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Adaptation / Migration in the AnthropoceneExhibit

This exhibit is now closed.

  • An illustrated beetle by artist Maggie Gourlay
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Adaptation / Migration in the Anthropocene

This exhibit is now closed.
Washington, D.C.'s first mobile art gallery is coming to the Smithsonian's National Zoo during the annual, free holiday lights festival—ZooLights, powered by Pepco. As part of CulturalDC's SPACE4: Visual Arts initiative—which converts a portable shipping container into a multi-functional art space—local artist Maggie Gourlay has created "Adaptation/Migration in the Anthropocene." The multimedia installation features exotic, invasive insects, such as the sirex woodwasp, emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, European gypsy moth and brown marmorated stink bug.

About the Exhibit

This immersive installation features artistic interpretations of insects that have migrated across the globe to the United States—many in shipping containers transporting goods—and become conservation threats in their new habitats. Gourlay's work incorporates visual and auditory reminders of the symbiotic relationship between people and nature, and explores how these insects adapt to and thrive in warmer environments. At an interactive station in the mobile gallery, visitors can create and take home an original invasive insect print made from a special-edition stamp of one of Gourlay's "bug portraits." Image above represents work by Maggie Gourlay, Asian Long-horned Beetle, watercolor pencil and coffee, 2017.

Restrooms are located at the Visitor Center and Panda Plaza.

The Cheetah Conservation Station is located behind the Adaptation/Migration in the Anthropocene exhibit.

There are two restaurants that are open seasonally near the Cheetah Conservation Station: the Panda Grill and the Panda Overlook. Check out the “Dining at the Zoo” section to view meal options.

The American Bison exhibit is located across from Panda Plaza.

Asia Trail is located adjacent to Cheetah Conservation Station. Visitors can observe giant pandas, red pandas, Asian small-clawed otters, fishing cats, clouded leopards, and sloth bears at this location. Each day around 1:15 p.m. keepers toss novel foods and enrichment items to the sloth bears (weather dependent).

The Asia Trail Gift Shop, located in the Visitor Center, showcases an eclectic variety of merchandise ranging from plush animals, toys, games, and books to zoo-themed apparel, accessories, and household decorations from all over the globe. Find fair trade and earth-friendly creations here!

Where Art and Conservation Intersect

This mobile art installation has a direct connection to the work of Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute ecologists who study how ecosystems and the species within them respond to global changes.

The Smithsonian leads the Forest Global Earth Observatory Network (ForestGEO)—the only network that applies a standardized protocol to measure and document forests all over the world. When a major event occurs, like the arrival of an invasive species, scientists are able to evaluate how trees are affected. Currently, SCBI ecologists study the extensive impact of the invasive emerald ash borer beetle on critically endangered native ash trees in a 50-acre ForestGEO plot evaluated annually through a tree census.

Ten percent of the native ash trees studied at SCBI died earlier this year, and all that remain are likely to be infected with beetle larvae. This ecological research is critical to understanding tree mortality and how trees are responding to invasive species, climate change or other global factors. ForestGEO plots enable ecologists to follow the trajectories of individual trees and how those trees impact overall forest health.

How You Can Help

Healthy forests are key to resilience.
Take action to maintain healthy, diverse forests, which will be more resilient when invasive species do arrive. These include:

  • Protecting forested land
  • Reducing emissions
  • Reducing air pollution
  • Preventing human wildfire ignitions (particularly in more arid regions, such as the western United States)

Spread knowledge on the damaging powers of these pests.
Learn and share how invasive insect species harm our forests, fields, crops and livelihoods.

Be informed and follow guidelines set by the USDA, park service and others.

  • Talk to U.S. Park Service representatives when you visit wild areas to learn about species to watch out for and other ways to report them.
  • Read and abide by warnings in wild areas and parks.
  • Learn about the spread and control of invasive forest pests on the USDA's Forest Health website.
    • The emerald ash borer can move through firewood, so only use local firewood when you’re camping.
    • The Japanese beetle moves with invasive plants, so do not bring non-native plants, seeds or firewood to camp sites.