ITHACA, N.Y. - The Cayuga Nature Center in Ithaca was established in 1975, but the history of the facilities there dates back much further. Originally the buildings were home to a Tuberculosis preventorium which attempted to use Nature to prevent TB in children. Almost a hundred years later, the center is using education to help heal the Earth.
"The natural world is healing, and it's very soothing for us as people, so in return, environmental education is very important in that aspect because the health is mutual," said Marissa Zuckerman, marketing and communications manager.
"We really like to cultivate awareness and appreciation for our natural world, using our tools, our woods around here, our animals, our exhibits, to really help educate the public, educate the youth of Tompkins County, and the surrounding areas," said Sarah Grove, the center's animal collection manager.
The center does its educating through a unique combination of exhibits and programs.
"We do field work here. We work with other institutions and colleges to collect data to use for our exhibits. So our exhibits are very condensed so that the public can understand the information that we're trying to convey, but everything we do is based on science and research. We pride ourselves on using the best resources to educate people."
%INLINE% Among their many resources are the center's animal ambassadors. Animals unable to return to the wild, both native and exotic, are some of their best educators.
"They're watching this animal eat, or they're watching it move, seeing it in an enclosure that's very similar to what the natural habitat would be like," explains Grove. "Even with our outdoor animals here, really giving them an opportunity to get up close to some birds of prey and a very elusive Canid that we have."
"Our animal ambassadors kind of bring a face to all of the different messages that we're trying to convey here at the nature center," said Zuckerman.
The Center's mission addresses a wide range of ecological issues. Their climate change exhibit brings its effects close to home.
"It's very interactive. It talks about what's happening in Upstate New York, what's happpening right here in Ithaca, about our climate. It talks a little about the difference between weather and climate and how they interact together," said Grove.
"How many places, not just in New York, but across the globe have exhibits that are directly teaching about climate and climate change and how that impacts both local and global environmental systems," asks Zuckerman.
Nestled in a region with many natural jewels, the center stands out among them all as a glittering example of environmental leadership.
"This is a priority, and it will always be a priority, because this is our planet, and this is where we live. So it's totally crucial, sincerely crucial, that we continue to educate the public about all the wonderful things about planet Earth, and what we can do to protect it," said Zuckerman.