Tag: Nature

  1. Fighting Creek Nature Trail

    Fighting Creek Nature Trail

    Note: Originally posted in January 2014. Reposted here with permission from the author.

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park was my hiking destination yesterday. Leaving Asheville at 9 a.m., I traveled to Gatlinburg for a meeting with Todd Witcher, executive director for Discover Life in America, a nonprofit organization that manages a thorough scientific inventory of all the park’s species that has been going on for the past 15 years.

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  2. My last Experience Your Smokies

    For my last Experience Your Smokies, our class visited the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and the National Park Service Collections Preservation Center in Townsend, TN. Appropriately, the focus of our day was on the value of experiential and outdoor learning.

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  3. How Does the Park Service Forecast When the Fireflies Will Flash?

    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.

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  4. Why Are Our Fireflies Synchronized?

    GSMA Firefly Event 2016

    During late May and early June, thousands of eager observers from around the world travel to the Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to observe the phenomenon of synchronized fireflies flashing in the night. The synchronized flashing was first scientifically documented in the Smokies in the 1960s, and has since been identified in places like Congaree National Park in South Carolina and Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania.

    But the Elkmont area still draws the biggest crowds. In fact, access to the area during firefly season is now managed by the National Park Service with a free lottery system.

    Most of the world’s hundreds of species of fireflies use their flashes to attract suitable mates. Generally, during breeding season, females wait patiently on the ground for males to fly over them and flash their flashers. If the females recognize the flashes (by flash length, flash intervals, and flash numbers) as coming from a male of their own species, they will respond with their own specific Morse-code-like sequence of flashes. Conversely, when the males recognize the correct flash response from a female, they respond with more flashes specific to their species. Once both male and female have confirmed that they are flirting with members of the same species, mating occurs.

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