"We decided to tackle the environment at this time because Birch Aquarium really serves as the public interpretation of Scripps Institution of Oceanography," said. Nigella Hillgarth, executive director of the aquarium. "Scripps has about 100 people working on climate change, and so it is really appropriate that we should do that."
The science of climate change started at Scripps more than 50 years ago, and in order to showcase the science, Birch Aquarium opened the new exhibit. The timing was also relevant to the recent release of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations-sponsored agency that has been authoring reports on climate change since 1990. The most recent report was released in February, and several Scripps scientists were involved in its interpretation.
"I think one of the things that we really hope to accomplish is that we really show the scientific facts," Hillgarth said. "We want people to be able to come learn the truth about global warming and then learn what the consequences would be if we don't do something about it."
While the primary audience is older children and their parents, there are a lot of offerings that younger children would enjoy as well. The exhibit features Enter the Heat Signature Gallery, Discover 2050, experimental greenhouse effect, learning about the "wild card" in climate change, exploring how scientists monitor temperature on a global scale, interactive displays and much more.
"I think the most fun thing that we have is our newsroom "” it is called forecasting the future, and I have to say I rather enjoy it myself," Hillgarth said. "It is where you go in and you choose from three newscasts and we predict what the weather will be like in future."
This is the first time that Birch Aquarium has featured a major exhibit about climate change. "Feeling the Heat" will run for three years, with ongoing changes and updates as new information from SIO scientists and others becomes available.
Although the exhibit has been open for only one month, it has been very well received and remains one of the highest quality science exhibits that Birch has ever featured. The aquarium is also hosting the Green Flash concert series on selected Wednesdays, from 6 to 9 p.m., for the remainder of the summer.
"There are many more fun, interactive things for everyone to participate in, and we encourage people to come in and change to new energy-saving light bulbs and that sort of thing," Hillgarth said. "But to me, the most exciting part is how you make people think in a much bigger way about global warming and how we can stop it."
For more information, visit www.sio.ucsd.edu.