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Explore wonders of Roan Mountain at fall rally

Contributed • Aug 30, 2018 at 10:30 AM

ROAN MOUNTAIN - Nature enthusiasts will gather at Roan Mountain State Park, Sept. 7-9, to celebrate the wonders of the region at the 56th Annual Fall Naturalist Rally. The best naturalists in the region join the host Friends of Roan Mountain and park staff to provide outdoor activities and programming for people of all ages.

The featured speakers at this year’s event are Gabrielle Zeiger and Joey Shaw.

Zeiger will present “Zen and the Art of Mushroom Hunting” for the Sept. 7 evening program. She has been studying mushrooms in this area for 23 years and considers herself more of a mushroom enthusiast than an expert. She is a member of the North American Mycological Association.

Shaw will present “Digitizing Tennessee’s One Million Herbarium Specimens” during the Sept. 8 evening program. Shaw is a professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. At UTC, he teaches plant taxonomy every spring and plant morphology and biogeography in the fall.

The rally gets underway at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, with registration at the Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center.

The Friday buffet dinner takes place at 6:30 p.m. The dinner requires a prepaid reservation by Tuesday, Sept. 4. Dinners are $10 for each adult and $5 for each child (ages 12 and under).

Zeiger’s program on mushrooms will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday. There are two basic kinds of approach to mushroom hunting: looking for good edibles and scientific study. The talk will touch on both approaches and include basic information on common mushrooms found in our area, species diversity, and poisonous vs. edibles mushrooms. The program will include various types of fungi from gilled mushrooms, boletes, corals, stinkhorns and polypores and the roles that they play in the environment, such as decomposition, forest ecology, etc.

Zeiger will also talk about what mycologists do at forays. Findings will be included regarding 20 years of record keeping at Roan Mountain and scientific information on studies at Mount Mitchell, North Carolina, regarding amount of rainfall and diversity of fruiting.

Following the program, Larry McDaniel will lead the first field trip of the weekend — a moth party — at 9 p.m.

All other field trips will carpool from the field adjacent to the cabins area entrance.

The first field trip on Saturday will be the Early Birds Trip at 6:30 a.m., led by the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.

There will be eight field trips starting at 8:30 a.m.

• Birds, led by the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.

• Plants of the Roan, led by Shaw.

• Wildflowers, led by Guy Mauldin.

• Useful plants, led by Marty Silver.

• Mushrooms, led by Ken Crouse and Cindy Fowler.

• Spiders, led by TJ Jones.

• Hughes Gap to Carver’s Gap 6.6-mile hike, led by Tim McDowell. Bring lunch, water and rain gear.

• Snakes, led by Phillip Hylen.

There will be Conference Center activities from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., including:

• Flint knapping with Bob Estep.

• Fossil casting for all ages with Mick Whitelaw of the East Tennessee State University Department of Geology and the Geoscience Club.

Lunch will be served at noon. There will be bag lunches ($6 each) at the Conference Center for those who make a prepaid reservation by Tuesday, Sept. 4. Everyone is welcome to bring their own lunch. Also at noon will be a nature images slide show by Silver.

Eight Saturday afternoon field trips will begin at 2 p.m. They include:

• Stream ecology, led by Bart Carter and Gary Barrigar.

• Geology of Roan Mountain, led by Whitelaw.

• Nature hike, led by Will Miller.

• Butterflies and other insects, led by Larry McDaniel.

• Wildlife tracking, led by Silver.

• Mosses and liverworts, led by Jim Goldsmith.

• Great goldenrods and graminods hike to Grassy Ridge, led by Frosty Levy and Jamey Donaldson.

• Salamanders, led by Tyler Wicks.

The Annual Friends of Roan Mountain membership meeting will be held Saturday evening, and will be followed by the Saturday buffet dinner at the Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. Paid reservations must be made by Sept. 4. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.

At 7:30 p.m., Shaw will present the Saturday evening program focusing on the work done since a 2014 grant was received from the National Science Foundation to digitize Tennessee’s vascular plant specimens and to make these data available to the public. Over 700,000 specimens from nearly all of Tennessee’s herbaria have been digitized, with the hope of completing the work by the end of 2018.

At 9 p.m., there will be another moth party field trip led by McDaniel.

Sunday field trips start at 9 a.m. and include:

• Birds, led by the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.

• Rare plants of the the Roan Highlands, led by Gary Kaufman.

• Mushrooms, led by Zeiger.

The final field trips will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. and include:

• Butterflies and other insects, led by Don Holt

• Birds of Prey, led by Hylen.

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