May 17

Field Biology Day 6

Spending five days in Black Mountain, N.C., for the field biology course gave our class hands-on experience in identifying organisms and plants. It was almost the same schedule each day. We ate breakfast, had a pre-trip meeting, and then set out for our adventures of the day. Each day we were able to collect specimens to take back to the cabin that would be reviewed for the final exam. Plants were collected as well as animals that were small enough to fit into the aquariums, petri dishes, or ziplock bags. At the end of each day, we reviewed what we had captured and got answers to any questions we had.

On the first day, we were able to view plants and animals found at lower elevations. These environments included areas around the Christmount Center, where we were staying. We also identified organisms in the creek and surrounding the creek.

The next day, we explored areas of elevation ranging from 2,100 ft. to 5,720 ft. We viewed many species of plants while walking on the trails. A black bear and cub crossed the road in front of our van. We saw multiple types of environments including a hardwood cove and an old bog.

On the third day, we traveled through the Blue Ridge Parkway making multiple stops. We were able to view a grassy bald and a heath bald.

The fourth day took us to ponds in order to collect invertebrates and whatever else we could find. The weather was very rainy, but it was a great day to find newts in the pond. We were able to go to the Western North Carolina Nature Center and gain more information about American Chestnuts and the history of animals. We also completed night observations in order to gain more knowledge by using our other senses to learn about nature.

On the fifth day, we traveled through trails to review our material for the final. We collected new specimens as we walked, also. We collected a red eft, fish, and nymphs that we had looked for previously. The rest of the night, we reviewed what we had learned and perfected our notebooks. We studied very hard for the final Saturday morning. We took the final, packed our things, cleaned up, and headed back to Wilson, N.C.

The trip for the five days here in Black Mountain, N.C., was a great experience. It was great to see nature in a way that we had not seen before. This trip was memorable and was very different when compared to my normal mountain trip with my family. Hiking was very different because walking on the edge of steep trails was tougher than I thought it would be. Walking up the trails to great heights was a new experience that I enjoyed. I could not have learned all these organisms as quickly as I did if I had been sitting in a classroom. There were parts of the trip that seemed difficult because we could not find what we were looking for, such as a snake. Seeing the bear and her cub cross in front of our van was my favorite part of the trip. The weather becoming colder and rainy on the fourth day was my least favorite part of the trip; and, as we all learned, everything in nature cannot always be controlled.

-Brittany Bradley

May 17

Field Biology Day 5

Today was more of a relief than anything. Knowing that it was the last day of doing observations, catching animals, and inspecting plants felt amazing. We started off the day with breakfast and a little meeting as usual. We then had a short walk from the cabin to the first trail of the day. It was a colder day, though the sun started to peak out around 10 or 11. Everyone today looked pooped but intrigued to finish up the course with a solid grade. We hiked about three miles this morning and then ate lunch. After lunch, we headed to Curtis Creek, where everyone was interested in helping Dr. Carpenter locate different species of salamanders and different larvae and nymphs. Although it was hard to find different species from those we already had found, we all put in good effort to find them. After the creek, we came back and got all prettied up for the BBQ dinner. I do think that we could all agree that it was probably the best dinner of the week! We then headed back to the cabin, stuffed with food, to start the long night of studying!

Alex David

May 16

Field Biology Day 4

Today, our field biology class made our first stop at the Charles D. Owen District Park at 8:45 am. We started off by grabbing our nets and searching for whatever we could find in the pond. Since it was rainy, we were not able to find any butterflies. Dr. Basinger caught several fish, including a blue gill. We were able to catch a mosquito fish, crane fly, dragon fly nymph, damsel fly nymph, and a nightcrawler. Dr. Carpenter also caught an amphipod.

Our second stop was at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly at 10:20 am. Here, we were able to catch several red spotted newts, which are the only species of newts in North Carolina. We also caught a skimmer dragon fly nymph, a common stone fly nymph, a roach-like stone fly nymph, and a crane fly larvae. Dr. Basinger fished in the pond and caught a large mouth bass.

We then headed back to the lodge for lunch and then to the Western North Carolina Nature Center instead of Curtis Creek because it was raining. At the nature center, there were many different species of animals, including the American black bear, cougars, the red wolf, and the corn snake. We were interested to find out that the red wolf nearly went extinct before being repopulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was also interesting to note how small the black bear enclosure was. We felt that it should have been larger to accommodate the size of the bears.

