4 Quality Education (18)
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
UT grounds planned butterfly release but festival will fly
OAK RIDGE — The University of Tennessee Arboretum canceled a planned release of painted butterflies originally scheduled for its upcoming annual butterfly festival, but the pollinator-positive educational event will go on to the joy of families and nature enthusiasts across East Tennessee.
“While the fun-filled and educational event is still scheduled for Sept. 9, a mass release of painted lady butterflies is no longer scheduled as part of the event,” according to the UT Arboretum Society.
The 8th annual festival will occur from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center and Arboretum, 901 S. Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge. Plenty of activities will provide educational opportunities for the public to learn how we can all protect our pollinators, according to the UT Institute of Agriculture.
“The butterfly species previously planned for release at the festival was the painted lady, Vanessa carduii. Butterfly releases have been held at past festivals with the intention that the more people understand an organism, the more they are inspired to help protect it. Though there has not been definitive scientific research about the impact of painted lady butterfly releases, the UT Arboretum Society has decided to join many other scientific organizations, such as the North American Butterfly Association and the Smithsonian Institute, in not promoting this practice,” according to a release.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The green floater, a freshwater mussel native to the waters of Southern Appalachia, is now formally considered at risk of extinction due to the loss and fragmentation of its aquatic habitat.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the green floater, historically found in 10 eastern U.S. states, is likely to become endangered due to existing and emerging threats. The service is proposing to list the mussel as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The green floater is still found in its native range in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. It is considered locally extinct in Alabama and Georgia.
While the species has strongholds in places, green floaters are rare in nearly 80 percent of the watersheds where they naturally occur. More than 75 percent of the nation’s native freshwater mussel species are endangered or threatened, considered to be of special conservation concern, or presumed extinct, according to USWFS.
Andrew Gunnoe helms spirited efforts to preserve beloved Little River but the current is swift
MARYVILLE — For 25 years, the handful of men and women involved with the nonprofit Little River Watershed Association (LRWA) have been protecting the crystal clear waters as they plummet from the Great Smoky Mountains before meandering through Blount County and merging with the Tennessee River.
“We see ourselves as the voice of the Little River, speaking for the river and its health,” said Andrew Gunnoe, president of the LRWA Board of Directors.
From the famous swimming hole at the Wye to the profusion of inner tube rental companies in Townsend, the Little River is one of the region’s most popular spots for water recreation. Further downstream, the waterway becomes an almost perfect spot for fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
For all the popularity as a recreation stop, the 59-mile stretch of water is also a vital habitat for numerous aquatic species and provides the 120,000-plus residents of Blount County with drinking water.
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Etnier left behind a legacy of research and ambitious students
KNOXVILLE — Dr. David Etnier, a professor at the University of Tennessee internationally known for his research on freshwater fishes and caddis flies, died May 17 at the age of 84.
Etnier, known as “Ets” to his students, joined the UT faculty in 1965 and retired in 2001. Three aquatic insect species he helped discover are named after him, and those are just three of the more than 410 insect species he helped discover.
Udderly amazing: University of Tennessee to unveil robotic cow-milker
WALLAND — The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture will host a demonstration of its new robotic milking technology at the UT AgResearch and Education Center’s Little River Unit in Blount County. The new system, developed by the Lely Corporation in the Netherlands, allows for the cows to be automatically milked at their own will in a stress-free environment. The demonstration is set for 10 a.m. May 2 and will include remarks from prominent university and community leaders.
The cows are trained to walk up to the robotic system, where each animal will be recognized by a sensor on its collar. The system then knows how much feed to give the cow while she’s being milked, based on historical data. The cow is free to eat, drink and rest while being milked, and in an area where there’s less cattle traffic. About 120 dairy cows can be milked and individual records kept through two robotic systems in a relatively short amount of time.
“The mission of UT AgResearch is to conduct leading-edge projects to serve the evolving needs of the agriculture and forestry industry in Tennessee and beyond,” said Hongwei Xin, dean of UT AgResearch.
“The introduction of milking robots into our existing traditional dairy production system at the Little River dairy facility allows our researchers to find answers to questions ranging from interactions between the animals and robots, impact on the animal’s production performance, and labor savings and profitability. The robotic milking system is part of the UT Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) initiative that aims to improve production efficiency and food supply chain robustness through enhanced animal welfare. UTIA is poised to be the leader in PLF in the region, the nation and the world.”
— University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
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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‘It’s very good for the soul.’ Bo Baxter and Conservation Fisheries focus underwater to save our Southern fishes.
This is the latest installment of an occasional series, Hellbent, profiling citizens and organizations who work to preserve and improve the Southern Appalachian environment.
KNOXVILLE — For more than 35 years, an obscure nonprofit headquartered here has grown into one of the most quietly successful champions of ecology and environmental restoration in the Eastern United States.
Conservation Fisheries, which occupies a 5,000-square foot facility near the Pellissippi State University campus on Division Street, has spent nearly four decades restoring native fish populations to numerous waterways damaged years ago by misguided governmental policies.
In fact, the mid-20th century saw wildlife officials frequently exterminating key aquatic species to make way for game fish like trout.
