City Science: Understanding the Relationship between Ecological Exhibits and Urban Planning
With the suite of environmental challenges faced by today’s society growing ever more imminent, the potential role of science and natural history museums as social institutions to promote environmental stewardship is being realized. A recent collaborative effort between the
EcoTarium in Worcester, MA and six other institutions across the country, the NSF funded City Science exhibit serves to introduce the public to new research on human-ecology interactions in urban settings. The project also supports the inclusion of Public Participation in Science Research (PPSR) elements in museum exhibits, and tests the use of a spatial neighborhood design interactive as a tool to understand the relationship between the exposure to ecological exhibits and neighborhood design. This paper describes and analyzes results from a 2014 study carried out at the EcoTarium exploring the relationship between visitor’s use of urban ecology exhibits and their conceptual frameworks for urban planning and design. Initial results indicate a correlation between use of ecological exhibits and subsequent neighborhood design. In particular, interactions with exhibits focused on land use change and urban biodiversity appear to have the strongest potential influences on neighborhood design.