Nature on Display
While visiting the Florida Museum of Natural History I had the chance to explore the butterfly rain-forest. This immersive experience allowed me to see various species of butterflies in their natural habitat. I was able to learn about the feeding habits, coloration and where they like to perch through my observations in the rain-forest. A simple display with carefully preserved specimens and informative panels would not have given me the same learning opportunity as directly observing the insects behavior. Rather than droning off lists of facts about the species on display, the exhibit feature the species in question acting as they would naturally with smaller informative panels scattered around the rain-forest. The rain-forest itself captured my attention through the diverse array of wonderfully colored flora and butterflies. The interactive nature of the exhibit with some of the butterflies being particularly friendly and landing on us was exciting and made the experience memorable.
Photo 1: Taken in the butterfly rainforest
Nature and Ethics
I was able to gain an insight into Leopold's idea that we are simply members of the "biotic community" rather than "conquers of the land" through two exhibits in particular: the butterfly rain-forest and the exhibit on sharks. The butterfly rain-forest gave me the opportunity to experience nature as Leopold recommends. I was able to interact with and observe the butterflies, creatures who are known for their massive impact on the world around us though helping pollinate the plants that we eat. Despite their small stature, they have a large role in the biotic community, and without their help we would struggle to survive. As I walked through this exhibit I felt very humble knowing something as fragile as a butterfly influences the entire human population. This experience reminded me to be thoughtful of creatures such as butterflies as pollutants in the air, human expansion and other harmful human activities are decreasing their numbers, and this will in turn come back to harm us. During my time at the museum I was also able to visit the shark exhibit and view preserved examples of sharks as well as some fossils. One fossil I found particularly engaging was a Megalodon shark jaw in tact with an enormous array of terrifying teeth. Although this species of shark no longer exists it does give us an inkling to how ancient sharks are. This magnificent display once again instilled in me an ethical responsibility to take care of our oceans. Much like butterflies, shark populations are decreasing globally due to human activities such as the consumption of shark fin soup and pollution of our oceans. Other visitors to the museum reacted much the same way I did in complete awe of the magnitude of the jaw bone and teeth on display.
Photo 2: Taken in the exhibit on sharks in front of the Megalodon fossil
Nature and the Human Spirit
One of the first exhibits you are able to see as you walk into the museum is that of a Mammoth fossil. This is the skeleton of a creature that our ancestors would have walked among, as it only died out around 10,000 years ago. As human beings it helps us better understand the world we have come from and how we have developed and adapted as a species. The Mammoth would have been hunted by our ancestors for it's thick fur, meat and tusks. The fact that we would have been able to hunt and kill such a magnificent creature foreshadows the future of human society as a brave and resourceful species. This ties into Heschel's belief that we should take time in our daily lives to connect to the eternal. Every person who walks into this museum will see this giant fossil and be reminded of our humble beginnings as a hunter and gatherer society and the tenacity of the human spirit to constantly adapt so as to survive.
Photo 3: Taken in the museum lobby in front of the Mammoth fossil
*Photo on title page was taken by me in the butterfly rainforest.