Thursday, July 8, 2010

Invasive species and literary discussions

Today groups A and B split up again after breakfast. Some of us went with Nathan on a hike through campus discussing invasive species of plants and conservation biology. After our hike, Nathan treated us to smoothies and soda drinks at Stirling’s. Nathan and I had a wonderful literary discussion today. The others went with Dr. Evans for a canoe trip on Lake Dimmick. During free time today we finished watching movies and went for bike rides. We had dinner with the admissions staff, in which we discussed the ins and outs of college applications to Sewanee and other universities. After dinner we had a session about the Land Trust for Tennessee. Some of us just finished up a game of Ultimate Frisbee, while others spent the last hour curled up on the couch watching Myth Busters. Clark got stung by a bee today and had an allergic reaction-- I’d say she’s having a rough week.

Danielle Feerst

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A run to the "Pig"

Tuesday morning we headed out with Dr. Smith to examine the species of white pine and loblolly pine which are invasive in the Domain’s forest and the method that Sewanee faculty, students, and alumni are testing to discourage the spread of these pine species and encourage native species and biodiversity which are thinning. The forested areas on the Domain are home to many species that depend on natural fire disturbances in order to grow and reproduce (Oak for example). Sewanee is currently experimenting with controlled burning on the Domain, which we examined and discussed with Dr. Smith. Although the areas have been burned fairly recently, there are already some signs that the controlled burning might prove successful.

We had a super fun and chill afternoon, visiting Professor Haskell’s home, the Sewanee student’s organic garden, the local farmer’s market, and making a trip to the Piggly Wiggly for snackage. Dr. Haskell and his wife run their home in an effort to live “green” and in accordance with sustainability practices. They have their own organic garden, and raise ducks, goats and rabbits. All of us SEI students found their home to be incredibly well thought out, efficient, but mostly fun. The Haskells are also currently raising a woodpecker which they found injured, and recently adopted a new puppy!

Maddie Divine

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Controlled burning

Today, the SEI students began their day like any other with a trip to McClurg Hall for breakfast. We all headed over to Spencer Hall for our eight a.m meeting time for our morning session with Professor Smith. We toured an area of land which Sewanee students had chosen certain unwanted trees and plants to be logged out to try to restore the land to its “ natural state.” Certain pines such as white pines and loblolly pines were the ones removed. The college students also began controlled burns to kill the underbrush and destroy extra debris. The goal was to help the hard-wood trees such as oak, maple, and hickory make a come-back in the woods. The case study was created to see if the logging and burning of the introduced trees would help restore the land to what we believe it was like before European contact. We hiked the land and saw what plants and trees were making a comeback. After the morning session, we hopped back into the vans and headed to McClurg for lunch.

After lunch, we were able to tour the biology and chemistry departments and their laboratories. The SEI students also helped out at the school's organic garden. Following these events, the students were able to visit Professor Haskell’s home where we saw his impressive garden, livestock, and his adorable new puppy which is still unnamed. It would appear that he and his wife are almost “self-sufficient.” Finally, before the end of the day, a small group, including myself, chose to try and conquer a sand-stone wall on the Domain. This is commonly known as “bouldering.” After a full day, we are grateful to return to our dorm to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Joe Gonzalez

