Word from the Smokies: An annual checkup for salamanders

Pay a visit to Chimneys Picnic Area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the first days of spring, and chances are you’ll hear the cheerful sounds of families enjoying meals together, downy woodpeckers drumming on the bark of deciduous trees and a few small groups of students talking intently amongst themselves as they carefully turn over rocks and leaves. 

Snorkeling the mountains: New Blue Ridge Snorkel Trail will show off WNC’s vibrant streams

For most people, the word “snorkeling” conjures images of blue Caribbean waters, pink coral reefs and a rainbow of tropical fish. But witnessing a world of aquatic beauty doesn’t require a flight to the Florida Keys.

Southside story: Bid awarded in contentious timber project

Five years after it first proposed the controversial Southside Timber Project, the U.S. Forest Service has awarded a timber bid to cut the first 98 acres of 317 acres to be harvested — earning sharp criticism from environmental groups who say the project will destroy rare old-growth forest. 

Sleuthing for salamanders: New DNA technique boosts salamander science

A new scientific tool developed at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont will allow salamander-studying scientists to trace the amphibians’ whereabouts without ever laying eyes on one of the slimy creatures. 

“It’s kind of like a crime scene investigation thing,” said Gar Secrist, the teacher/naturalist at Tremont who led the research. “You’re looking for evidence of the salamanders that were there without ever seeing the salamanders.”

Wading through nostalgia

out natcornGive a Loosiana boy a reason to don his hip boots and strap on a headlight and you’ve got a happy camper. I recently got that opportunity through a contract with the Forest Service to do a salamander survey on three streams in the Cheoah District of the Nantahala National Forest. The three small headwater streams were Wolf Laurel, Sand Creek and Whiggs Branch.

Keep your salamander away from my newt

out natcornI often remind everyone who reads “The Naturalist’s Corner” to remember to look up. But each spring while surveying birds for the Forest Service I am reminded to look down. I have a couple of survey points in the Pisgah National Forest along Locust Creek near the South Toe River that must be red eft mecca. Red eft is the terrestrial stage of eastern or red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens.) 

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