Yesterday we visited the new Micropia museum that is part of the Amsterdam Artis Zoo (Joshua and Dominic, we were thinking of you!). In a word, it was awesome. Easily one of the best science exhibits we’ve ever experienced.
The promo video above is kind of fun, but it doesn’t really give a sense of how great the exhibit actually is. The presentation is fantastic. Nothing is dumbed down, and yet everything is accessible. The exhibits are hands-on and truly compelling. There is so much information presented, and somehow they manage to put it all in context on a number of different levels.
When you enter the exhibit you are greeted by a large “tree of life” graphic which shows the genetic relationship between all of the known forms of life on earth.
Did you know that 2/3 of life is invisible?! That’s right. Of all the known living organisms, two-thirds of them are microscopic bacteria or archaea, invisible to the naked eye. We humans are massively out numbered!
The first of dozens of hands-on exhibits is a station where you operate a microscope to study blue-green algae.
In addition to the binocular viewer that Jette is using in the photo, there is a live video feed on a video touch screen next to the microscope so others can see it too. The touch screen also tells an interactive, animated “story” in Dutch and English. It talks about how the microbe functions, how it interacts with its environment, its place in the food chain, its importance to human life, and how human activity affects the organism, and by extension, other species and the whole ecosystem. It does a beautiful job of putting it all in context and helping us understand how all the pieces of life fit together.
In just a few minutes at this first station, we learned: how the Earth’s oxygen rich atmosphere formed and microbes role in it, the ocean-to-land food chain that algae power, why and how algae blooms happen, and the implications across the food chain. And more…
Did you know that it was oxygen producing microbes that first put the oxygen that we breathe into Earth’s atmosphere?
POP QUIZ - About what percentage of the oxygen that we breathe is produced by microbes in the ocean and what percentage is produced by plants?
I could go on and on about the exhibits and all the cool stuff we learned, but I can’t present it in nearly as fun and compelling a way as Micropia does, so I’ll just share some photos:
Jette’s favorite exhibit/microbe was the Waterbear. Tough as nails, but oh so cute and cuddly (at least when magnified 4,000X and made to look like a comfy leather sofa)
Here’s what Jette wrote in her journal:
Today we rode our bikes to the Micropia museum. If I was going to show my friends my favorite part of the museum then I would show them the waterbear and the ants. Waterbears can survive in extreme heat and extreme cold as well as in between. They survive by being able to shrivel up in hot or cold but still be alive and when they blow away and get to moisture then they unshrivel. They can live for up to 100 years!
Here’s more info about waterbears:
Oh, and while we didn’t go into the zoo itself, we did get to visit with a pig eating salad…