Local teachers take part in research

Local teachers, in partnership with the Coweeta Listening Project, have created 14 videos documenting their experiences working with scientists from the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program and the USDA Forest Service Coweeta Hydrologic Lab. The videos are available for viewing or download to a computer or iPod at http://listening.coweeta.uga.edu by navigating to the “resources” page.

Techers Dwight Long and James McNab from Macon Middle School and Brian Phillips from Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, joined researchers as part of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program. This federally-funded program seeks to improve K-12 education by exposing teachers to science and engineering innovations and helping them bring these innovations into their classrooms.

Long, McNab, and Phillips focused on ecological science, spending five weeks conducting research alongside scientists and graduate students on a myriad of different studies — from assessing stream health by doing fish surveys with a backpack electro-shocker to looking at how different levels of development might impact predation on songbird nests.

To share their experience with the broader community, the teachers produced short digital videos for the website. These videos give a glimpse of the different research taking place both at Coweeta Hydrologic Lab and around Macon County.

There are two videos of Dr. Steven Brantley of the University of Minnesota who is working with the USDA Forest Service at Coweeta. He describes the function of Coweeta Hydrologic Lab’s 120-foot tall eddy flux tower. This is the first eddy flux tower in the mountains; it measures changes in CO2 and water vapor to give scientists a detailed picture of carbon and water cycling in a cove hardwood forest.

Another video shows Buffalo State College researcher Dr. Robert Warren explaining the significance of Japanese stilt grass, an aggressive exotic invasive plant that likely arrived in the U.S. in the early 1900s from China.

The exotic grass was used as packing material for shipping plates of fine China (this was before the advent of bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts). When the cargo arrived in the states, the packing material of Japanese stilt grass was discarded. Unfortunately, the exotic grass often still had seeds attached when it was thrown out, and by the 1960s and 1970s, Japanese stilt grass could be found in nearly every county in the Carolinas, where competes with native understory plants.

The teachers also spent time with some of Coweeta LTER’s partners. Five podcasts document Macon County resident and fish biologist Dr. Bill McLarney’s fish surveys in the Cullasaja River as part of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee’s (LTLT) efforts to assess the health of local rivers and streams.

McLarney is now in his 24th year assessing the health of our streams using fish as indicators of stream health, making his monitoring program likely the longest running program of its kind in the world. What is even more remarkable is that he has kept this program afloat (pardon the pun) by relying solely on volunteers and local citizens.


This column is produced by members of the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP), a branch of the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research Program. Views expressed here are not representative of the USDA Forest Service or the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab. Please share questions, comments, or suggestions for future topics at cwtlistn@uga.edu or Coweeta Listening Project, UGA, 210 Field St., Room 204, Athens, Georgia 30602.


Original Citation: The Coweeta Listening Project. Franklin Press. Column on "Science, Public Policy, Community." Page B4. March 29, 2013.