After having dinner, we returned to the lodge and went walking on the Blue Ridge trail at 8:37 for night observations with our red flashlights. We split into groups of two and one group of three and waited quietly for an hour in the dark to search for nocturnal organisms. Zach and Brittney searched for glowing worms. Dr. Carpenter determined that the worms they caught were Pyromorpha dimidata, which is a type of larval moth. Dr. Carpenter caught an Orfelia fultoni, a type of larval fly. At the end of the day, Dr. Basinger picked out a mountain laurel.
Overall, the journey today was interesting because we caught fish, observed species at the nature center, and observed the mountains at night. Today was filled with several new experiences for everyone. We are looking forward to tomorrow, which will be our last day in the field.

- Brandon and Zach

May 15

Field Biology Day 3

We started the morning learning about multiple types of ferns. We went over the Christmas fern, New York fern, lady fern, and fancy fern; and we also learned about the Fraser magnolia. After breakfast we checked the trap Dr. Carpenter set last night and found a raccoon. Then we headed to our first stop: mountain marker 375. The sole purpose for stopping here was to obtain snakes; but, sadly, we did not find any, just a lot of poison ivy and Dr. Basinger’s fire pink and red clover.

Our second stop was a creek off the Tanbark Bridge Tunnel. There the class found multiple mountain dusky and northern dusky salamanders along with crawfish and stoneflies. Krishna found bear corn, also known as squaw root, along with one dragonfly and an Indian cucumber that Tessa and Alex decided to eat. Dr. Carpenter taught us how craw fish molt, their different body parts, and how to tell a female from a male. We also found a rattlesnake fern and the granddaddy tree of the Appalachian Mountains, the American chestnut. American chestnut trees were scarce because of the chestnut blight, a fungus that kills chestnut trees, and because they were used for furniture and houses. Now, you mostly find saplings. The unisexual jack-in-the-pulpit, which we also discovered at the Tanbark Ridge Tunnel, is an interesting plant because this same plant produces male and female flowers.

Our third stop was at Craggy Gardens Trail where we found a dense heath bald. The soil is thin and very acidic, and lots of rocks can be found here. The main plant form is Catawba rhododendron. At the half way point, we stopped at a chestnut wood shelter made by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Going up a side trail, we were able to observe a grassy bald. Grassy balds are soil rich and have no trees. Humans cut woody vegetation with chainsaws to maintain the grassy bald. In the bald, the vegetation contains lots of berries, which bloom in July.

Our fourth to stop was the Craggy Pinnacle Trail where we discovered more balds. At the top of the trail winds were 20 to 25 mph. Along the trail, Dr. Basinger discovered dog hobble and gooseberry – two very interesting plants.

And, finally, our last stop was Mount Mitchell, where the elevation is estimated at 6,684 feet. Black Mountain contains 43 peaks over 6,000 feet tall and 82 peaks between 5,000-6,000 feet tall. Its highest range has 19 peaks over 6,000 feet tall. The temperature at the top of the mountain was 16.1°C or 61°F. We went down a nature trail where Tessa, Dr. Carpender, Lexi, and Alex climbed boulders. Walking the nature trail felt like something out of the movie Jurassic Park because of all of the moss covered stumps and beautiful natural scenery.

At the end of the hike, we were rewarded with sodas, Apple butter, apple cider, and various other snacks including dried cherry granola crunches. Dinner was interesting; and, when we returned to the cabin, we began a quick review with Dr. Basinger. Then, with Dr. Carpenter, we did a quick review of all the animals we found today.

Now bed is calling my name. Good night, everybody!

May 14

Field Biology Day 2

Today, May 13, 2014, the field biology class (BIO 006) went on our second day of observations in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Our journey began around 9:20 a.m. (first stop of the day) and ended around 10:30 p.m. (return to the cabin). Some of the highlights of today’s trip were the Devil’s Courthouse, bear sightings, and a waterfall! The stops for the day included French Broad Overlook, Bad Fork Valley Overlook, Mt. Pisgah, Buck Springs Gap Overlook, Devil’s Courthouse, the old bog, Red Cove, and Cataloochee Valley.

