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April 2, 2023

Permanent Science Galleries: Natural Cycles Shape Our Land

Permanent Exhibition

The unifying theme of our new Permanent Science Galleries is Natural Cycles Shape Our Land. Natural Cycles operate on scales grand and small, from tectonic plates being created and destroyed to tides rising and falling, to animals changing their activity patterns from day to night. Visitors will journey through seven galleries, first encountering vast cycles that unfold over millions of years at global scales and ending their tour with small cycles that unfold at minuscule scales in their own back yards. Galleries focus on our region’s Geology, Paleontology, Ice Age, Marine Ecosystems, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and finally the Big Back Yard. At the midpoint of their journey, visitors can stop in our Natural Science Lab, a space for visitors to explore hands-on activities, presenters to share experiences, and families to rest, read, and play.

All text for this exhibition will be available in both English and Spanish. (Todo los textos de esta exposición estaran disponibles en Inglés y en Español).

Permanent Science Galleries: Natural Cycles Shape Our Land


Entering the Paleontology Gallery, visitors will encounter two new dioramas depicting life in the Triassic Period and the Jurassic Period. The Triassic diorama features a skeleton of the fearsome Postosuchus, a carnivorous reptile that died during the volcanic eruptions that marked the end of the Triassic Period. Fascinating smaller extinct creatures, many discovered in brownstone quarries near New Haven, are also featured in the diorama. The star of the gallery inhabits the Jurassic diorama. This is a full-size model of Dilophosaurus, a dinosaur that walked along the shorelines of the Connecticut Valley 200 million years ago. This incredible beast is housed in a lakeside forest, with a cutaway view under the water revealing the aquatic creatures such as coelacanth fish that lived in the great rift lakes of the Jurassic Period.

Ice Age

Changes in the Earth’s orbit impact the seasons, contributing to alternating cold glacial periods and warm interglacial periods over a ~100,000-year cycle. During the last glacial period, an enormous ice sheet expanded into our region, scouring the landscape and pushing a massive wedge of sediments southwards. As the ice sheet melted, it left a massive pile of sediments called a moraine, which would one day become part of Long Island. The Ice Age Gallery explores the reasons glaciers advance and retreat, reveals how the last Ice Age shaped our landscape and introduces some of the incredible species that lived right here during the last glacial period.

Natural Science Lab

The Natural Science Lab is one of the most exciting parts of the renovation. Never before has the Bruce Museum had a dedicated space for experimentation inside our exhibition space. Centered at the midpoint of the interconnected permanent science galleries, the Natural Science Lab provides a space for visitors to pause and learn more.

Marine Ecosystem

Tidal cycles provide the rhythm of life on the shore. As the tides come in and out, creatures emerge and retreat from their burrows, timing their feeding schedules to the rise and fall of the water. As the cycle of seasons progresses, birds, fish, and invertebrates travel into and out of Long Island Sound on the migration cycles seeking their preferred climates and foods. Some fish even cycle between freshwater and saltwater habitats throughout their life cycles. The Marine Ecosystem Gallery combines beautifully crafted dioramas, interactives about tides and fish migration, and an array of tanks with live sea creatures from Long Island Sound.

Terrestrial Ecosystems

Daily and annual cycles shape the lives of animals in terrestrial ecosystems. Dawn marks the busiest part of the day for many birds, as they assert their territory anew each morning with a song. As day turns to night, nocturnal creatures emerge from their homes to search for food. As the days march on, the annual cycle of seasons leads some species to change their activity patterns, others to hibernate, and still others to migrate to warmer climes. The Terrestrial Ecosystems Gallery focuses on these daily cycles and seasonal cycles. Visitors will encounter fascinating amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals in immersive dioramas, as focal points of migration-themed interactives, and as live critters in exhibit tanks. The main attraction in the Terrestrial Ecosystem Gallery is an updated version of the beloved woodland diorama. Our exhibition artists painted the background and placed the set of animal familiars. Best of all, a new AV system allows the diorama to transition from daylight to nightfall with accompanying sound effects, enabling visitors to experience a day in the wild in just a few minutes.

Big Backyard

Small-scale cycles unfold right near our homes. Insects have an amazing variety of life cycles, often changing dramatically in appearance, diet, and habitat as they grow from larvae to adults. These small creatures also participate in the nutrient cycle, helping to break down dead plant and animal matter and recycle nutrients into the environment. The Big Backyard gallery combines real insect specimens with giant models to reveal how tiny creatures can play a big role in our environment.

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