Living in a society where the demands of digital interactions are constantly multiplying and becoming more insistent, it can be all too easy to lose touch with the natural world.
With our eyes glued to our phones, many people fail to look up and appreciate the aerial ballet of flocking waterfowl and songbirds or the awe-inspiring migration of Monarch Butterflies. And as we strive to add to our online networks, we often miss the more intimate connections we share with the Box Turtles, Flying Squirrels, Bluejays and other species living right in our backyard.
On March 16, the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater will premiere The Wild Around You 3D, a new giant-screen film focused on the oft-neglected relationship between people and the animals with whom they share their world.
The film centers on a modern suburban family and the animals that live in and near their home. Unbeknownst to their human neighbors — excepting one girl whose eyes are steadily opened to the wonder around her —the nearby woods teem with wildlife. The 45-minute film captures intimate moments of natural wonder happening right underfoot and overhead, from the daredevil free-fall of Wood Duck hatchlings leaving the nest and the annual migration of legions of Spotted Salamanders to the monumental power of a raindrop to turn a Ladybug’s world upside down.
The Wild Around You 3D helps to shine a light on natural behaviors that often go overlooked or unnoticed. The filmmakers deployed tiny cameras, inventive motion-control rigs, time-lapse, and high-speed frame rates to take viewers inside animal dens from the forest canopy to beneath the ground. On Chattanooga’s largest screen, audiences will come antenna-close to Bumblebees taking off from White Clover and chuckle at the springtime descent of chittering Raccoon kits from treetop dens. These scenes take place in all four seasons and offer unprecedented views of wildlife in a setting that appears as if it were shot near Chattanooga.
A visit to the Tennessee Aquarium can introduce guests to a vast array of animals from all over the world, as well as the biologically abundant Southeastern United States. Walking the galleries — especially after seeing The Wild Around You 3D — helps reinforce the notion that people are part of a complex ecosystem and share their home with incredible native wildlife, says Dr. Brooke Gorman, the Aquarium’s director of Science Education.
“This kind of environmental education is very important for people, especially young children,” Dr. Gorman says. “It provides them with a connection to nature and the outdoors that many kids aren’t getting today with video games and TV and everything else they do. The more people can connect with nature, the more they really care about it and the more they want to take conservation actions.”
And as the film’s nature-blind family awakens to the beauty just beyond their threshold, viewers hopefully will be likewise inspired to value and seek out the wonder of wildlife living in their own backyards, says Dave Collins, the Aquarium’s director of Forests and Animal Behavior.
"To me, having wildlife in your yard enriches our lives so much,” Dr. Collins says, adding that learning to share your world with an animal can have a kind of positive domino effect.
“If we can have things in the backyard to enjoy and interact with and give us a fuller appreciation of wildlife, it improves your life,” he adds. “Both of my kids loved going outside because they loved to explore the yard and find new things in it. Every time they went out, it was a new adventure.”
The Wild Around You’s Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning director and producer, Andrew Young, will introduce the film’s premiere at 5:30 p.m. on March 16. Register online for this special screening: http://www.tnaqua.org/events-programs
Subsequent screenings will be shown daily at 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 5 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit tnaqua.org/imax/the-wild-around-you-3d.
Kids can become backyard scientists during spring break at the Aquarium. They can meet fascinating animals and the experts who care for them before or after viewing “The Wild Around You 3D.” Extra programs will be offered each week between March 9 and April 8 to give youngsters a scientist’s view into the hidden lives and wonderful adaptations of the region’s creatures. http://www.tnaqua.org/plan-your-visit/spring-break/
BUILDING A BACKYARD WILDLIFE OASIS
Dr. Collins has spent decades finding ways to make his property a haven for native animals. Here are a few of his suggestions for making your backyard more appealing to wildlife:
Leave it wild. When it comes to landscaping, allow some parts of your property to remain untamed and untidy. As they begin to compost, brush piles or trimmed limbs left behind after pruning can create warm, moist refuges for turtles, lizards and nesting ground birds.
Learn to love edges. Places where one habitat transitions to another, such as where woodlands meet open meadows, support a range of species. You can make your landscape more palatable to a broader range of wildlife by offering transition zones with irregular borders, such as where your lawn meets your flowerbeds or hedgerow.
Layers aren’t just for the fashionable. Natural environments consist of many layers of vegetation that provide habitat for a range of animals. By incorporating plants that occupy many vertical layers, from trees to shrubs to grasses, you’ll provide habitat for more species.
Water, water everywhere. Many animals, especially birds and amphibians, are attracted to water and can even specialize in locating sources of it. Even small water features such as bird baths or a water garden can make your home more attractive to these species.