This 51st annual Fall Roan Mountain Naturalists Rally will peek beneath the surface this year for programs on the flora along the Doe River Corridor and some aquatic nuisance species in the Volunteer State.
Gary Barrigar, who serves as the director for the autumn rally, credits a local journalist and naturalist with launching the annual event more than a half century ago.
“Ever since Freddy Behrend, who was then the news editor of the Elizabethton Star, established the Fall Rally in 1963, it has grown in scope and popularity,” Barrigar said. “The 51st Fall Roan Mountain Naturalists Rally promises to be one of the best ever with unique and timely programs and a great diversity of nature field trips led by the area’s top naturalists.”
In addition to the featured programs, the annual event will also offer the usual three days of hikes, strolls, programs, activities and dinners. This year’s rally is scheduled for Friday-Sunday, Sept. 6-8.
Formerly reserved for only the spring and fall, the rallies now take place every season, including winter and summer. The rallies are sponsored by the Friends of Roan Mountain.
“For 51 years, nature enthusiasts have been coming to Roan Mountain on the weekend after Labor Day to celebrate the natural world,” Barrigar said.
He said this year’s rally continues this celebration by providing two long-time rally trip leaders and top naturalists as speakers — botanist Frosty Levy and fisheries biologist Bart Carter. Levy and Carter will present the keynote programs on Friday and Saturday at the Roan Mountain State Park Convention Center.
Barrigar said the continued support of FORM ensures that all the rallies have the resources they need to prosper and grow. In addition, he noted that FORM provides support for research and restoration projects on the Roan.
Barrigar suggested that area nature enthusiasts consider joining the Friends of Roan Mountain, and he noted that members get free admission to all rally events and receive the group’s newsletter, “Friends of Roan Mountain.”
Barrigar also expressed gratitude to Roan Mountain State Park for its longtime support of the rallies, as well as to the trip leaders who donate their time and expertise.
This year’s rally will also offer evening and lunch programs at the Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center. All field trips will leave from the field on the left before the cabins in the park.
The rally will kick off Friday, Sept. 6, at Roan Mountain State Park Conference Center. Registration will begin at 5:30 p.m. A buffet meal (advance, prepaid registration required) will be served at 6:30 p.m. Deadline for reservations is Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Frosty Levy will present “Exciting Plants of the Doe River Corridor” as the program on Friday evening.
“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, so after having graduated with a bachelor of arts in history from City College of New York, I re-oriented to earn a master of science in biology, also from CCNY.”
Levy 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,” he 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, he 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.
“I also conduct plant inventory work in east Tennessee sites worthy of protection — these include the new Rocky Fork State Park, Roan Mountain State Park, the Elizabethton Watershed in Hampton and the Doe Mountain Recreation Area in Johnson County,” Levy said.
His program will focus mainly on the Doe River of Carter County, which traverses some of the most breathtaking sites and scenery in the south. His program will highlight some of the unusual, rare and geographically disjunct plants found associated with this spectacular river and it will touch on some of the disease threats faced by these plants. He will focus on the change in species of lilies as one travels from near the mouth of the Doe to the headwaters.
Perhaps the most surprising plants for a site in the mountains of east Tennessee can be found on an outcropping of the base-rich Shady dolomite at the Elizabethton Watershed. Upstream, the more well-known Doe River Gorge harbors rare and unusual sundews, as well as other species of note. Just further upriver, cliffs along Old Railroad Road, the old bed for the Tweetsie Railroad, are easily assessable by car. The ravages of disease on hemlocks trees are most evident at Roan Mountain State Park but efforts are underway to save some hemlock stands.
At the extreme headwaters of the Doe, in the Highlands of Roan, visitors find species found in few other places, species of far northern climes such as Green Alder and Gray’s Lily. The latter is an extremely photogenic flower, but it is often attacked by the lily leaf spot disease.
After Levy’s evening program, local naturalist Larry McDaniel will conduct a “Moth Party” at 9 p.m. to explore the world of nocturnal insects.
Saturday field trips will begin at 6:15 a.m. with a visit to Carver’s Gap for a session on nature photography with Jerry Greer.
An Early Bird Trip will be conducted at 7 a.m. by members with the Lee and Lois Herndon of Tennessee Ornithological Society. Field trips starting at 8:30 a.m. will focus on such topics as birds, trees, wildflowers, mushrooms, useful plants and nature photography. A nature hike for kids will also be offered.
Don Holt will lead a 10 a.m. hike focusing on butterflies and other insects.
A lunch break will begin at 12:30 p.m. Bag lunches are available by prepaid reservation. Pick up will be at the Conference Center.
A Lunchtime Workshop on fossil casting for all ages will be held at the Conference Center and conducted by Mick Whitelaw and the ETSU Geosciences Club.
Marty Silver with Warriors Path State Park will present a Lunchtime Program at the Conference Center on Nature Images.
Afternoon hikes commence at 2 p.m. and will focus on such topics as stream ecology, reptiles, wildflowers, geology, trees, butterflies and other insects.
A meeting of Friends of Roan Mountain will be held at 5:45 p.m. followed by the evening meal at 6:30 p.m. Bart Carter will present “Aquatic Nuisance Species in Tennessee” as the evening program on Saturday.
Carter grew up in east Knox County near the community of Corryton. He graduated from Gibbs High School in 1984 and went on to study Wildlife and Fisheries Science at the University of Tennessee between 1984 and 1989. Upon completing a bachelors of science degree at UT, he entered graduate school at Tennessee Tech University where he received a master of science in biology in 1991.
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. Between 1994 and 2010, he held the Stream Biologist position within the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Region 4 Stream Data Collection Unit.
In 2010, he was promoted the regional fisheries manager and currently serves in this capacity. As regional fisheries program manager, he is responsible for developing and administering fisheries programs in the TWRA 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.
Carter’s program will focus on Tennessee’s aquatic fauna, which is the most diverse in the nation with more than 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 our native species. We will discuss some of these situations in Tennessee and learn what the state is doing to combat these invaders.
After the evening program, Larry McDaniel will conduct another “Moth Party” at 9 p.m. to educate about the insects active after dark.
The rally will continue on Sunday, Sept. 8, with two walks focused on birds and rare plants. These walks will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8.
For more information about the rally, call Barrigar at 543-7576 or email him at email@example.com. To register online or to obtain a schedule of events, visit the FORM website at www.friendsofroanmtn.org. Mail pre-paid reservations to Nancy Barrigar, Treasurer, 708 Allen Ave., Elizabethton, TN 37643.