Our first stop of the day was the French Broad Overlook (elevation: 2,100 ft.). The class found the blue star plant, bush honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, Solomon’s seal, and a tiger swallowtail butterfly. On the way to the next stop, Bad Fork Valley (elevation: 3,350 ft.), we saw two black bears (1 mom and 1 cub) cross the road right in front of the van! A wild turkey was also spotted on the side of the road, but the sex was not determined. At Bad Fork Valley (around 10:09 a.m.), the class found sassafras, orange sulfur butterfly, and the pearl crescent butterfly. The third stop was Mt. Pisgah (elevation: 5,000 ft.), and the class found red elderberry and Carolina rhododendron. The fourth stop was the Buck Springs Gap Overlook (elevation: 4,980 ft.), which was the first walking trail that the class explored. On the trail, the class found red spruce, yellow birch, bluets, old man’s beard, toad skin lichen, lung lichen, yellow bell flower, louse wort, fleabane, dusky wing butterfly, Appalachian azure butterfly, centipede, earthworms, spot tick, millipede, velvet mite, snail, slug, salamander, and coyote feces. The first walking trail wasn’t too bad at first, but a little narrow. However, toward the middle, the trail was really steep and was very narrow and also steep toward the end; so it was a bit difficult to climb up!

On the way to Devil’s Courthouse, Dr. Basinger retrieved pink shell azalea and Catawba rhododendron. The Devil’s Courthouse (elevation: 5,720 ft.) was the steepest climb of the day. The trail was paved at first; but eventually turned to a rock-and-gravel path, which went at a very sharp angle up the side of the peak. At the top of the Devil’s Courthouse, the class found sedge (found in Canada normally) and blazing star; both of these plant species are endangered. The view at the top of the Devil’s Courthouse was AMAZING! It was so cool to be so high up and to see that mountain tops normally have different ecosystems than the rest of the mountain. Dr. Carpenter found a Grey-cheeked salamander (Jordan’s salamander) on the way down.

After Devil’s Courthouse, the class went to an unnamed waterfall. Some of the students drank water from the falls and said that it was delicious. Five students (Melanie, Yahsnniah, Alex, Tessa, and Lexi) climbed down to the waterfall and Melanie found a water strider. The students climbed all over the rocks and played a little in the water, but the water was running too fast, so we could not go all the way in.

The old bog was the sixth stop of the day around 3:28 p.m. The class found peak moss sundew, and reindeer lichen. The bog was interesting to see, but everyone’s shoes got really wet! The seventh stop was the Red Cove (elevation: 3,915 ft.), where there was a hardwood forest cove with a creek down the middle. Some of the species found there were buckeye trees, rattlesnake orchid, maples (sugar and striped), and the slimy salamander.

The last stop of the day was the Cataloochee Valley. The class found about 17 elk (mostly cows, one bull, and one young bull), 2 more black bears (1 mom and 1 cub), 3 wild turkeys (gender not determined), crane fly, mayflies, big brown bats, and stoneflies. The class went into the Caldwell House to see the big brown bats; the house was built in 1903. There was a stream outside of the front of the house; there was also had a barn and a spring house (to refrigerate food back in the days before the use of electricity). Trout were seen in the stream, and there were bear feces right in front of the house. The road to get to the Cataloochee Valley was partially paved, full of blind and sharp curves, and subject to high winds; all in all, it was a scary drive.

- Melanie O’Rourke and Katie Gupton.

 

May 13

Field Biology Day 1

Hey ! This summer, I am taking the field biology class – 006. Field biology class is an interactive class, where we get to explore various species and plants in the mountains. This class is about five weeks long inside the classroom; we met every Friday and a week in the mountains! Today, we started our day off by meeting at the science building and then loading up the vans for the trip. We left Barton at around 8 a.m. and started heading out. About an hour into the journey, one of the vans broke down, so we had to call Dr. Pennington to helps us get a new van! Dr. Pennington fortunately came to the rescue. While the car was sitting on the side of the highway, we went to lunch at Wendy’s ! After that, we returned and headed to the mountains – finally! We made to Christmount around 4:15 p.m., and then we started unloading and getting settled in. Once we had things all settled in, we headed to the Christmount trail!

The first thing we observed was a salamander. Further, while walking the trail, we saw various plants like Rosebay Rhododedron, Eastern Hemlock, Cherry Birch, Black Cherry, Tulip Tree, Japanese Knot Leaf, etc. We also saw some snakes such as the ring neck snake. The ring neck snake had a ring around it’s neck, which was extremely cool. While we were on the trail, we also were journaling in our notebooks/journals. The journals are meant to be sort of a notebook where the entire day’s experience is written down. We also learned a little bit of history as well. The best part was being active in the field. I definitely did step out of my comfort zone. I tried to catch a few things. However, I wasn’t too successful; but I did good for day one!

