Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lions and GIS and Evolution, Oh my!

Growing up in the D.C. area I was lucky to be able to journey to museums, the zoo and other cultural places on a regular basis. Sometimes I wonder if I hadn't grown up in the area if I would have the same passion for Anthropology and the related topics.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a friend from VA who had never been to the National Zoo on a tour of it. Unfortunately a bunch of the exhibits were closed and at the other exhibits a lot of the animals were sleeping. Despite this we still had a great time and it renewed my love for these type of visits again. Now there is a part of me that doesn't like that the animals are caged up but on the other hand I do like how they are available so that people can learn about them.

This day, like many days at the zoo, there were many children there with their parents. Many parents though I noticed took their kids through the exhibits, pointed to the animals and then moved on. Hardly any stopped to read the captions or the exhibits that were just all explanations. Of course this struck a nerve mostly because I know how much time and effort goes into designing just one exhibit and coming up with that text (I spent an entire SEMESTER working on my Evolution Exhibit for Penn State). Even beyond that I was sad that these kids were missing so much information that they could absorb into their young brains.

So needless to say that made me a bit sad for those kids but even sadder was when the parents were talking to their kids and giving them wrong information. I made sure that I loudly talked to my friend about the animals, what the really were and correcting any information that those parents were spouting. Of course the WORST one for me was one mom was pointing out to their little boy, who was probably around eight, the gorillas. She saw how excited he was to see them and said, "Look at the monkeys!"

It was at that point that I was close to screaming at this woman, but I kept it to a minimum. This happens to be a great pet peeve of mine since I spent so much time in my undergrad studying evolution and as a result all about apes, new world and old world monkeys. See, this is a reason that when you don't know something you should READ the text that comes along with the exhibit (which was about 5 feet from them).

Once I got over that I had a great time at the zoo and luckily my friend put up with me explaining everything I knew about each animal in great detail to her. Perhaps my favorite part of the zoo though had nothing to do with the animals. We were actually leaving, walking through the research part of the Amazonian building and we came across a room with animal bones in it. Of course the Anthropologist in me starting geeking out and I starting talking about how I missed playing with bones in the museum.

It was at that moment that I thought for a second if I was really doing the right thing switching fields a bit and going into GIS. This though only lasted for a second as I turned around in the room to see a computer that had ArcGIS maps displayed on it. Next to it were countless books about different uses for GIS including plotting underwater volcanoes. It put such a smile on my face not only because it reminded me that I loved GIS and what I could do with it once I got my Master's but also that these things were actually being taught and displayed.

So even though this trip had it's moments I had a great time, mostly because it was great to see my friend again who I only get to see once in awhile since she lives farther away. It made me even more excited to start my Master's Program and start learning about new things again.


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