Training tomorrow’s scientists: WCU opens $110.5 million science building

Until 2016, then-Chancellor David O. Belcher spent much of his time and energy as leader of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee telling anyone who would listen that WCU’s future was in danger. Specifically, the future of its engineering, science and nursing programs. 

Launchpad to space: Camp builds enthusiasm for middle grades

At 10 a.m. Friday, June 25, the parking lot above the Jackson County Early College was nothing but a mundane expanse of asphalt on the upper campus of Southwestern Community College, all but deserted for summer break. 

Camp explores earth, space and in between

Kids with a penchant for learning and exploration will have the chance to see where their curiosity takes them during ASTROcamp this summer at Smokey Mountain Elementary School. 

Unhealthy debate: Medical experts debunk claims by anti-vaccination advocates

Education, litigation, big pharm, little children, doctors, disease, disability, death — the debate surrounding vaccination thrives at the intersection of some of the most contentious topics of the day.

It’s an emotional subject, to be sure, but it’s also one of the most rigorously vetted and empirically analyzed, owing to the scientific nature of medicine. 

Inventory of life: Twenty-year effort to count Smokies species adds 1,000 to science

By late November, the trees at 5,000 feet are mostly bare, once-green leaves covering the forest floor like a brown blanket, obscuring the ground that had hosted all manner of wildflowers and shrubs and berries during the warmer months. 

Some people might describe the forest as dead or lifeless, but not those who know where to look. Paul Super, science coordinator for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is one of those people. Stationed up at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob, Super’s office is just a stone’s throw away from the Cataloochee Divide Trail and the upland forest surrounding it. 

The sediment spotter: Fifth-grade science project spurs real-world change

While elementary, junior high and high school students from across the region offered a plethora of good ideas during last month’s 2018 Region 8 Western Regional Science and Engineering Fair at Western Carolina University, one entry in particular caught the eye of judges and university officials alike. 

Liam Tormey, a fifth-grader at Cullowhee Valley School, conducted a study of Tuckasegee River water quality at test sites above and below the Cullowhee Dam, which is owned by WCU — and he found that during recent rainstorms sediment coming from university property at a source point below the dam increased the concentration to levels unacceptable for trout habitat. 

Pedaling toward Mitchell: Biking and biology go hand-in-hand for WCU professor

Darby Harris is going on a bike ride Saturday, Oct. 7, but how far he’ll pedal will be a mystery until he wakes up that morning.

Harris’ ride will be fueled by donations to the Western Carolina University Biology Club, with each $10 gift buying 1 mile. And, with the planned route to the top of Mount Mitchell totaling 11,000 feet of climbing, each mile will be a hard-won victory. It’s 110 miles from WCU’s Stillwell Building to the top of the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River, meaning that the Biology Club will have to raise $1,100 to get him all the way there.

Behind the scenes of SCC’s high-altitude weather balloon launch on eclipse day

By Julia Hartbarger • SCC Public Relations

A little time has passed since the Great American Solar Eclipse on Aug. 21, but the memory will always be there for myself and millions of others who were fortunate enough to witness the celestial event of a lifetime.

SCC weather balloon team to launch on eclipse day

On Aug. 21, the day of the Great American Eclipse, 50 high-altitude weather balloon teams from across the country will launch their payloads into the air to capture live images and video from the edge of space that will go straight to NASA’s website.

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.”

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