Musings by Jeff

Today we experienced the joy of killing trees to make way for new, far more superior trees. I am of course referring to forestry. We traveled by van along a shady gravel road. Later we learned that it was shaded so well because the treacherous Eastern white pines along it had leaned in, trying to deny us of sunlight so that we would die like all the other living things it had conquered. The professor leading us was Dr. Ken Smith, who had come to Sewanee after seeing too much sap shed in the tropics. He was determined that the Eastern white pine would not suck the life out of the native oaks. At least, not while he had a breath left in his body.
Once at the site we toured around, and saw the ruts where Dr. Smith had been forced to call in reinforcements in the form of loggers. He showed us the blackened wood piles where he had burned bodies of trees that had fought against his students through the cold winter months and the long hot summers. We identified many native trees, or as I will call them, the good guys. Also, we compared the sites where Dr. Smith had simply burned the camp of the enemy rather than cut them down.
After seeing the aftermath of this great battle, all of our twenty-five thousand troops (at least it felt like that) crammed into one van and we left. As we rode down the ridiculously bumpy road we mourned for the compromises made, the lives lost, the necessary community networking that ultimately led to compromise (didn’t see that coming).
We had lunch. I ate food. It was good. That’s all you need to know.
Next, our grand adventure led us into the realm of Dr. Bachman, head of undergraduate research. We toured around the Biology and Chemistry labs in Spencer Hall. We saw many wondrous things with names that cannot be pronounced. And, we managed to stumble upon a prime specimen of the most rare kind. The summer laboratory assistant. Luckily, these dangerous creatures were kept in a locked room with wide, reinforced windows so that we could examine them in safety.
With our hearts pounding from this close encounter of (almost) the third kind we continued our journey to the organic garden of Sewanee. Sun, lots of sun. I was given the job of whacking the long grass with some type of tool, don’t ask me why, I just enjoyed trying to kill grass and any living thing that came in reach of my awesome, manual, weed whacker. On a completely unrelated topic, I noticed that while I was working, many of the other students chose to take a break. Although, when I stopped the continued to just sit there. I tried to faint of heatstroke to get their attention but it did not work. The fainting, not the getting their attention.
Then, as a reprieve from our many hours of labor, we were taken to the farmers market, to stare at vegetables. I, personally, had a lot of fun.
I know you are waiting at the edge of your seat to hear the end of this epic tale. But, I must take a moment to make a personal shout-out to my friends and family. You people I’m supposed to have been inspired by have really inspired me in so many ways. I just can’t remember any of them at this time. Don’t ask me later either ‘cause you know I’m bad at pop quizzes. Or any quiz. Did any of you teach me how to study? Wow, I am bad at this shout-out thing.
Quick, back to the story of our day. After all of this drama, we finally made it back to the safety of Spencer Hall. There, we listened to a talk by Martin Pate, the guy who makes people pick up litter and tells them to be green. He told us that if we don’t become green soon, we face the end of the world. This made me pause and think. First, who cares? The year 2012? Hello? It’s a little too late. Then, I thought to myself, Why should we be green? With envy? That guy has a better Smart car. Or, that guy only takes a shower once a week to minimize water usage. Personally, I am envious. Imagine what it must be like to be able to knock anyone out by simply lifting your armpits. Hmm… Maybe that’s not it. Perhaps someone didn’t brush their teeth today. Uh-oh. Now we really are talking about loss of human life. Us.
With this valuable change in perspective, I wandered back to the dorm thinking about sleeping when I saw a post-it note telling me I had to write this blog thing. It is now three o clock in the morning. I hope you’re happy.

Jeff Hoagland

(editor's note.. overly-dramatic Jeff submitted this at 9:12 pm - don't believe everything you read)

Just a typical day at SEI

Today we hiked down into Lost Cove with Dr. Haskell. We had our eyes peeled for the rare tiger snail species among the limestone outcroppings. On the way we encountered snake skin, mountain laurel, buckeye, sour wood, yellow wood, bass wood, witch hazel, raccoon tracks, sycamore, walking ferns, iron wood, sweet gum, and many other species. We found hand fulls of snails and snail shells, and a lucky few SEIers found some of the rare striped tiger snails. On the hike out we found hundreds of delicious red raspberries and I found an arrow head. It is very interesting to think about all the people that have lived here before us. Back on campus we completed the day with swimming, bike riding, and star gazing. Just the typical kind of SEI experience.

Thomas Walters

Monday, July 5, 2010

Limestone and Kidney Stones

Today we went snail hunting in Lost Cove. It was a very long walk and we had tons of fun walking down the side of the plateau!!! Once we got to the bottom of the plateau we walked through a riverbed, which was very challenging but fun! We were looking for the rare tiger snail… we found a few but not much. They mostly live in the limestone rock.

This weekend was very fun as well. On Saturday we walked around the arts and crafts show. There were some EXTREMELY cute puppies that we were all tempted to take home! After that we went to the parade and hung out for the rest of the day until our scavenger hunt at night. On Sunday some of us went to church and out to breakfast but we all met up at one o’clock for a hike to Fiery gizzard where we went cliff jumping and swimming! Then we all got back and headed out the see the fireworks show at Lake Cheston which was great!

And Clark Courtney passed her kidney stone!!!!!!!!!!

