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Take a moment at a wayside to think of African Americans in the Great Smokies
GATLINBURG — Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials unveiled two new waysides at Mingus Mill on May 23 as part of the larger African American Experiences in the Smokies project.
“The new signs and the African American Experiences in the Smokies project are so important to tell the untold stories of Black people in the region,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.
Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and poet Eric Mingus performed a new piece of music that speaks to and of Mingus Mill, its location, and the people who lived there, including his ancestors. A Santa Fe-based musician, Eric has recently re-connected with his family’s story that is rooted in the park through the African American Experiences in the Smokies project. Eric is descended from Daniel Mingus, a formerly enslaved carpenter, and Clarinda Mingus, the daughter of Daniel’s enslaver.
Hellbender Press previously reported on the Smokies project.
One of the new waysides tells the story of the nearby Enloe Slave Cemetery, where several African Americans are interred. The other wayside tells the story of Eric’s father, legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus Jr., and his family.
The African American Experiences in the Smokies project is supported by the Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association, which help fund research of the historic presence and influence of African Americans in the southern Appalachian Mountains from the 1540s through today.
— National Park Service
Updated: Land-use debate in New Market highlights painful choices facing farmers and the publicWritten by Ben Pounds
Nonprofit’s plan to purchase equestrian property faced opposition but raised important future farmland issues
UPDATE: The Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission rejected the proposal for a KARM facility citing zoning restrictions. Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries may still bring the proposal to the Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals.
NEW MARKET — Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries plans to purchase River Glen, a storied equestrian facility in Jefferson County, to eventually help disadvantaged clients overcome substance-abuse issues and societal disparities.
The proposal has detractors, but proponents cast it as a way to also ensure the continued operation of an established working horse farm and long-term site of equestrian events, especially dressage. The horses could even provide therapy.
The New Market debate also raises questions about aging U.S. farmers and ultimate disposition of their agricultural lands.
President and Chief Executive Officer of KARM Danita McCartney said her group plans to purchase 185 acres. In addition to its show-worthy horse facilities, the property borders the Holston River and retains a significant amount of forest along the river and sharp ridge lines.
The property’s owner, Bill Graves, spoke highly of the potential new owners and said he was selling the land largely because he wanted to retire from running the business.
The Jefferson County Planning Commission planned to discuss the nonprofit’s plan for the site at a meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 23 at the Courthouse at 202 W. Main St. in Dandridge.
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- river glen
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- horses and economy
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- knoxville area rescue ministries
- horse farm transition
- mattalyn rogers dressage
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- horse farms and environmental preservation
- mattalyn rogers horse trainer
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- katie fleenor
- foothills land conservancy
- bill clabough
Chestnut researchers rally to fight the blight for good
Chestnut trees disappeared from 200 million acres of forest from northeast Mississippi to southern Maine 100 years ago. The social and ecological significance of such an event, which led to the loss of at least 1 billion trees, can be hard to understand today.
The massive die-off of the American chestnut left a big hole in the ecological fabric of Southern Appalachia and beyond. The tree dominated the forests in size and in the ecological and human services it provided.
While no tree could fully substitute an American chestnut in providing food for wildlife, naturally increasing acorn production from oaks served as a major food source bridge for wild turkey, bobwhite, white-tailed deer and squirrels. The oaks helped fill in the so-called “chestnut gap.”
Try as they might, the oaks never produced the same bountiful harvest.
Now with the work of the 3BUR (Breeding, Biotechnology and Biocontrol United for Restoration) the fight to protect the American chestnut and restore it to the throne of the forest is again in motion.
Computer-based milking methods offer the best cream of the crop
WALLAND — The University of Tennessee is using a new automated system to milk cows in the hope it’s easier on the animals than previous mechanized techniques.
It’s the newest feature of the UT AgResearch and Education Center’s Little River Animal and Environmental Unit at 3229 Ellejoy Road in Blount County.
As part of the unveiling of the equipment on May 2, visitors watched a cow on video walk through a ribbon to reach the new machines.
The milking machines, developed by Netherlands-based Lely Corporation, allow for cattle to walk up to the machines voluntarily to get special food in what a UT news release called a more “stress-free environment.”
Urban sprawl is eating up valuable Tennessee farms and woods and people are fighting backWritten by Élan Young
Got sprawl? It’s past time to help young farmers access land
I’m not a farmer, I’m a hiker. I live in a shady mountain gap and can’t grow a fully ripe tomato in the summer — not to mention that the half-acre parcel of land that I call home includes a significant portion of river bed. But as a 20-year resident of rural Blount County, a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I’ve watched the steady disappearance of farms over time, and I have wondered what can be done.
