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Exhibit debuts at ‘Ding’ Darling offering interactive information

By Staff | Sep 26, 2011

Peter and Marion Geer, visiting from Portugal, chat with Supervisory Ranger Toni Westland at the refuge's Education Center.

Adaptation. Mitigation. Engagement.

Those are the three concepts behind the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Climate Change Strategic Plan, developed late last year and put into action via an interpretive exhibit which arrived last week at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s Education Center.

Entitled “The Changing Refuge,” the exhibit was installed on Sanibel on Sept. 19. It will stay at the refuge through “Ding” Darling Days – scheduled to take place Oct. 16-22 – and at least until the end of January.

According to Supervisory Ranger Toni Westland, the interactive exhibit will also help launch the refuge’s Winter Lecture Series, which will start on Jan. 20, 2012, with an expert lecturing on climate change.

“All of the National Wildlife Refuge’s are being impacted by climate change, and 67 of them are affected by sea level rise,” said Westland, pointing to the topographic map featured within the three-dimensional display. “Some of the risks they face includes erosion, loss of wetlands and up to 30 percent of habitat, accelerated flooding and drought due to climate change.”

A photograph showing the entire display, entitled "The Changing Refuge."

The centerpiece of the display, one of three currently being exhibited at refuges located in the Southeast Region, is an interactive video monitor which features four animated characters. Visitors can choose how climate change has an affect on the sand, sea turtles, shorebirds and lighthouses.

“The kids really get it when they watch the videos,” said Westland. “They like the characters and they understand the consequences. We want everyone to become informed about the future impact of climate change and what they can do to help.”

The other displays like the one appearing at the “Ding” Darling NWR are offered at the Southeast Louisiana NWR in Lacombe, La. and at Waccamaw NWR in Georgetown, S.C.

“We are only beginning to climate change, which has become more and more important,” said Westland. “Every decision that we make these days are impacted by our environment. What we are trying to do is reduce our carbon footprint and make better choices… ‘green’ choices.”

Signs explain different aspects of climate change, including “Rising Sea Levels,” “The Climate and Wildlife,” “Disappearing Coasts” and “You Can Help,” the latter of which advises visitors to recycle, save electricity, plant trees, volunteer at a refuge, and learn more about earth and the climate.

“We could just sit around, put our heads in the sand and not think about it,” added Westland, who emphasized the educational concept of the Climate Change Strategic Plan. “But here on Sanibel, things related to climate change are so critical because we are on an island. We are all experiencing this for the first time.”

For additional information about “The Changing Refuge” exhibit, visit the Education Center at the “Ding” Darling NWR, open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. Call 472-1100 or visit www.fws.gov/dingdarling for more details.