Orlando Science Center: ‘Life,’ new nature exhibit has technology too


imageThings To Do Travel Orlando Science Center: ‘Life’ taking form with nature, technology Supplies arrive at the Orlando Science Center as construction continues on the multimillion-dollar ‘Life’ exhibit, set to open in spring.(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) By Dewayne Bevil | [email protected] | Orlando Sentinel December 15, 2023 at 9:13 a.m.“Life,” the under-construction nature exhibit at Orlando Science Center, is designed to work on multiple levels.Look up at the monkeys.

Look over at basking alligators.Look down at burrowing owls that are digging below the surface.

“It’s like 360 degrees of animals, very close up,” Shannon Zimmerman, curator of conservation and welfare, said during a recent walk-through of the site.She pointed to where the sloths will hang out, where birds will enter the exhibit’s rainforest area and at the 10,000-gallon, in-the-round aquarium, future home of sharks.

The $13.5 million exhibit will be on the ground level of the museum, basically sitting on the footprint of the former “NatureWorks” exhibit and previous “KidsTown” area, which moved — along with its faux orange grove machinery — to the second level in 2016.The 13,000-square-foot floor plan has been retooled for increased exposure to the animals of “Life.”

“What we’re trying to do throughout the entire area is create a more intimate experience, get you closer to the animals,” said Jeff Stanford, vice president of marketing for the Loch Haven Park museum.

Shannon Zimmerman, curator of conservation and welfare at Orlando Science Center, talks about the rainforest being built for the museum’s new ‘Life’ exhibit.

(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) When “Life” debuts this spring, it will have five times as many animals as the science center had before.There will be 300 individual animals from 100 species, Zimmerman said.They will be grouped in three areas representing the ocean, rainforest and swamp.

The exhibit remains an active construction site.The place is teeming with workers and machinery although there are some animal-information signs on walls and video monitors operating.Science center visitors can see some of this from the second floor entrance, which is among the treetops of “Life.” There’s also work being done in support areas with water pumps, filtration systems, ultraviolet sterilizers, protein scanners and other mechanical equipment.

Orlando Science Center preps Paleontology Party

In the swamp section of “Life,” there’s nature and tucked-away technology.In a space that will be shared by burrowing owls and gopher tortoises, there’s a tree that has (theatrically) tipped over and split open.

“Hidden in this tree that’s fallen over is our UV source that is so important for reptiles,” Zimmerman said.“Because it’s at an angle like that, it gives our box turtles the choice of how close do I want to get? Do I want to be really basking and loving up that UV radiation … or maybe I’ll walk over here and go up this way where it’s a little less intense … or just ignore completely.”

Nearby are animal facts presented by projections onto a giant book.Touching and turning its pages launch videos, noises and other effects producing related information.

The visuals are downright “Harry Potter”-esque.

Zimmerman demonstrates an interactive, digital-projection storybook that will share animal information in ‘Life.’ (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) Other digital displays will highlight the animals of “Life.”

“You can get in there and see what a gator sees and how their eyes absorb color,” Zimmerman said.“We’re a science center, we want to be teaching … so all of the biology of animals is included in all the digital displays as well.”

A platform above the rounded salt-water aquarium is where science center staff will feed the fish as well as talk about the rising temperatures of Florida’s waterways.

“That’s so hugely impactful to our local community that we want to make sure we now have an opportunity to share again,” Zimmerman said.During construction, “we haven’t had the opportunity to have aquatic exhibits, and what’s been happening to our waters is huge,” she said.

Workers install riverbed gravel at the reptile swamp as construction continues on the new ‘Life’ exhibit.(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) The rainforest area will have free-flying birds, sloths, agouti, a 17-foot waterfall and vines for tamarin monkeys to use, playground style.

It will be warmer, more tropical, in this area, which has its own HVAC system.

A dotted frit pattern on the bird-safe glass is installed to help protect the flying elements of “Life.”

“It’s actually another programming talking point that we have with our birds because buildings and the collisions are really impacting bird populations,” Zimmerman said.

The tall, open design of the rainforest section will see animals and visitors interact closely.

“We’re really, basically, guests in their home,” Stanford said.

“They’re going to be up and walking around and you’ll be able to see them out there.It’s not going to be a standing behind glass walls kind of environment,” he said.“The hope is connections that are made inspire empathy and realizing that we do share this planet with these creatures and we need to do our part to take care of them.”

[email protected]

Flashy coaster effect draws eyes, prize for Skyline Attractions

Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on X (Opens in new window).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next Post

New technology could help Lake Elsinore, other SoCal lakes fend off toxic algae blooms

New technology could help Lake Elsinore, other SoCal lakes fend off toxic algae blooms

Subscribe US Now