This is why I rose at 4 a.m. for a trip to Nashville, planning to arrive before my alarm would normally sound. It will be my first time lobbying the state legislature and my first time meeting in person with the organizers of the Southeast Tennessee chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition — known as “Young Farmers” — who I’ve been Zooming with for the better part of the year. We are all headed to Ag Day on the Hill to advocate for young and beginning farmers and the preservation of farmland for future generations.
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- blue goose winery
Earth Day activities have cooled in Knoxville over the decades. The planet has not.
KNOXVILLE — It’s been 52 years since the modern environmental movement was born on what is now known around the world as Earth Day.
Now reckoned to be the world’s largest secular observance, Earth Day is the climax of Earth Week (April 16 to 22), which brings together an estimated billion people around the globe working to change human behavior and push for pro-environment economic and legislative action. This year’s theme is “Invest in the planet.”
Events marking Earth Day in Knoxville tend to vary in size and tone from year-to-year, with 2023 providing environmentally minded residents with a number of ways to celebrate Mother Earth.
Perhaps the most memorable of those years was the very first one, when one of the most important voices in the burgeoning environmental movement spoke on the University of Tennessee campus.
Jane Jacobs, who is now recognized as “the godmother of the New Urbanism movement,” gave a lecture to a crowd of nearly 200 people on the topic of “Man and His Environment” at the Alumni Memorial Hall, according to Jack Neely, who heads the Knoxville History Project.
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- jj stambaugh
- jane jacobs
- new urbanism
- dogwood arts festival
- University of Tennessee
- marisa tomei
- citizen jane
- habitat for humanity
- lyrids meteor shower
- southern appalachia
- oak ridge national laboratory
In the existential battle between Smokies swine and salamanders, the hogs have the upper handWritten by Ben Pounds
Researchers quantify the effects of feral hogs on Smokies salamander populations
GATLINBURG — A recent study investigating the relationship between Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s beloved salamanders and its hated hogs concluded that the rooting of feral pigs decreases the abundance and diversity of Smokies salamanders.
Alexander Funk of Eastern Kentucky University said the effects of feral hogs on salamanders from the family plethodontidae were mixed and varied depending on the season.
Generally, across seasons and especially in the summer, the hogs’ foraging seemed to hurt salamander abundance and diversity. Funk is a student under Eastern Kentucky University’s Director for the Division of Natural Areas Stephen Richter but had help from Benjamin Fitzpatrick of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The study involved Funk going out late at night on Balsam Mountain in the spring, summer and fall of 2022.
The Mingus music mill: Tracing a mountain family’s history from slavery to stardomWritten by Ben Pounds
Smokies African American studies trace a great musician with roots in Oconaluftee
GATLINBURG — Black history, let alone jazz history, isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think about the Smokies.
But famed jazz musician Charles Mingus Jr.’s family has roots in what is now Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
At the recent virtual Discover Life in America Colloquium, previously reported on by Hellbender Press, Appalachian Highlands Science Education Coordinator Antoine Fletcher was the sole presenter on social sciences. He went into the Mingus family history and Black history in the Southern Appalachian region.
Fletcher said the Mingus story derives from the African American Experiences in the Smokies Project, which he described as “a project that is focusing on the untold stories of African Americans in the park and the Southern Appalachian region.”
“There’s a huge story to tell,” he said of his research. “There are stories of the human vestiges that we have from 900-plus years.”
From soil to sky: Will the misty microclimates of the Smokies prevail in a warming world?Written by Élan Young
Foundational ecology moves from before times to nowadays in the Smokies
GATLINBURG — In the Middle Ages, salamanders were thought to come from fire. A log set on the hearth would send them scurrying out of the rotten wood, startling those who had gathered around for warmth. We now know that salamanders, of course, come from water — even the European fire salamander with its flame-like yellow markings.
Over the last 20 years of getting my boots soggy in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I know these creatures to thrive in the clean, shallow streams and trickles of this temperate rainforest, where annual precipitation is higher than anywhere in the U.S. save for the Pacific Northwest.
One way to become acquainted with the park is through the water that veins through the hills and is transmuted into vapor that floats on the air in misty silence. After a rain, you can slake your thirst from the pools formed in the creases of broad rhododendron leaves. Sit by a shallow, fishless stream for long enough and you might spot the quick movement of a salamander tail, maybe a flash of orange or brown, or notice a tiny black amphibian face peeking out from behind a smooth stone in the creek.
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- clemson department of biological sciences
(Quick update): Orange STEM: UT links East Tennessee students with Science, Technical, Engineering and Math studiesWritten by JJ Stambaugh
The TN Lunabotics, science and sustainability get together at BOSS event
Updated March 2023 with notes from a reader:
My name is Allison, and I am a teaching volunteer with Students For Research. I am reaching out because our class found your website very useful while researching STEM resources that can help students discover the various aspects of science, technology, engineering and math. Many of our current students are interested in learning more about how topics associated with STEM work, especially in relation to online research, either for school or for their future careers. Your website ended up being featured by our students, so we wanted to notify you and say thank you!
