By Frances Figart
Part of the mission of any national park is protecting and restoring species that were once native. Restoring native fish is an exciting area of Smokies science that goes unseen by those who are not swimming or snorkeling in park waters.Read more...
Spiders tend to get a bad rap, but they are actually critical to the balance of our ecosystems. Kefyn Catley will explain how on Friday, July 20, as part of Discover Life In America’s Science at Sugarlands series, a free public event at Sugarlands Visitor Center at which participants will get to go on a spider hunt.
Catley, a biology professor at Western Carolina University, teaches and conducts research in the evolutionary biology of spiders. He holds a Ph.D. in arthropod systematics from Cornell, was a research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History, and has taught Spiders of the Southern Appalachians at Highlands Biological Station in North Carolina since 2004.
FF: It’s not every day you meet someone who has studied spiders on four continents. Why do you find them so fascinating?
KC: Spiders have an ancient lineage originating some 400 million years ago. They are the largest and most important group of predators on the planet and are considered a mega-diverse taxon with more than 47,000 described species with an estimated total number in the range of 75,000-190,000. Spiders are excellent models for studying ecology, behavior, biochemistry, competition, speciation, sexual selection and biogeography, among other fields. They contribute to research in biological pest control, venom chemistry and the cloning of silk.Read more...
Among several upcoming public appearances for David Brill, author of GSMA’s recent release Into the Mist, is Hot Springs Trail Fest, where he will speak on Friday, April 20, at 7 p.m. at the Town Welcome Center in Hot Springs, N.C.
Brill will recount his 2,100-mile trek across 14 states as he joined thousands of other men and women following the white blazes along the Appalachian Trail.
“The annual Trail Fest celebration draws a large and diverse crowd of current thru-hikers, trail enthusiasts and nature lovers to one of the best-loved towns along the entire trail route," Brill said. "For the event, Hot Springs pulls out all the stops in providing great entertainment, food and music to celebrate the arrival of spring, when the weather's warm and flowering plants and trees are at their peak.”
Brill, who thru-hiked the AT in 1979, has written articles on science, ecology, the environment, business, health, fitness, parenting and adventure travel that have appeared in more than 25 national and regional magazines, including Smokies Life. He has published five non-fiction books and has found a special niche of study in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.Read more...
Nothing quite like it has ever happened, at least not in these modern times of mass and social media. Other than China’s annual Lunar New Year celebration, there is almost nothing to compare it to. Sociologists, planners, and astrophysicists alike are scratching their heads and speculating on just how many people will jump in their vehicles and head down the road to witness the “Great American” total solar eclipse on the afternoon of August 21, 2017.
Some are even predicting the largest mass human migration in history.
Many are pointing out that 200 million people live within a day’s drive of the eclipse’s 68-mile-wide “path of totality,” while only 12 million Americans live within the path. Not to mention all of those who will travel from other countries for this very special event. Eclipse blogger and GIS guru Michael Zeiler says, “Imagine 20 Woodstock festivals occurring simultaneously across our nation.”
A little better than half of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is within the eclipse path, and August is already a busy month here with some 40,000 visitors per day. What if that number doubles, or quadruples?
Of course, the onslaught of humanity won’t be confined to the park’s roads and trails. The greatest impact will be on major roadways leading from the north and south (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Lexington, Knoxville, Atlanta, Birmingham) to the eclipse path. Conservative estimates predict some 1 million people will head to Tennessee for the big day.Read more...
Ever since Elkmont's synchronous fireflies became an internationally celebrated event with many tens of thousands of would-be attendees vying for some 4,000 available slots, the question of when the fireflies will flash has become a critical one.
Several years ago -- before the current firefly prediction system was initiated -- an unusually warm spring provoked the famed fireflies into an exceptionally early performance, meaning that by the time the lucky winners of the event’s www.recreation.gov lottery arrived for the show, the bioluminescent beetles had courted and bred and put away their flashers for the year.Read more...