The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: University of Tennessee

Editorial cartoon depicting Charles Darwin as an ape 1871

WBIR: UT got good bones

KNOXVILLE The University of Tennessee boasts an incredible collection of animal skeletons — from hummingbirds to bison, according to a story from WBIR. It’s among the largest such assemblages in the country. (There are also skeletons at the Body Farm, but that’s a different story).

The skeletons are part of the UT Anthropology Department’s Vertebrate Osteology Collection.

“We have over 12,000 vertebrate specimens in our collections. So that’s 12,000 skeletons of individual animals,” Dr. Anneke Janzen, an assistant professor in UT’s Anthropology Department, told WBIR.

The collection includes skulls and skeletons ranging in size from small bats to bison. It also includes skulls of dolphins, ostriches and alligators.

“Beyond just being able to identify bones and identify different species based on tiny bone fragments, I think students have a much greater appreciation for, you know, the diversity of animal life out there and much greater appreciation for animals in our backyards as well,” Janzen told WBIR.

The collection is available for analysis by professional researchers, and parts can be seen by the public during the annual Darwin Day at the university. 

Published in Feedbag

IMG 0122University of Tennessee arborist Sam Adams stands in front of a blooming dogwood on the campus of UTK.  Keenan Thomas/Hellbender Press

First campus arborist continues climb up Utree Knoxville

KNOXVILLE Students at the University of Tennessee walk by hundreds of trees every day without thinking about them.

Sam Adams was thinking about them even before he became UT’s first arborist.

Adams, 58, has cared for trees in the field of arboriculture for decades. He’s worked privately and publicly, including as arborist supervisor for Sarasota County, Florida. He graduated with a degree in environmental studies at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, where he initially pursued a degree in English.

Published in News
Friday, 18 March 2022 14:35

Zigging and zagging to find the Zigzag

Zigzag salamander UT doctoral student Bryce Wade examines a Southern zigzag salamander he found at Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville. Keenan Thomas/Hellbender Press

On the happy herping trail: Bryce Wade searches for salamanders

KNOXVILLE Bryce Wade scours the nature trail, turning over rocks and logs. On this overcast day at Ijams Nature Center, he searches beneath the leaves on the ground for one creature: salamanders.

Underneath the rocks, logs and leaves, salamanders populate the cool, moist earth, avoiding the sun whenever they can. Wade is looking for a particular type: a winter species informally called the Southern zigzag salamander (Plethodon ventralis). 

Published in News
Wednesday, 29 December 2021 13:17

Hope floats in Third Creek

IMG 5517Maddie Spradley 

UT students, professors and staff scrub up for ‘creek kidney transplant’ in Knoxville

Imagine you’re a kid again. It’s a Saturday afternoon in July and after a morning full of rain the clouds begin to clear and the sun peeks out.

You run outside in your rubber rain boots to meet your friends down by the creek in your neighborhood, carrying a large bucket, boots squeaking as you go.

Once there, you and your friends carefully wade down into the water, curious to see what creatures lurk beneath the surface.

Published in News
Thursday, 14 October 2021 13:02

Requiem for the Lord God Bird

Movie footage from Louisiana, 1935 by Arthur Allen. Courtesy of Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The library also has ivory-billed woodpecker calls recorded by Allen.
 

The ivory-billed woodpecker is officially extinct, and it strikes a chord in Knoxville

Clinging to a maple in the bayou, Jim Tanner finally had the rare nestling in his grasp. 

He fitted it with a numbered leg band and placed the bird back in its hole high off the ground. 

But true to its seldom-seen self, the juvenile ivory-billed woodpecker squirmed free and fluttered to the base of a giant maple tree in a southern Louisiana swamp owned at the time by the Singer Sewing Machine Co.

The year was 1936, and Jim Tanner was in the midst of doctorate research at Cornell University funded by the Audubon Society as part of a push to prevent the pending extinctions of multiple bird species, including the California condor, roseate spoonbill, whooping crane and ivory-billed woodpecker. Eighty-five years later, the regal woodpecker would be the only one grounded for eternity.

In the heat and rain of mucky, gassy bayous, Tanner compiled data on the range, population, habitat and prevalence of ivory-billed woodpeckers. He camped for weeks at a time in the swamps of the birds’ original range.

On this day, his only goal was to band the bird but he rushed down the tree and picked up the agitated but uninjured woodpecker.

He also wanted photographs.

Tanner took advantage of the moment.

He placed the bird upon the shoulder of an accompanying and accommodating game warden for 14 shots from his Leica.

They were probably the first, and perhaps the last, photographs of a juvenile ivory-billed woodpecker photographed by Tanner in its natural habitat. He named the bird Sonny, and he was the only known member of the species to be banded with a number.

The regal, smart, athletic bird, which peaceably flew over its small slice of Earth for some 10,000 years, was declared extinct last month by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Twenty-two other species also qualified for removal from the Endangered Species List — in the worst possible way.

