The University observed Texas Wildlife Day on Saturday, as the Texas Memorial Museum hosted free family-friendly activities to educate the public on the importance of biodiversity conservation.
Admission was free to the public, with activities ranging from wildlife drawings and making pine-cone bird feeders to a fish species collection presented by UT scientist Adam Cohen.
The activities and demonstrations were hosted by science educators of the museum, UT scientists and 15 members of Texas Master Naturalists, museum associate director Pamela Owen said. Texas Master Naturalists is a volunteer-based statewide program sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife to educate the public on native Texas wildlife.
Owen said permanent exhibits and having an event like Texas Wildlife Day increases biodiversity awareness among people in central Texas.
“Our focus has been on natural history,” Owen said. “We have a lot of folks that maybe don’t have a chance to go outside or maybe they’re living in a more urban environment, or they may not be aware this great diversity that we have in the state of Texas.”
Owen said Texas Wildlife Day is an important reminder that humans are not separate from the environment, and human actions can have both small and large scale impacts on the surrounding world.
Cohen, ichthyology collection manager at UT’s Hendrickson Lab and an alumnus, said biodiversity collections at the Texas Memorial Museum serve research and educational purposes. Ichthyology is a branch of zoology devoted to studying fish.
“We’re always trying to make a public connection to and get people interested in science,” Cohen said. “We just need to keep people interested in the biodiversity because it’s what causes people to want to preserve ecosystems and nature.”
One of the hands-on activities highlighted a University biodiversity collection in which Cohen displayed fish for visitors to see and touch to understand their anatomy. Each one of the organisms acts as a snapshot of the environment at a certain time and place, Cohen said.
Texas Memorial Museum intern Anneke Rood, human development and family sciences senior, said it is important for people to care about the nature that is right in their backyards.
“I just think it’s important for the kids and for people our age learning about (nature) if they never did,” Rood said. “Because we only get one shot. (Texas Wildlife Day) is a great way for people to learn about ways that they can interact with nature and ways that they can learn about history.”
The museum exhibits opened from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the Texas Wildlife Day activities lasted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Owen said there was a total of 1,037 visitors this year, and over half told Owen they had never been to the museum before.
The Texas Wildlife Day event in 2015 had over 1,200 visitors. The event did not take place last year at the museum due to lack of staff.