“Salamander Soiree” at the Highlands Nature Center

A Salamander Soiree is set for June 2 at 6 p.m. as the kickoff to “Think About Thursdays,” a summer series of programs and talks sponsored by the Highlands Biological Station.

The Salamander Soiree will feature a reception and games, followed by a brief lecture about salamanders. Award-winning author Cathryn Sill and wildlife illustrator John Sill will sign copies of their acclaimed “About” series of children’s books, and we will also announce the winners of a Salamander Art Contest.

After the Salamander Soiree, at 9 p.m., there will be a flashlight-guided Salamander Meander, featuring a short presentation followed by a hike with herpetologists along the Biological Station’s Garden Trails to search for salamanders. Advanced registration and a fee of $5 per person are required, and participants of the Salamander Meander must be over the age of seven. 828.526.2623.

This summer, the Highlands Biological Foundation is introducing new events and programs to the Thursday series in addition to its traditional Zahner Lectures — such as workshops, family events and guided interpretive hikes — that focus on the beauty and biodiversity of the Highlands Plateau. There will still be a few of the more traditional lectures on science and ecology topics as part of the series.

Other June programs on Thursdays are:

n June 9, Brett Wright talks about “Simply Child’s Play: It Isn’t So Simple,” a discussion of the deleterious effects of Nature Deficit Disorder on children of all ages. Wright is a professor and the chairman of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.  Wright serves as the co-chairman of the U.S. Play Coalition, an organization he helped establish with former National Park Service Director Fran P. Mainella.

n June 16, the annual Owl Prowl. Meet at the Nature Center amphitheater at 8 p.m. for an educational presentation given by the Carolina Raptor Center. This program will last approximately one hour, and is offered in collaboration with the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society. Following the program, stay until dark for the “Owl Prowl,” led by several members of the Audubon Society. The Owl Prowl is free to the public, but contributions for the Carolina Raptor Center are appreciated.

n June 23 two programs are scheduled. At 10 a.m. depart from the parking lot of the Nature Center for a hike led by Lamar Marshall of Wild South to explore the Ancient Cherokee Trails of Macon County. This moderately difficult hike will last for approximately four hours, and will include lunch. Advanced registration and a fee of $10 per person are required due to limited space and lunch expense. 828.526.2221. At 8:30 p.m. learn about regional frogs. This event will feature a 30-minute presentation on general frog biology, and the natural history of local species, followed by a short walk to Lindenwood Lake in the Botanical Garden to look and listen for frogs. Bring a flashlight. Admission is $5 per person. Ages are seven to adult, and advanced registration is required 828.526.2623.

n June 30, award-winning storyteller Gary Carden will share his Appalachian Stories of Conservation. Carden, a playwright and an artist, is the author of “Mason Jars in the Flood and Other Stories.” This event is free and open to all.

Stayed tuned to The Smoky Mountain News outdoors calendar for weekly events throughout summer.

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