Nature lovers flock to E. O. Wilson Biophilia Center’s grand opening and dedication ceremony

September 15, 2009

An 18 ft. long indigo bunting greets visitors at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.
An 18 ft. long indigo bunting greets visitors at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.

Center to provide extraordinary nature-based education

Nature lovers from across the Florida Panhandle enjoyed the grand opening of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center in Freeport Florida Sept. 12.

Developed by local conservationist, M.C. Davis on his 48,000-acre conservation land named Nokuse Plantation, the 27,500 sq. ft. Center will cater to students with curriculums that offer a better understanding of the environment. The Center will educate on the importance of biodiversity, ecosystems, and encourage conservation, preservation and restoration of our natural resources.

The dedication’s keynote speaker was Dr. E.O. Wilson, Pellegrino University Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University. The center was named after him for his life-long contributions to public education about the importance of conserving the world’s biodiversity. The two-time Pulitzer prize-winner developed the phrase, “biophilia – the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.”

A black bear crosses a wetland forest.
A black bear crosses a wetland forest.

Dr. Matt Aresco, Director of Nokuse Plantation, spoke about the biodiversity and long-term goals of the plantation, and the endangered flora and fauna that inhabit the Plantation.

Christina Scally, Director of the Center spoke about the educational programs, and the .9-mile trail that boasts abundant flora and fauna available for the students to explore.

“I would like to thank my parents for giving me the opportunity to explore nature as a child,” Scally said as she explained her enthusiasm for the Center’s trail system.

M.C. Davis, founder of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center and the Nokuse Plantation spoke about the connection with learning and the benefits of better understanding nature for future generations.

Dr. Bruce Means, herpetologist and author of “Priceless Florida,” introduced E.O. Wilson and spoke about Wilson’s contributions and Pulitzer prize-winning books, and how Wilson’s publications to date have outweighed Darwin.

Dr. E.O. Wilson and M.C. Davis at the grand opening of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.
Dr. E.O. Wilson and M.C. Davis at the grand opening of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.

Dr. Wilson explained in detail the fragility of our environment, and hopes for a better future – bridging the gap between religion, science and the appreciation and importance to focus on a sustainable future.

Additional features of the Center include an exhibit hall, multi-purpose classrooms, science labs, dioramas, and a 160-seat theater.

The exhibition hall sports live exhibits of bees, snakes and turtles, along with fabricated exhibitions such as a gopher tortoise burrow that students can crawl through.

Pine forest and wetland areas are displayed along with indigenous flora and fauna. Unlike museum collections, visitors can interact with the displays; and some produce cause-and-effect situations that show the impact man has on the environment. There is a piano-like keyboard children can step on to hear the sounds of fauna.

Activities also include examining aquatic insects and fish, studying different restoration methods, and monitoring amphibians and songbirds.

In addition, visitors to the Center will have an opportunity to learn about the natural environment both indoors and out with a .9-mile long boardwalk trail that crosses through a hardwood prairie swamp and around a beaver pond.

The Center will be the venue of the Nov. 5 Tourist Development Council’s Environmental Forum slated for November 5.

The E. O. Wilson Biophilia Center is located on Hwy. 20 between Freeport and Bruce. It is currently not open to the general public.

For more information about the Center go to:

    1. what a great addition to our community. can’t wait to take the girls!

    1. Are you currently needing volunteers? I live about 3 miles away and for years I volunteered with the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refugee and the South Walton Turtle Watch.
      Please email me or call 835-1844

    1. Best coverage of the Grand Opening I’ve seen so far! Kudos, Walton Outdoors. I especially liked the video of turtles.

      Mary Brady
      Volunteer, Biophiliac

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