Good Life Nature Activity at FLMNH Cullen Smith

My trip to the Florida Museum of Natural History was very enjoyable, as I learned a lot of things about the history of Florida that I was unaware of beforehand. The museum is a very valuable learning resource, and I would highly recommend a visit to anyone stopping in town.

Nature and the Human Spirit (photograph by Chad Nussbaum)

As you walk into the museum, the first thing that you see is a mammoth skeleton. I am actually taking a class this semester taught by a man that was the director of the Florida museum for many years, and he took us on a tour of the museum a few weeks ago. He told us that they specifically placed the mammoth skeleton to where it would be the first thing you see when you enter the museum, because it is inherently so awe-inspiring and will get people excited for the rest of the museum. Coming to the museum and seeing the fossil of an animal that lived several tens of thousands of years ago really makes you think about the natural world and how we as human beings fit into it. It was a really nice experience, as this is something that I don't encounter much in my daily life.

Nature on Display (photograph by Cullen Smith)

Right after my time appreciating the mammoth fossil, I went into the Butterfly Garden, and I was taken by surprise at the beauty of some of the butterflies that lived there. Shown above is a giant butterfly, much larger than the others in the picture, with an intricate design on its wings. I feel that seeing these creatures in real life is the best way to experience the true magnificence and beauty of the natural world and evolution, as there is something about seeing the designs on the wings of these butterflies in real life as they are flying around that you can't capture in a photograph or a painting.

Nature and Ethics (photograph by Chad Nussbaum)

Another thing that I learned from the tour with my professor is that the cave and nature display are all entirely artificial, merely a recreation of the real world. When I learned this, it made me think about how odd it is that we make plastic, artificial replicas of the real world and then place them in museums to appreciate, rather than just seeing these things in real life, and whether or not this behavior is ethical. While there is no doubt that it is impressive that we can so accurately recreate a natural environment, I am also concerned about what this means in terms of whether or not we will, as a species, take environmental issues seriously in the future.

Nature and Ethics (photograph by Chad Nussbaum)

Another part of the museum that made me think about human ethics was the exhibit on native Floridians, specifically this person carrying a dead shark, presumably one that they hunted and killed. I personally have been vegan for four years, but I am aware that the vast majority of people on the planet both currently and in the past have taken eating meat for granted their entire lives. In the last few hundred years, humans have caused the sixth "mass extinction" of species from hunting and due to our unforeseen affects on the planet's climate. I am curious as to whether humans will eventually move away from killing animals for food and perhaps toward synthetically grown food, or if we will continue to hunt animals and destroy their environments until they are down to low population levels or extinction, as we have so many times before.


Cullen Smith, Chad Nussbaum

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