Nature on Display
The Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Natural History Museum was perhaps on of my favorite places within the museum itself. Although I am an engineering major, biology, ecology, and nature have always had a special place in my heart. I felt like a child in a candy store walking into the exhibit; wide-eyed and filled with such amazement and wonder. To me, the design of the exhibit was particularly appealing because I was able to immerse myself in nature and appreciate how delicate the butterflies were and how soothing it was to watch these creatures flutter around the enclosure. In addition to the butterflies, I saw a quail for the very first time and immediately fell in love with their small, delicate nature as they scurried around in the underbrush. Throughout this exhibit, I realized that nature is a fragile creature and without these kinds of experiences most people would not understand how important these ecosystems are to the surrounding areas. Insects, like butterflies and bees, pollinate the flowers that we rely on to produce food that we consume everyday. This cannot be understood by looking at a painting, but only by a beautiful rainforest such as this one.
Nature and Ethics
Here, I got the opportunity to go "underground" and explore some of Florida's hidden jewels. Since Florida is built on limestone, caves like the one simulated here form with stalagmites and stalactites dripping with minerals from the water dripping through the stone. Many simulations like this one were placed throughout the museum for visitors to appreciate nature for its beauty, just as Leopold notes. Walking through the museum, I felt happy that I could experience this when it would have been nearly impossible otherwise. It was interesting to watch the kids, parents, and couples walk through the exhibits and see their reactions. Some had wonder painted on their faces while others lackadaisically strolled right on through. At different times, I felt either of these feelings. When I walked through the butterfly garden, the cave, or the hammock, I was filled with a child-like wonder. When I walked through other exhibits, I felt like I ambled right on through. At the end of everything, I did feel a connection with nature and an ethical responsibility to nature to restore it.
Nature and the Human Spirit
Pictured here is me standing in front of an exhibit that allows the visitor to experience some of Florida's natural habitats. This area is known as a hammock, defined as "diverse hardwood forests" on the nameplate adjacent to the exhibit. These ecosystems are some of the most diverse areas in the continental United States with the greatest number of tree and shrub species per acre. Furthermore, these areas are home to many species who only inhabit these specific forests in North Florida. Exhibits such as these in the Nature Museum help us realize that these ecosystems used to be extremely abundant, but now they are more rare than they should be. Just across from this setup, there were some interactive logs that you could overturn to see more of the creatures that inhabit the areas. This is what further helped me appreciate the mystery of the world. It turned into something of a scavenger hunt to try and find all of the little creatures. We stepped out of our ordinary lives for a short period and had a little bit of fun exploring the hammock.