Scholars in New York
During the Scholars in New York trip, the ELT students, including myself went to visit the American Museum of Natural History. Located in Manhattan, the museum is known for its collection of over 32 million specimens. However, only a small fraction can be displayed each time. The Museum consists of the Human Biology and Evolution, Biodiversity, Mammal Halls, Bird Halls, Halls of Minerals and Gem, Halls of Meteorites, Fossil Halls, The Art of Diorama: Recreating Nature, the Ross Center and Planetarium, and many more. During our visit, there were several exhibitions including Climate Change, The Butterfly Conservatory, Wild Ocean, Cosmic Collisions, On Feathered Wings, and Saturn. In addition, all scholar students visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art. There, the ELT students explored Ancient Egypt since Met is known for having one of the best exhibits of Ancient Egyptian archeological remains.
At the American Museum of Natural History, I went to visit the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life located on the first floor. Immediately, I was greeted by the immense 94-foot-long life-size blue whale sculpture. The hall displays creatures and environments from across the world. There were several displays that showed the different aquatic environments. One diorama was about the Andros Coral Reef, which is above the water’s surface. Coal reefs are created though the hard skeleton of coral polyps, a small marine invertebrate animal that live in colonies. A balanced temperature in the coral reef region is necessary. Current global warming is causing the water temperatures to increase, thereby posing serious threat to reefs. Coral polyps acquire their food from the tiny dinoflagellate algae living inside the coral tissues. However, a small increase in water temperature causes the algae to leave the coral tissues. Without these beneficial algae, corals will usually bleach and die. The display further conveys how in the Andros Island, rain clouds carry freshwater that reaches a large landmass. The humid air cools as it rises, causing water vapor to condense, making rain. In contrast, the second diorama is about an aquatic environment that takes place in the pitch-dark water, which is up to 1,000 meters beneath the ocean's surface. In the diorama, a sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, is fighting with its prey, a giant squid, Architeuthis dux. The display did not mention any non-biological factors that are important in this specific region.
Next, I went to the Hall of Biodiversity on first floor. There was a display of the Spectrum of Life, which was an immense cladogram with many model organisms. Looking at all the groups in the Tree of Life, I found myself paying close attention to mammals. The group had several preserved organisms mounted on the wall and a video, which allowed viewers like myself to interact with the display. The display explained how the mammals differed from other groups by classifying them under the Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, and Class Mammalia. More displays also showed how the biosphere was dramatically transformed through human interactions. One specific display was concerned about the human consumption of fresh water over time. The exhibit showed a cup with a volume of fresh water that decreases over the years. As the human population grows, water became scarce in many region and groundwater supplies have been depleted. The display was effective in conveying how the human interaction affects the world by measuring the scarcity of fresh water through glass cups that gradually have less water in them.
Finally, I went to look at the Climate Change exhibit in third floor and examined the science of global warming. In one display, there was a timeline with a line graph showing the dramatic increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide level. The exhibit made clear of how human activities throughout history have caused such change in the atmosphere, thereby changing the global climate. Another display revealed the greenhouse effect. The ozone layer is a transparent, shielding blanket that encloses Earth. It admits and keeps enough of the energy streaming from the Sun to make our planet habitable. The heat-holding process is called the greenhouse effect. Recently, however, the human activity created additional greenhouse gas, including carbon dioxide, which is further warming our climate. The display shows a diagram that illustrates the role of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen, clouds, and water vapor in the greenhouse effect. The exhibit made it evident that the increase in greenhouse effects causes an increase in the temperature because the earth retains the energy from the sunlight.
However, human are adapting to such changing atmosphere by changing their lifestyles. One exhibit showed a human adaptation to flooding. Since there will be more frequent flooding if the sea level rises such adaptation is necessary. The exhibit was a picture of a set of floodgates across the Thames River. The floodgates prevent a rising sea from rushing upstream and spilling onto London's streets. This exhibit only shows how humans would adapt to rising sea level, but not necessarily how they would reduce the effects of climate change. The display did not discuss the relative cost of using this method. Another display showed the issue of dying crops. The exhibit is a picture of a woman harvesting corn in Malawi. The rising temperature have caused droughts, which in turn disrupts Africa’s crops. So farmers are thinking of drought resistant seeds. Again, this method only shows how humans would adapt to global warming, but not necessarily how they would reduce the effects of climate change. The display did not discuss the relative cost of using this method.
On the last day at New York, we went to the Museum of Art and examined Ancient Egypt. We learned that the physical environment plays a significant role in the development of all cultures. It also plays a major role in the development and preservation of the past. In Ancient Egypt, the Nile River is a physical environment that allowed the creation of rich material and the dry climate allowed the preservation of such record.
Public and private museums are suffering from reduction in their funding streams. However, The money is necessary to attract the public by updating the museum frequently. Therefore, it would be necessary for them to encourage more donations and to even charge more for admittance to such institutions. That may prevent more people from coming to the museum, but there would be no other options. If I had to create a new gallery or modify an existing one, I would make gallery that only focuses on plant life, the evolution of plants, the diversity of plants, and more. A cost-effective way of informing visitors would be to hold fundraisers. And the people who donate the most money would get their names as part of the museum.
The global warming is not only impacting humans, but also animals as well. However, in one research, it has been discovered that planktons, the food source for many fish, have adapted to the climate change and may be able to survive. This is good news for the fish, and the human consumers.
Anonymous. 6 October 2008. "Type Of Plankton -- Food Source For Many Fish -- Has Ability To Survive Climate Change". Science Daily. Accessed 26 February 2009.
Global warming also has impact on agriculture. Since there is significant continental drying in the Midwest, research is showing that such climate change is even affecting the land prices and revenues of farms.
Mendelsohn, R., W. Nordhaus, and D. Shaw. 1994. The Impact of Global Warming on Agriculture: A Ricardian View. JSTOR: The American Economic Review 84: 753-771.