Museum of Science & History Goes Natural This Weekend!

July 28, 2012 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Reconnect with Nature in MOSH?s Renovated Courtyard! Match wits with Tonka, the giant sized Alligator Snapping Turtle! Check out the reptilian and dinosaur descended details after the Jump!

MOSH’s turtles, birds and fish are settling into their newly renovated digs.  Staff and volunteers recently completed the second round of renovations to the Hixon Native Plant Courtyard.   This outdoor exhibit allows visitors to be closer to nature.  Visitors can now walk a stone path to explore the native plants and animals.  New interpretive signage and a colorful guide helps visitors identify plants and animals as they travel through the exhibit.
Turtles, Fish & Birds…Oh My!
Though the Courtyard is home to turtles, fish and birds, its most famous resident is definitely Tonca, the alligator snapping turtle.  Tonca, who recently celebrated his 46th birthday, tips the scales at a whopping 160.6 pounds!
MOSH adopted Tonca in 1994 after he was rescued from a drainage ditch in Mandarin.  Then, he was estimated to be about 28 years old and only weighed about 50 pounds.  Tonca has an algae-covered shell and a brownish-yellow, triangular-shaped head.  Guests who look closely might be able to see him under the water.  The museum’s seven other turtle species can easily be spotted lounging on a log or on the banks of the pond on a bright, sunny day.

The Courtyard also serves as a second home of sorts to MOSH’s four resident birds of prey. The birds - a barred owl, great horned owl and American kestrel – spend time in a weathering cage located in the Courtyard at least once a week.  They spend the rest of their time indoors in the Florida Naturalist’s Center.  The birds are non-releasable due to injury.
The Battle of Native vs. Non-Native
Non-native plants can wreak havoc on the environment.   They can outgrow and overtake native plants, destroying Florida’s natural biodiversity and repelling native wildlife.  Native plants, on the other hand, occur naturally without direct or indirect human actions.

Here are a few reasons to use native – or Florida-friendly – plants:
• They use less water.
• They provide food and shelter for butterflies, birds, turtles and other native wildlife.
• They cost less to maintain and don’t require as much pesticides.

Be sure to visit the Hixon Native Plant Courtyard for a list of some native plants and trees that will add beauty and interest to your landscape while protecting our environment!  And, don’t worry…once you’re down traveling through the outdoor exhibit, you can quickly seek refuge in the air-conditioned comfort of MOSH!

Museum of Science & History
1025 Museum Circle
Jacksonville, FL 32207

article and banner graphic by stephen dare
photos provided courtesy of Kristi Ballinger Taylor, MOSH.