“It was bad science, but it was the best they had at the time,” said Conservation Fisheries Executive Director Bo Baxter. “A lot of the central concepts of ecology, like food webs and communities, were not developed back then.”
Knox County mayor honors women leaders in STEAM all month
KNOXVILLE — Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs is observing Women’s History Month throughout March by sharing videos each Wednesday highlighting time spent in different Knox County Schools’ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) classrooms taught by female teachers.
The March 15 video features a visit with South Doyle High School STEM/Computer Science and 2022 KCS Secondary Teacher of the Year Katie DeVinney who was teaching a class on the principles of advanced manufacturing and practical design.
“I hope out of courses like this, that young women are able to see the opportunities available in sectors of the economy like advanced manufacturing and hopefully pursue those,” Jacobs said in a press release.
DeVinney is a 10-year educator who began her career as a foreign language instructor but was inspired by her husband who started the Robotics program at South Doyle High School, to switch paths.
“I just love it. It’s so much fun to see the excitement in kids when they get to take something that they designed on this computer and then hold it in the real world. It’s the coolest process I have ever seen so that’s kind of why I do it.” DeVinney said.
Mayor Jacobs said celebrating women in STEAM is important for young girls because it shows them that women can succeed in technical fields — industry typically driven by men.
Later this month, he will share visits with Gibbs Middle School Art Teacher Dorothy Verbick and STEM Teacher Lauren Downs; as well as Karns Middle School Math Teacher Rebecca Layton.
— Knox County Mayors Office
(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:
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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.
UT Arboretum event reminds us to love and care for the butterflies among us
OAK RIDGE — With an orange flutter, a cluster of painted lady butterflies took to the sky.
It was a timed release, coming toward the end of the seventh annual University of Tennessee Arboretum’s Butterfly Festival last month.
Earlier, other live painted lady butterflies were available to watch in mesh tents. Visitors got a chance to touch Madagascar hissing cockroaches and look at preserved insect collections with butterflies and other creatures from around the world. Children ran around the event with butterfly face paint, butterfly masks and butterfly wings. But the event was also a chance to buy butterfly-friendly plants and learn about butterflies and their relationships with other species.
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Charles Henry Turner concluded that bees can perceive time and develop new feeding habits in response
This story was originally published by The Conversation. Edward D. Melillo is a professor of history and environmental studies at Amherst College.
On a crisp autumn morning in 1908, an elegantly dressed African American man strode back and forth among the pin oaks, magnolias and silver maples of O’Fallon Park in St. Louis, Missouri. After placing a dozen dishes filled with strawberry jam atop several picnic tables, biologist Charles Henry Turner retreated to a nearby bench, notebook and pencil at the ready.
Following a midmorning break for tea and toast (topped with strawberry jam, of course), Turner returned to his outdoor experiment. At noon and again at dusk, he placed jam-filled dishes on the park tables. As he discovered, honeybees (Apis mellifera) were reliable breakfast, lunch and dinner visitors to the sugary buffet. After a few days, Turner stopped offering jam at midday and sunset, and presented the treats only at dawn. Initially, the bees continued appearing at all three times. Soon, however, they changed their arrival patterns, visiting the picnic tables only in the mornings.
Tennessee Aquarium fellowships bring minorities into the science space
CHATTANOOGA — Never let it be said that all summer jobs are created equal.
Squatting on his heels to dangle the flexible hose of an environmental DNA pump into a briskly flowing North Georgia stream, the last few weeks have been anything but ordinary for Spencer Trimpe. With the pump’s droning motor steadily collecting a sample of water to filter out genetic traces of the stream’s inhabitants, he doesn’t bother holding back a smile.
A lanky junior biology major from Thomas More University, Trimpe is one of two students selected as part of the Tennessee Aquarium’s George Benz Aquatic Ecology Fellowship. Instead of manning a cash register or waiting tables this summer, he’s assisting freshwater scientists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute with a variety of research projects.
Lessons in early and enduring photo techniques are an organic way to spread the arts and cultivate love of nature
KNOXVILLE — Donna Moore and Anna Lawrence showed people how to take photos with the sun.
The method, demonstrated this spring at Ijams Nature Center, involved putting one or more leaves on photo paper and spraying it with two sprays. One spray contained lemon and water. The other contained water with vinegar.
Children then placed these leaves on wet photo paper in the sun. The sun’s light gives a permanent impression of the leaf on the paper.
New Ijams playground reconnects kids with neighborhood woods, forts and creeks of yore
KNOXVILLE — Ijams Nature Center officially opened a portal into pure childhood beast mode this week.
The Ijams Nature Playscape at Grayson Subaru Preserve is specifically designed for young children to play in a creek, climb hills, dig, build, crawl and engage with nature in an organic, unstructured way. The new space features a large nest, tunnels, log steps and different rooms to play in.
“For generations, many of us had the opportunity to roam and play in the woods, empty lots and fields that surrounded our homes and neighborhoods,” Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker said. “We remember the freedom we had to use our imagination, test ourselves and become a part of the natural landscape, at least until we were called home for dinner.”
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