Background: The southern Appalachian Mountains harbor a wide variety of habitats and a remarkable diversity of terrestrial and aquatic organisms. Moderate temperatures, high precipitation (>1800 mm / year), and continuously flowing streams provide ample resources across the complex landscape. Forests are dominated by deciduous oak species and an evergreen understory of Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel. The region's numerous cool, high-gradient streams contain one of the world's most diverse aquatic biotas, and have been a focal point for the ongoing All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) of the Smoky Mountains and numerous projects based at Highlands Biological Laboratory and Coweeta Hydrological Laboratory. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), a biological centerpiece of the southern Appalachians, comprises more than half a million acres and harbors one of the richest diversities of plants and animals in the temperate world. Climate, topography, large tracts of old-growth and contiguous forests, and protection as a national park have contributed to this diversity. GSMNP also is the most visited park in the National Park system, with approximately nine million visitors annually. Visitation pressure and concomitant human impacts are among the existing and impending threats to park species. In addition, GSMNP receives some of the highest depositions of nitrates and sulfates in eastern North America, which acidify the park's soils and streams. These and other impacts are among the major incentives of the ATBI program, which aims to generate data that will allow intelligent decision making as to which sites, species, and natural processes are the most important to protecting park biodiversity. Coweeta Hydrological Laboratory (CHL), a Long-Term Ecological Research site managed jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and University of Georgia, with major funding from the National Science Foundation. Research at CHL involves scientists from several institutions and encompasses many topics, including long-term hydrology, nutrient cycling, and productivity in response to management practices and natural disturbance (drought, flood, insects); the effects of land use practices on water quality; and biodiversity. Many projects incorporate areas adjacent to CHL, including the GSMNP and Highlands Biological Station. At these sites and elsewhere, the class will have opportunities to observe and collect aquatic insects, and to see sites being monitored by the Courtney lab and other scientists. Highlands Biological Station (HBS) is a field station for biological research and education in the Blue Ridge geologic province of western North Carolina. It is an interinstitutional center of the University of North Carolina and available for year-round use by students and faculty engaged in biodiversity studies (ecology, systematics, evolution, and conservation). The station is located in the town of Highlands, situated on a high plateau of the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern North Carolina. To the south and southeast is a series of gorges of spectacular rivers, including the highest waterfalls in eastern North America. The Highlands region receives 2000-2500 mm of precipitation annually, making it the wettest place in eastern North America. The region is known for its plant and animal diversity, and few areas outside the tropics offer comparable opportunities for work in ecology, systematics, and evolution.
Field trip: We will drive more-or-less non-stop to western North Carolina and stay at CHL. The site is within easy driving distance of GSMNP to the north and piedmont and lowland areas to the southeast (South Carolina). Depending on weather and local conditions, we will spend two days in the Coweeta watershed, two in GSMNP, one near HBS, and one in northwestern South Carolina.
Facilities & logistics: Coweeta's dormitory facility has all the amenities of home, including beds, showers, a laundry, and a fully equipped kitchen . . . in other words, we'll be comfortable even if our feet get wet and muddy during the day. We WILL need sleeping bags or our own bed linens. Note that March weather in the southern Appalachians can vary from snow to 80°F, so trip participants should prepare for anything. Because dormitory fees are low (currently <$20/night/person) and food costs will be minimal (mostly groceries for group meals), the overall cost of the trip will be reasonable. I anticipate that a significant portion of the costs will be covered by the Department of Entomology. At present, the trip is scheduled for eight days: Saturday, March 14 through Saturday, March 21; this means two relatively long days of driving and six days in the field. Alternative dates will be considered if schedules and/or road conditions require it. A tentative itinerary and links to image galleries are given below. Except for scheduled meetings at GSMNP, CHL, and Clemson University, our plans will depend largely on weather.
TENTATIVE ITINERARY Friday before departure (4:00 PM): Pick up van; organize & load some equipment Saturday, Day 1: 5:00 AM Departure from Science II, arriving at CHL around 10:00PM? Sunday, Day 2: Recover from drive; visit Coweeta Hydrological Laboratory Monday, Day 3: Great Smoky Mountain National Park Tuesday, Day 4: Highlands Biological Station; Brasstown Creek; Chattooga River Wednesday, Day 5: tour of Coweeta Hydrological Laboratory Thursday, Day 6: Clemson University & Issaqueena Experimental Forest Friday, Day 7: Unscheduled, possibly a return to Brasstown or Great Smoky Mountain National Park Saturday, Day 8: 5:00 AM Departure from CHL, arriving back in Ames at 8-9:00PM?