Rachel Durkan

(editor's puppies will be coming home on Saturday)

SEI celebrates the Fourth of July

Weekend: On July 3rd, the town of Sewanee held its annual 4th of July celebration. My friends and I enjoyed having breakfast at Stirlings, a local coffee shop, and browsing the different attractions like the craft fair and the mutt show. Then, at 1 pm, the SEI group met up on the quad and watched the town's parade together which was a lot of fun. On the actual 4th of July, the SEI group went down to Fiery Gizzard, a local state park, and went on a short hike that ended at a small lake where we jumped off of cliffs and rocks into the water. That night, our group went and listened to a local band called "The Culprits" who played at Lake Cheston, which was followed by an amazing fireworks display. It was a great weekend!

Monday: Today, the whole group went on a hike with Dr. Haskell, a biology professor at Sewanee. We were trying to locate endangered tiger snails that live in Lost Cove, a recent addition to the Sewanee domain. We hiked for the most part in a dried up riverbed where we stumbled over large, moss covered rocks while looking for rare snail shells. We would occasionally stop and listen to Dr. Haskell talk about a distinct bird call or animal species that we encountered. The hike was exhausting: we left at nine in the morning and returned at three in the afternoon. However, it was fascinating and I had fun navigating the rough terrain with the other SEI students. 

Lily Watson

Deep thoughts by Joe Hollingsworth

This morning we went on an extravagant journey through the canopy of the Sewanee jungle. As we ascended into the precipice of the canopy, we also reflected on the heights; we will ascend in the future. We descended from the canopy and got Dr. McGrath's insight on photosynthesis and the rates of photosynthesis and respiration. The afternoon was a transcendence of our mind and soul into the spirit of the wilderness. Dr. Brown led us in an exuberant experience on how to channel environmental focus through religion. Also Danielle fell off her bike.

Joe Hollingsworth

End of the first week

Had a blast today!!! First my group studied the photosynthesis of plants with Dr. McGrath. We went into the woods and measured the rate of each species’ photosynthesis. We also went into the tree canopy, it was so beautiful!!

Our second field session was with Dr. Brown. We rode our bikes to the cabin and did some enlightening meditating exercises, it was so much fun!
Tonight we are going to a concert, can’t wait!!

Kiera Patanella

MacGyver shows up

In the afternoon session, the kids from Group A studied the ecophysiology of the plateau forest here on the domain with Dr. Deborah McGrath. After a brief introduction to the equipment we'd be using, one for testing the tension that evaporating water creates in plants and another for controlling and measuring the environment around a leaf in order to observe how quickly that particular plant was carrying out photosynthesis, we headed out into the field to observe the different ways domain plants use to survive in a plateau environment that isn't too friendly to plants.

We arrived in the forest and discovered that the plants down beneath the canopy survive because, unlike a fig plant we tested in a garden outside the science building, they conserve the few resources they have and don't allow extra resources to kick them into photosynthetic overdrive. While at the forest research site (after using the van we came in, an adapter, and a very long extension cord to power our equipment in a very MacGyver-esque fashion) we went up into the forest canopy on wooden platforms attached to the tops of trees. Despite fears of heights, the vast majority of students climbed up the ladders into the canopy (using safety equipment and harnesses of course). After a short talk with Dr. McGrath about the connection between the molecular biology within each plant to the ecosystem as a whole, we packed up the vans and headed back to the main campus for showers, dinner, and free time before the weekend and the 4th of July celebration.

Memorable Quote of the Day: "I would support a violent uprising if it led to a peaceful transfer of power"

Jack Albright


Today’s highlight was a hike with Dr. Knoll, a geology professor. It started at a rapid pace down a steep slope, with multiple stops along the way revealing caves with chimney like rock formations. It culminated in a tour of an enormous cave, which we first learned about, and then were turned loose to explore. Me and some others were almost left by the group, because we had delved so deeply into hidden tunnel systems beneath the cave, that I would never had guessed at if Joe hadn’t already dived into them. I may end up going to Sewanee just for the caving and climbing around the campus.

Andy Daverman

(editor's note.. no money was exchanged for this endorsement!)

