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Nature enthusiasts set to rally ‘round Roan

Jessica Fischer • Sep 4, 2013 at 12:51 PM

More than five decades ago, the vision of a German immigrant to Carter County, Freddie Behrend, became a reality with the establishment of the first Roan Mountain Naturalists’ Rally.

Ever since, nature enthusiasts have been rallying ‘round Roan Mountain the weekend after Labor Day to celebrate the landmark’s rich biodiversity.

That tradition will continue Sept. 6-8 with the Friends of Roan Mountain’s 51st annual Fall Naturalists’ Rally, featuring a variety of walks as well as talks by two top-notch speakers and long-time rally trip leaders — botanist Frosty Levy and fisheries biologist Bart Carter.

Levy will kick things off Friday night with a program on plants of the Doe River Corridor.

His program will highlight some of the unusual, rare and geographically disjunct plants found associated with the river and touch on some of the disease threats faced by these plants.

“Having grown up in the Bronx, I sometimes tell people I saw my first tree when I was 21, and I liked it, so I became a botanist,” Levy said. “That was when I realized it was possible to earn a living doing things that I would have been glad to do for no pay.”

After Levy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from City College of New York, he re-oriented to earn a master’s in biology, also from CCNY. He worked for five years at Pikeville College in Kentucky, where he taught and worked on mine reclamation projects.

“Plants of unusual habitats have always piqued my curiosity about how they got there and how they adapted to those sites,” Levy said. “Those questions were the focus of my doctoral research at Duke University where I earned a Ph.D. in botany and genetics. For 20 years my research focused on the genetic causes of sterility between hybrids of phacelias that grow on granite outcrops, limestone cedar glades and shale barrens.”

After spending 12 years collaborating on the genetics and epidemiology of antibiotic resistance in human pathogens, Levy applied some new approaches toward understanding disease occurrence and impacts in natural plant populations. This led to studies of the hemlock woolly adelgid on Carolina hemlocks, the balsam woolly adelgid on Fraser fir and the lily leaf spot disease of Gray’s lily. He also conducts plant inventory work at East Tennessee sites worthy of protection, including the new Rocky Fork State Park, Roan Mountain State Park, the Elizabethton Watershed in Hampton, and the Doe Mountain Recreation Area in Johnson County.

Carter’s Saturday evening program is titled “Aquatic Nuisance Species in Tennessee.”

Tennessee’s aquatic fauna is the most diverse in the country with over 300 species of fish, 120 species of mussels, 87 species of crayfish and numerous aquatic insects. Landscape alteration by man has subjected these species and their habitat to many stressors. In addition, Aquatic Nuisance Species have become more and more prominent across the country, resulting in further impact to the region’s native species. Carter will discuss the situation and share what the state is doing to combat these invaders.

A native of Knox County, Carter graduated from Gibbs High School and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries science at the University of Tennessee and his master’s in biology from Tennessee Tech University.

Carter began his professional career with the National Park Service in 1991, when he accepted a fisheries position in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In 1994, he left the Park Service to take a position with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. From 1994 to 2010, Carter held the stream biologist position within the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Region 4 Stream Data Collection Unit. In 2010, he was promoted to the regional fisheries manager, making him responsible for developing and administering fisheries programs in the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Region 4, consisting of a 21 county area. He works with 30 employees within the fisheries division who comprise hatchery, data collection and habitat enhancement staff.

Registration for the rally begins at 5:30 p.m., Friday at the park’s convention center, followed by a buffet dinner at 6:30 p.m. Prepaid dinner reservations are required.

Levy will speak at 7:30 p.m., followed at 9 p.m. by a moth party led by Larry McDaniel.

Saturday’s field trips begin at 6:15 a.m., and will include walks dedicated to nature photography, birds, trees, wildflowers, mushrooms, useful plants, stream ecology, reptiles, butterflies and other insects. Bag lunches are available by prepaid reservation.

Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m., followed by Carter’s program at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s activities will begin with birding and rare plants field trips at 8:30 a.m.

Cost for both evening programs and all hikes is $5 for adults and free for children Friends of Roan Mountain members.For more information, visit www.friendsofroanmtn.org.

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