Then, after finishing the trail, we came back to the cabins and headed out for dinner. We had Taco Bell for dinner… I know what y’all are thinking… Yummm, right?! After dinner, while the students hung out at the cabins reviewing and what not, the professors (Dr. Basinger and Dr. Carpenter) went to the grocery store for some shopping! Another great part was that they bought me Oreos! After they returned, we reviewed our entire day’s journey! Overall, I would say it was a successful day. I am enjoying this trip so far :) I hope y’all have a good night– and take care now, Bulldogs !

Apr 07

Greenwich time!

To start off our morning, we took a lovely boat ride to Greenwich around the Thames. This was very nice because we had a tour guide who helped make the ride more meaningful and he was very funny which was also a plus. I keep learning more and more new things every day about London because it is impossibly big! Some of the architecture of the buildings along the Thames is so impressively beautiful you can’t help but to stare at it for hours on end. This is was also my first experience seeing Tower Bridge and it was cool actually going underneath it on the water and waving to the people walking up top along the bridge.

The most exciting and most anticipated part of the trip was going to the Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum to straddle the prime meridian (I mean really, who has never wished to actually be in two places at once?) This was very interesting for me to think about and I had to be one of “those girls” who took a picture on it.

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After that we walked back down the hill into the town of Greenwich and visited a museum, the Greenwich market, and even stopped for a light snack at a recommended restaurant called Café Sol. I feel like Greenwich is an ideal place to take someone on a date and walk around to see all of the cute shops, sit in the grass and enjoy the views of the town.

Apr 07

Weekend in Oxfordshire!

On Saturday we explored Oxford, I did not really have any expectations for this trip and no one had any specific plans;  however, this ended up being the best plan because it turned out to be a really great day! When we first arrived to the town we climbed the hill next to the Oxford Castle to get a good view of the town.

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After that we headed into the city were we saw tons of shops, restaurants, various street performers that were actually very talented and randomly enough a science fair!

As we continued on our journey, we stopped by only a few of the MANY universities in Oxford and they were all equally breath-taking. During our visit we toured three campuses: Christ Church, Magdalene College and Trinity College. All of these schools were unbelievably beautiful and looked exactly like castles… I can’t imagine attending a school that looked like a castle!

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While walking we saw a class graduating from their graduate program. It did not take us long to figure out that the very building that they were graduating in was the same building that was used for the library scenes in the Harry Potter movies! This was very cool to think that the cast was once filming where we were standing!

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Apr 02

Sail

Sailing made me think of a relaxing day on the water. A day that would not require any bruises, cuts, or the arousal of my impatient temperament. Once again, outdoor pursuits has proven my oh so omnipotent notions wrong. Sailing is exhausting. Those fun boats might look cute and adorable but spend a day in one and tell me how your abdominals feel from leaning to keep the boat balanced.

After hitting a few no go zones—meaning your boat is facing directly into the wind and therefore cannot catch any wind and will not move—I felt a bit frustrated. Eventually my partner and I harnessed the wind in our sail and sped off down the Menai Straits. You hear people make cliché comments about sailing all the time, but you never understand the truth of those words until you are in that moment. Feeling the speed beneath you, knowing that if you did not lean just the right way you could very well capsize your boat and end up in that chilly water, it moves something in you. Suddenly everything else fades away, that paper you have been dreading, the weeks of traveling you have been dreaming about; you are not simply in that moment, rather that moment becomes a part of you.

When we were transferred into the group sailboat, that boat literally rocked. Our instructor told me to sit with my bum off the side of the boat and lean back in order to keep the boat balanced. I looked at him like he had just told me to eat my own hand. I have heard of people doing all sorts of things to keep themselves calm—apparently I laugh. I spent the entire time laughing, not a nervous laugh but a genuine one. Come to think of it, I laughed when I sprained my wrist mountain biking. It is a bit of a twisted coping mechanism, but it works.image

Apr 02

Never Land

London is to me what New York City was to Carrie Bradshaw. I fell in love with it last year, and going back last weekend showed me just how much I really do adore that city.

Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park.

Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park.

If Manchester United was a London club, I would have no choice but to sell a kidney and move there. Maybe someday I will, but until that day I will continue to follow my heart back there, second star to the right and straight on till morning. London is my Never Land.

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