As a part of the assignment, one of our students, Becky, did some research on her own time and found this informative page for more STEM using this resource. The team found it helpful as it provided guidance on how libraries can introduce children to STEM and continue to provide resources as they progress through their education.
I was hoping you would be able to include this resource on your website, even if it's only for a short time. I think your other visitors might find it helpful, and it also helps our group of students cite appropriate resources and stay engaged whenever outreach yields positive feedback everyone can see. Please let me know if you would be willing to add it so I can share the exciting news with Sophie and the rest of her fellow students. I appreciate your help!
KNOXVILLE — What do environmental, social and economic sustainability have in common?
There are numerous ways to answer that question, but for those who pay close attention to education or economics it’s an accepted fact that the future belongs to societies that invest heavily in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
That’s why educators at all levels are pushing students towards those subjects at every opportunity, as was evidenced Jan. 21 at Big Orange STEM Saturday (BOSS) at the University of Tennessee.
About 150 high school students picked from communities across East Tennessee spent much of their Saturday at John C. Hodges Library, getting a first-hand taste of what awaits them should they choose to pursue careers in STEM through the UT system.
University of Tennessee satellite research opens a book in the upstairs libraryWritten by Qiusheng Wu
How to use free satellite data to monitor natural disasters and environmental changes
This story was originally published by The Conversation. Qiusheng Wu is assistant professor of geography and sustainability at University of Tennessee.
KNOXVILLE — If you want to track changes in the Amazon rainforest, see the full expanse of a hurricane or figure out where people need help after a disaster, it’s much easier to do with the view from a satellite orbiting a few hundred miles above Earth.
Traditionally, access to satellite data has been limited to researchers and professionals with expertise in remote sensing and image processing. However, the increasing availability of open-access data from government satellites such as Landsat and Sentinel, and free cloud-computing resources such as Amazon Web Services, Google Earth Engine and Microsoft Planetary Computer, have made it possible for just about anyone to gain insight into environmental changes underway.
I work with geospatial big data as a professor. Here’s a quick tour of where you can find satellite images, plus some free, fairly simple tools that anyone can use to create time-lapse animations from satellite images.
2016 Smokies wildfires: Six years later, the good and the bad come into focus as natural recovery continuesWritten by Ben Pounds
How the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildfire affected salamanders and other life, six years on
GATLINBURG — The disastrous Chimney Tops 2 wildfire of 2016 occurred some six years ago, but researchers are still looking at its ecological effects.
The Discover Life in America 2023 Colloquium brought together researchers this month from different fields and universities to present findings on research in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Researchers presented on many topics, ranging from trout to the history of the Mingus family in the park.
One such presentation, the first of the day, from William Peterman, associate professor in wildlife ecology and management at Ohio State University, focused on the effects wildfires had on salamander populations, which he described as negative.
Other presenters touched on the wildfire’s effects as well, including its effects on vegetation and its beneficial effects on the diversity of bird species.
“Smoky Mountains is the self-proclaimed salamander capital of the world,” Peterman said. He focused his study on the plethodontid family of salamanders, which breathe through their skin.
“Kind of think of them as a walking lung,” he said.
Get a free virtual science lesson in the Smokies this Thursday
A rundown about science efforts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is set for March 2.
You can learn about myriad scientific studies ongoing in the Smokies from the comfort of your own home.
The park and Discover Life in America are presenting this virtual event from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Register for free on Zoom.
Attendees will “learn about a wide variety of scientific topics, from natural history and weather to geology and more, from researchers currently working in the Smokies,” according to an announcement from DLIA.
The schedule is likely to change, but a tentative schedule is available on the DLIA website.
— Ben Pounds
First probing plants and flowers are a sign that winter always ends
There are few who would count winter as their favored time of year, and it is true that one must look harder to find the beauty in a landscape that by all accounts appears forlorn and void of life. But with about a month until the calendar tells us that it is officially spring, winter’s grip is yielding to renewal. It is a time of year that quickens the heartbeat of every naturalist.
The calls of golden-crowned kinglets begin to intermingle with those of the spring peepers, a frog so tiny that it is hard to imagine them capable of such emphatic emissions of sound, and last year’s marcescent American beech leaves preside over persistent, unfurling green lives that would be missed were it not for a careful eye and a curious heart.
The wait has been long, but worth it. With the first sighting of a blooming Virginia spring beauty, the ephemeral wildflower season begins, marking the start of another growing season, another months-long love story spent in awe of nature until the last asters of fall have gone to seed.
For every thing there is a season, and for lovers of the wild, that season is all of them.