Introduction AKA My Love for Natural History Museums
Okay so we can just start with the fact that I absolutely freaking love natural history museums and have basically grown up in them so I was genuinely excited to go to Gainesville's very own. Since I was little my mom quickly realized that my hyperactivity mixed with my interest in things such dinosaurs and animals and touching things and the history of the earth combined to make sure that she eventually took my brother and I to the local natural history museum just to wear us out. Which worked very very well, with us racing around reading everything and touching everything we were allowed to and screaming things such as, "LOOK AT THAT DINOSAUR!!!!!!" This led to us not pacing ourselves and collapsing in the car ride home. Mom was so pleased she proceeded to take us to every natural history museum she possibly could, from the small one in my hometown of Elko, Nevada, to the Smithsonian itself. In my 18 years of life, I have never gotten tired of these types of museums, which my poor friend Sarah quickly found out after we walked in the door of Gainesvilles and naturally (pun intended), she heard, "SARAH LOOK AT THAT DINOSAUR!!!!" immediately.
PhotoCred: Sarah Michaurd
Nature on Display
So, I am currently majoring in mechanical engineering, and after, I want to specialize in marine engineering, making submarines specifically to explore the ocean. I tell you this just so you understand that, my interests and life goals lie largely, beneath the waves. Therefore, walking into this particular hallway/exhibit of the museum was like walking into a dream that combined my love of the sea and the movie, "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids". The museum couldn't have made me happier than this. Truly. It was amazing to walk into a room that made you feel as if you were actually underwater, but on top of that, they made everything on a larger scale than we're used to, which lended a truly new and unique perspective of marine life. To see common fish twice as big as myself, barnacles as big as my head, it was amazing. Much of what I learned in that exhibit I had already known (simply due to my interest in the subject), but one new thing I learned from that minuscule perspective was that, even common fish are a little bit terrifying when they're that large. Also, the presentation of the exhibit helped show the prevalence of things that you wouldn't typically notice, like the barnacles everywhere, and the relative sizes in the food chain were easier to see and appreciate at that scale. Overall, due to the presentation of this particular exhibit, it was immediately my favorite in the already impressive museum, and if I wasn't interested in the aquatic world beforehand, I would have been after leaving that room.
PhotoCred: Sarah Michaurd
Nature and Ethics
So throughout the museum they definitely emphasized the fact that human activity is killing the natural world at a few key points, and how we could help. The museum as a whole did actually have multiple exhibits that could help people feel more connected to, and understand better, nature. However, the emphasis on human activity hurting nature was most prevalent in this section, which discussed the mass extinctions that have taken place on earth in the past. The focus here definitely made me wonder if there was anything more i could do to help, but mainly, I used this picture because I overheard a younger kid that was walking by and reading in this section ask his mom, "You mean there was even MORE animals than there are now? Will there be more animals when I'm older?" This showed me that first, the museum was having a bit of an impact on younger kids, which was great, but also it reminded me that no matter what happens, the Earth has survived many majorly destructive events in it's lifetime. That kids words made me realize that even though humans are destroying the earth now, it would bounce back, with or without us. Now that doesn't mean that I don't still feel a sense of responsibility to help and be environmentally aware and I personally love nature and spending time in it, but it also gives me hope that even though our species is hurting the earth, it won't die in the long run.
PhotoCred: Sarah Michaurd
Nature and the Human Spirit
The butterfly exhibit was my second favorite part of the museum (sorry but the underwater exhibit was too cool to beat.) Majestic, however, is the best way to describe it. Like I said earlier, I spend a lot of time in nature. However, being from Utah and the son of a geologist, my version of nature has always been mountains, pine forests, and the rocky national parks of Utah. None of those really show the beautiful, green, and overwhelmingly alive ecosystem of Florida. The butterfly rainforest was my first real taste of it, and it showed me that I need to explore Florida more. It showed me a beautiful part of our world that I may not have seen otherwise. On top of that, the flashes of colorful butterflies in flight, a relatively rare sight, all around me, was astonishing. The fact that creatures so small could be so cool to watch just further instilled the majesty of nature, and makes whomever sees them wonder what other wonders may be out there to see, if only we would step outside of our normal lives and explore a little. The exhibit showed me that I have a lot more of the world to see and made my travel bug grow just a bit more. There are some parts of the human soul that you'll never be able to find unless you spend some time in the natural world.