The ivory bill inhabited the swamps of the Deep South, far removed from Rocky Top, but old visages of the departed were found in Little Switzerland in South Knoxville. The work of Tanner, who would go on to complete a rich ecological research career at the University of Tennessee, has been memorialized by a talented East Tennessee science writer.

And the Southern Appalachian region has other long-gone kinships with species that vanished from the Earth a long time ago. 

Published in News

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Hundreds of humans attracted to stench of Rotty Top; Hard Knox Wire performs autopsy on UT corpse flower phenom

(This story was originally published by Hard Knox Wire).

“What I feel the most is excited from all the exposure that folks are getting of biology and the greenhouses,” said UT biology greenhouse director Jeff Martin. “I didn’t realize this many people would be interested, and it’s great. Hopefully, this will get people a little more interested in other types of plants.”

She came, she reeked, she conquered.

That’s how the history books may recall Rotty Top’s brief tenure as the biggest star on the University of Tennessee campus in July 2021. 

The corpse flower (or titan arum, to the biologists among us) finally bloomed early Thursday morning after two weeks of teasing its keepers — and the public — that it was about to drop its leaves and saturate its surroundings with the odor of decaying flesh.

Hundreds of visitors had already visited Rotty Top in the days preceding the rare event (the plant blooms at best once every decade), but on Thursday it seemed as though they were all returning at once. Shuttle buses carried curious fans from a nearby parking garage to the Hesler Biology Building on Circle Drive, and scores of people crowded around the titan arum’s enclosure to get a whiff of its infamous scent.

Published in Earth

Jun 14  6:30 p.m. EST

The Turning Point: Things were never the same after 1921, when technology was changing the city in several surprising ways
Jack Neely, Executive Director of the Knoxville History Project
Technical Society of Knoxville (TSK)

Charity Banquet at Crowne Plaza for the Charles Edward Ferris Engineering Endowments at University of Tennessee, Knoxville - the public is invited - RSVP by June 8

Ferris was the first Dean of UTK’s College of Engineering.

More details on the event, sponsorships, and reservations

The Technical Society of Knoxville was founded in 1921. It has met over 4,000 times to discuss the application of technology from early Knoxville’s coal smoke and traffic problems to present Knoxville’s transportation air pollution and the impact of electric car technologies.

Published in Event Archive
Friday, 26 March 2021 14:58

The orphaned mayonnaise jar of Fort Sanders

What stories could the lonely Fort Sanders Hellmann’s jar share about its weekend excesses?

Whites addition 1886 tn1The early Fort Sanders neighborhood is shown here in the late 1800s. Many, but not all, of the architectural period homes have been demolished.  Wikipedia

(Note from the author: This piece is about my neighborhood — Fort Sanders in Knoxville near the University of Tennessee. I wrote this for my environmental journalism class with Dr. Mark Littmann. We were tasked with writing a sketch about the world around us. I wanted to paint a picture of what I see outside every day when I walk around Fort Sanders.) 


There’s a half-full jar of mayonnaise in the front yard.

Its lid is gone, nowhere to be found. Next to it are a trio of Bud Light Premium glass bottles, lounging in the mud.

Up the street are two smashed cans, three Styrofoam to-go containers, and a smattering of cardboard, all left out in the cold to weather the harsh judgement of Sunday morning.

Every few feet more treasures appear. Cans, bottles, broken glass, clothes, needles, and old furniture. None of it looks out of place here. The green crab grass grows through the pull tabs and gray squirrels play with leftover food on the sidewalk.

Nothing is where it should be, but it all feels right; it’s an extra blanket of junk tucking the earth in for bed.

Except for the mayonnaise jar in the yard.

Collecting these treasures off the street feels hopeless. The moment a piece of garbage makes it into the trash bag, two more pieces appear.

Memories of Saturday night are left out in the gutter, no one to share them with. It happens every week. Stories of a fun night with friends cast aside into the storm drain. A nice meal left out in the rain. Cigarette butts from a moment alone.

What story does the mayonnaise in the yard have to tell?

Published in Voices

Mar 12  noon–1 p.m. EST

Songbirds Changed Their Tune During the Pandemic
Elizabeth Derryberry, associate professor in the UT Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Tennessee Science Forum

Zoom Meeting - Free and open to the public - RSVP

Dr. Derrberry’s study of white-crowned sparrow songs during lockdown received nationwide attention.

With noise pollution from traffic cut in half, white-crowned sparrows sang more softly, using tones more attractive to females.

After registering,

you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Published in Event Archive
DAILY TIMES:  UT professor chronicles rise of animal rights movement

A University of Tennessee professor traces the origins of the animal rights movement in the 19th century U.S. in a new book, “A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement.”

Ernest Freeberg, head of the history department, chronicles how the action of one man who stopped the whipping of a trolley horse in New York City ultimately led to the modern animal welfare movement and the advent of laws punishing cruelty to animals.

Henry Bergh, who founded the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1866, was derided as an extremist and misanthrope by his contemporaries, but his philosophy and moral approach to animal welfare eventually became prevalent in American society.

Published in Feedbag
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