Now that classes are finished and students are battening down the hatches on their final push of work and exams, it seems like a good time to reflect on last week’s numerous (and overwhelming successful) EarthWeek events. While all of the events were received well and had healthy turnouts, it is perhaps best to summarize the three of the best events of the week.
Life on the Rocks
Resting on top of a mountain (The Mountain), Sewanee is not known for its good soils. With an average soil depth of around 4 feet deep, there are a number of outcrops that exist on the Domain. These outcroppings are distinct for their unique biodiversity. Students in Bio 130 are exploring how these threatened species live. By looking at twelve different outcrop sites, the group is studying how these two species compete over the same resources and exist in this relatively unstudied habitat.
The Sweet Smell of Sewanee Wildflowers
Fragrant flowers are starting to bud in bold colors across the Sewanee Domain around this time of year. Shakerag and Lost Cove are two of the most popular places to catch a glimpse of this dazzling botanical display. The flowers exist all around Sewanee, but in these two spots they are protected from the white-tailed deer, a popular predator who view these beauty’s as floor candy fresh for the nibbling.
Punks in Decay
Human inhabitants have had a substantial impact upon the forest ecology atop the Cumberland Plateau and subsequently Sewanee’s Domain has a variety of forests. While some areas have been harvested or planted with monoculture plantations such as the non-native white pine, others remain relatively unmanaged.
Drilling on The Domain?
Recent conversations are tackling the prospect of the University potentially drilling for natural gas on the Domain, noting the potential for locally sourced natural gas extraction. However, drilling done on February 22nd will be strictly for educational and research purposes. Previously, Sewanee met with geologists and other consultants to consider the possibility for hydraulic fracturing “fracking” on the Domain, with proponents arguing in favor of a source of local natural gas, as opposed to natural gas transported form a distant location. However, this proposal has been shelved for now, citing the University’s commitment to sustainability. Presently, drilling on the Domain will be for research use only.
Painting a Modern Picture of Conservation - The Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge
On Tuesday, February 5th, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) hosted a public forum at the Franklin County Library to discuss the creation of a new wildlife refuge, the Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge, in southern Franklin County. The presentation comes after years of tireless efforts by a diverse assemblage of stakeholders. Pending its approval in June of this year, the refuge stands to be just the eleventh refuge created under President Obama. More notably, it will be one of a very few refuges in the country whose focus is protecting threatened upland terrestrial habitat in the southern Appalachians.