Smithsonian Gardens, Habitat Exhibition, Biomes: Life in Balance

(birds calling) – My name is Alexandra Thompson, I’m a horticulturalist
in the interior section with Smithsonian Gardens. – I’m Shannon Hill, and
I’m a horticulturalist at Smithsonian Gardens greenhouses. – “Biomes: Life in the
Balance” is an exhibit that explores five different
biomes found in North America, we look at aquatic, desert, tundra, grassland, and rainforest. Each vignette explores the
different characteristics that make that biome unique, including a map of where they’re located. And then it looks at
the inter-connectedness between plants and
animals in those biomes. The exhibit also features
a Smithsonian scientist that works in each of the biomes and the research that they’re working on and we wanted to do a cross collaboration. ‘Cause that’s big with the Smithsonian. A biome is a large region that has plants and animals
and non-living things interacting with each other
within that environment. There were quite a lot of challenges with this exhibit, just
because of the space. We’re working underground, it’s actually under the Haupt Garden. – And then keeping the plants alive in an indoor environment where
there’s not a lot of light, when we put the plants on display, they don’t stay very long. We’re constantly having to
change those plants out, bring them back to the greenhouse where they can get a
little rest and relaxation and they’ll return to the exhibit once they’re looking better. The plants that we decided
to use in the exhibit, we felt it was really
important to use native plants to each of the biomes. We had to do a lot of research
and track down growers that grow the plants native
to each of these biomes in these areas. Aquatic was another issue, we couldn’t put an
aquatic biome on display so we had to use artificial
grasses for that. – A big challenge with
creating this exhibit was making a professional looking exhibit that also fit within
a very limited budget. And to create the animals, we
included Smithsonian exhibits which was a really exciting partnership to be able to work with them. They were really great at working with us and trying to get what we wanted but also fit their budget
and their time schedule. When I was thinking about ideas, I wanted to think about
the target audience and the Ripley Center
has lots of children, school groups for the Discovery Theater and different camps down here, so I wanted to focus my main audience on elementary school students. – There was a Budding Botanists camp that we were able to participate with and give them a tour. And it was really exciting to see the questions that they asked. The information that we gave was appropriate for that target audience. – One day I was down here watering and there was a mom with her son, just walking down the hall and
all of a sudden her son goes, mommy, mommy, you gotta
stop, look at this. And so she stopped and went over and he’s pointing to the
different animal cut-outs and to the sign, and next thing I know, they’re stopping and they’re looking at each of the different vignettes and that was just really cool to see. That it caught the kid’s eye, which is what we were going for, and then the mom took the time to stop and look with him. And so that was really special. – I’m a behind the scenes worker, so I don’t get much opportunity to get out and work with the public. So this is a chance for me to work on creating a message of
protecting the environment, of protecting our habitats that I can share with the public and possibly create some interest for young budding scientists and botanists and environmentalists in the future. The Biomes exhibit directly relates to the theme of habitat. Protecting habitats protects life. Because you get to see the
inter-connected relationships between the plants and the animals within the habitats and how fragile those relationships truly are. – I have a background
in environmental science and policy, so I’m pretty
familiar with these topics and the topic of biomes. But it made me realize that there’s just always so much to learn and it made me think about
the animal-plant interactions in a whole new way. It definitely gets you to think about the inter-connectedness and the fragility of the habitats and how you need to try to work on saving them. Something as small as a snail, you think, oh, a snail, I
don’t like that, get rid of it, but it’s a very important
part of that habitat and so we’re just hoping
to get the next generation of environmental stewards. Get kids excited about
biomes and the environment and different habitats
and thinking that way and also getting their parents
to think that way as well. So that we can continue to move forward and protect where we live.

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