Naturalist

From acrobatic treefrogs to the wily fox squirrel, the Naturalist’s Notebook column celebrates Appalachia’s magnificent biodiversity.



Caught red-handed! Or more accurately, red-beaked

June 15, 2015 Wood thrushes — and their appetite for bright-red ginseng berries — are helping the plant spread its range further north.


Elk Make Slow Return to Appalachia

April 13, 2015 When European colonists arrived in the 1400s, Eastern elk were the most widespread hooved animal on the continent, but the subspecies was declared extinct by 1880. Today, however, another type of elk are slowly returning to Appalachia.


The Lake Sturgeon: Ancient Fish, Modern Recovery

February 18, 2015 The lake sturgeon is the largest and longest-living freshwater fish native to the southeastern United States. In evolutionary terms, this primitive fish has changed little since it swam among dinosaurs, but its continued survival was in doubt until recently.


Sandhill Cranes: A Winter Spectacle in Southeast Tennessee

December 19, 2014 Each winter, thousands of redheaded, long-legged sandhill cranes descend upon the mud flats and grain fields along the banks of the Tennessee River at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Tennessee.


Forest Fugitives

October 13, 2014 Wanted: Six invasive species accussed of trespassing on American soil and robbing her of her natural resources.


Exploring Mountain Bogs

August 10, 2014 Although mountain bogs represent less than one percent of the southern Appalachian landscape, they are pockets of immense ecological and practical importance and provide a haven for many rare plants and animals.


Acrobats of the Forest: The Eastern Gray Treefrog

June 3, 2014 By Meredith Warfield It’s mating season in Appalachia, and the region’s deciduous forests are humming with life. Birdsongs may be heard by day, but by night the Eastern gray treefrogs have hopped out of the branches and flocked to nearby


New Trillium Species Discovered in Eastern Tennessee

April 9, 2014 By Meredith Warfield When Mark Dunaway and his wife purchased land in eastern Tennessee, they had no idea they would be moving in with an unheard-of species living in their backyard. The couple came across an unfamiliar, yellow-petaled wildflower while


The Forest's Bread and Butter

December 9, 2013 By Chris Samoray Bring down the mast. But hold on seafarers, leave the sails flying. In the forests of Appalachia, this lingo doesn’t refer to sailing. Instead, it’s used by outdoor folk to describe the fruits of plants and trees,


Peregrine Falcons: Diving Back into Appalachia

October 9, 2013 By Nolen Nychay High atop the cityscape, yellow-ringed eyes squinting in morning sun, the dark silhouette of a peregrine falcon lies in wait of the perfect ambush. As a low-flying pigeon approaches, the peregrine leaps into a dive, closing the


Otterly Amazing: Resilient Mammals Stage an Impressive Comeback in Appalachia

August 23, 2013 By Chelsey Fisher With short legs, a slender body, webbed toes and a generally friendly personality, American river otters are one of the most charismatic creatures in the country. These four-foot-long mammals once flourished in the eastern part of the


The Mysterious World of Moss

June 20, 2013 Story and photos by Molly Moore As part of the first plant family to colonize Earth, the soft beds of mosses that now grace mountain streams and woodlands may have shaped our planet’s history. Primitive mosses, similar to the hundreds


They’re Here: Alien Species in Appalachia

December 5, 2012 By Matt Grimley Anything that costs $120 billion every year to control can’t be good. That’s just one estimate of the costs of invasive species in the United States, courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Research Station. In Appalachia, the everyday


A Short Hiss-tory of Timber Rattlesnakes

October 19, 2012 By Matt Grimley Imagine yourself in the mountains, climbing near large rocks. Suddenly, from an outcropping near your feet, you hear something. It rattles like a maraca, you think, but not as festively. Congratulations: you found a timber rattlesnake! Historically,


Appalachian Mussels: Our Living Freshwater Filters

August 8, 2012 By Jesse Wood When settlers first waded through Appalachian streams hundreds of years ago, freshwater mussels practically paved the riverbeds. In the early 1900s, the aquatic creatures were so abundant that thousands of pearl hunters flocked to the forks of