally to preserve the natural ecosystems that are still in tact.

Nature and the Human Spirit

When we are all so caught up with school, work, and our personal lives, it is easy to forget about the importance that the actual natural environment plays in our lives. The constant industrialization and urban development often covers up the beautiful natural habitats where we live. Visiting this museum reminded me how beautiful the world is. The Butterfly Rainforest offered an actual, live rainforest which luscious vegetation and native creatures, including butterflies and birds. Though am I able to see the tropical nature of Florida, I have not been able to visit a rainforest like the one recreated here. It is an amazing experience to be able to view this beautiful setting up close and in person. Exposure to new environments like this allowed me to realize how little I truly know about the world and the vast and diverse experiences it has to offer, making me want to continue to learn and explore as much as possible throughout my life.

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