The Florida Museum of Natural History Madison Meltz
My name is Madison Meltz and I am a Freshman at the University of Florida. On January 24th, I went to the Florida Museum of Natural History. During my trip, I learned about the history of Florida and studied beautiful replicas of different ecosystems. I also experienced walking through a Butterfly Rainforest for the first time.
Background Photo Credit: Grove, Mat. "Pebbles" Flickr. 2003. JPEG.
Nature on Display:
One exhibit I found particularly interesting was the replication of the limestone cave in the Northern Florida section of the museum. I found this exhibit to be particularly interesting because I had never had the opportunity to explore a cave before. A few of the other exhibits, such as the forest and beach displays, centered around ecosystems that I encounter in everyday life. However, the cave exhibit gave me the opportunity to study a geological anomaly that I had never had the ability to study before - without having to leave Gainesville!
While walking through the cave exhibit, I acquired knowledge about different fossils, rock formations, and minerals found in Florida caves. I also finally learned the difference between a stalactite and stalagmite. (If you were wondering, a stalactite is a rock formation that hangs from the ceiling and a stalagmite is a rock formation that comes up from the floor. I have been struggling with this concept since the fourth grade).
On a more serious note, I found the exhibit of the cave to be particularly important because I learned about the physical set up of a natural cave. Through simply observing the exhibit, I could see what rock formations are common, where and what fossils are frequently found, and the limestone layers' chronological signifigance in a "common Florida cave." This "physical set-up" of a cave is difficult to describe in a textbook, through word of mouth, or any non-visual, two-dimensional setup. Walking through a realistic replica of a cave gave me the optimal learning experience.
I found my experience at the museum to be enjoyable because of how vastly different the exhibits were. There were life-sized replicas of bogs, rivers, caves, forests, and beaches. These large, intricate exhibits turned a mandated trip to the museum into a fun adventure. I felt immersed in many different parts of natural world and enjoyed the physical component of the learning experience. The Florida Museum of Natural History was the perfect place for a hands-on learner like myself to study different parts of the natural world.
Nature and Ethics:
I believe my trip to the Florida Museum of Natural History allowed me to value nature in the ways that Leopold recommends. While walking through the museum, I gained a better understanding of the complexity of the natural world. I had time to fully study the beauty in the details of nature, ranging from a single flower that houses several insects to an entire forest filled with coexisting biotic life.
I felt a sense of curiosity while walking through the various exhibits. I encounter most of the ecosystems that were displayed on the day to day basis, but throughout my entire life I had never taken the opportunity to learn about what plants and animals make up these natural spaces or their functions in the natural world. Admittedly, I initially felt embarrassed that I knew so little about the environments that are a part of my daily life. However, once I overcame this sense of embarrassment, I was excited to learn new information about the ecology of Florida.
I visited the museum with a small group of my friends. Most of our reactions to exhibits were relatively similar. We explored each exhibit with open-minded curiosity and would read facts we found particularly interesting to each other (quietly, we were in a museum after all). However, what I thought was particularly interesting was how we each had a different "favorite exhibit." I enjoyed the cave exhibit the most. However, two of my friends preferred the river exhibit, and a third preferred the forest. This was particularly interesting because my group of friends consists of very similar people. This goes to show that, even between those with similar mindsets, nature can impact each individual in a different way.
I have always thought that I have had an "ethical responsibility" to protect the natural world. So, I would not say the trip to the Florida Museum of Natural History alone instilled in me a desire to help the environment. However, I will say that the experience gave me a greater understanding of the natural world, and increased my drive to better the planet and be environmentally conscientious.
Nature and the Human Spirit:
The Florida Museum of Natural History helps us step out of our ordinary lives by immersing us in the beauty of the natural world and giving us time to fully appreciate it. In our day-to-day routines, many of us are so focused on where we need to be and what we need to accomplish that we do not have time to reflect on nature. However, the Florida Museum of Natural History provides a space solely for the purpose of refection on, learning about, and admiration of the natural world.
The Florida Museum of Natural History helps us better understand who we are and helps us appreciate the mystery and majesty of the natural world by providing beautiful, lifelike displays of certain aspects of the natural world and educating us on the impact of our our interactions with nature. The museum shows us how intricate nature is, how each flower, tree, insect, and animal is important to maintain a thriving ecosystem, and even admits that we may not in fact understand every component of the natural world. The museum also educates us on the first human interactions with nature, how we thrived in different conditions, and how we may have (in the past and present times) left the natural world a little worse than we found it in an attempt to better ourselves. The museum helps illustrate the idea that in order for humanity as a whole to have a "Good Life," we need to make a conscious effort to conserve and preserve what little of the natural world is left currently unscathed. If we make the effort to preserve and remediate now, generations to come can have a higher qualities of life by enjoying the wonder that is the natural world.