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Spring from the Mountains to the Coast

May 12, 2014

Over the past week and a half, we’ve held Educator Treks to both the mountains and the coastal plain of North Carolina. From May 2-4 one group explored the signs of spring in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and took part in ongoing citizen science projects at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center. And on May 7-8 and May 10-11, two different groups explored the swamp ecosystem along the Roanoke River in eastern North Carolina.

Both places are home to a diversity of species and habitats. The Smokies are well-known for beautiful spring wildflower displays and incredible salamander diversity. Large swaths of protected bottomland hardwood swamp along the Roanoke River provide habitat for a remarkable number of migratory and nesting birds as well as numerous species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. In each location, educators spent time closely observing and learning about the components of the ecosystem. And quiet time for reflection and nature journaling in these amazing wilderness areas provided each of us with much-needed renewal and connection to the natural world.

One of the biggest differences between the two sites was the progress of spring. In the Smokies, trees were just leafing out and temperatures were cool. In the swamp, all of the trees had leafed out already and a few educators decided to take a quick swim because the weather was so warm!

Enjoy a few photo highlights from each trip:

group hiking in mountains

Hiking in the Smokies

Educators looking into box

We used simple sifter boxes to search for soil invertebrates as part of an ongoing project to sample these critters in the Smokies.

wildflower

Fringed Phacelia, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

yellow bird at nest cavity

Prothonotary Warbler at Nest, along the Roanoke River

owl sitting on log, looking at camera

Barred Owl, along the Roanoke River

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