We are family

Today was rather eventful, in lack of a better term. Each morning it seems everyone appears more and more exhausted, yet once we reached Spencer Hall this particular morn, it seemed that everyone was a little more excited. Garbed in their swimsuits and soaked in a sunscreen/bug spray mixture, we all were anticipating the swim at the lake on the Saint Andrews campus. Nicki Hubbard and I, Emily Jackson, were prepared with our infant-sized, CVS innertubes either covered in cartoon sharks or, my personal favorite, with a dinosaur head protruding from my tube. Much to our dismay, our swim time was cut short, as Dr. Evans spent all but about 30 minutes informing us on the evolution and identification of plants. Though I did in fact enjoy his lesson and ended up learning a lot despite my background in AP Bio, some of my enthusiasm was lost when I came close to being rudely bitten by the large black widow traipsing near my foot, protected by a mere Chaco. We finally made it to the swimming portion, where we learned most of us have much trouble treading water for more than 5 minutes at a time. After lunch today, we climbed back in the vans for a geology lesson with Dr. Knoll. Possibly the steepest, most precarious hike I’ve ever been on. This only added to the excitement! Finally, on the way back uphill, we were given the opportunity to submerge ourselves into a cave tucked into the limestone. Many ventured, of course, into the forbidden areas within the cavern, while I was only mildly adventurous by traveling past the slippery rocks almost an entire story above the main crowd. After several attempts of sliding down a steep rock to exit the cave, I decided it would be best to go back the way I came up. The teamwork I witnessed today was awesome, as everyone was basically forced to assist someone else in order to ensure their safety. Overall, everyone’s been bonding incredibly. Though it may only be the fourth-and-a-half day, we’re all really beginning to feel like family.

Emily Jackson

56 degrees

In the morning we learned about plant evolution, which was really interesting. Once we got to the end of the hike we got to go swimming at a lake, which was great. I liked watching the others try to climb up the cliff to jump off, although I did not attempt to myself.
In the afternoon we went on a very steep hike down to a cave. At one point we were right by the edge on a narrow path and I think we were all freaking out. Once we got into the cave though it was incredible. Even though the professor said it was a small cave it seemed huge to me. It was also kind of refreshing from the hot air because it was only 56 degrees in the cave. The hike back up was exhausting, but I’d say it was worth it.

Kenley Patanella

Archaeology Day

Today we were at King Farm doing an archaeological dig, which I must add was AMAZING!

The group was spread out between 5 different spots- Snake Cabin, King House, Green's Cabin, a rock hangover, and one group was looking at graffiti on the rock walls.  In every group you were placed with a couple college students, all of which are here at Sewanee for a Field School in Archaeology Program. It was fun working right next to them, even though you had no clue what you were doing. It was really easy to get the hang of though. All in all it was a great day out in the field, but I think it was even more interesting to come back and clean our artifacts.

We came back to the lab and washed and scrubbed our artifacts. Basically we were just trying to get all of the dirt off of them. It was really cool to see what everyone found though. There were a lot of rusted nails, what looks like chips of a china set, tons of glass, and lots of chert (which is the chips of rock that fly off when you are making an arrowhead). It was all very interesting. I learned so much, and I hope the group that goes out tomorrow finds even more!

Kali Thompson

Indiana Myer

Well, the Low Ropes were pretty....memorable to say the least. From the guide wires course, which left me with a few physical memories (Note to self: let GO of the rope when falling), to the Rope swing course, where people were starting to call me Indy (He’s still better with the ladies than I am.) All in all, just a typical day.

Jack Myer

Tuesday happenings

This morning after breakfast the two groups divided up and went off to do their days activities. My group proceeded to go to the low ropes course and complete the intended obstacles with only a few minor problems. Since we had a fair amount of time left after the course we played ultimate Frisbee. After the game we went to eat lunch and then back to Spencer hall. We met our professor there and we then proceeded to walk several of the trails. During this hike we learned about earlier peoples and how they lived, as well as the importance of water. We also visited a coal mine. Then we hiked to the van and went home. Now I’m about to go eat dinner.

Forrest Wilkerson

Trees, Trust and Teamwork

Today, I went with counselors Katie and Nathan to the woods. There, we played many games that involved trees, trust, and teamwork. (Wow, that’s three t’s)! We helped each other swing across a chasm of lava, climb a wall, get everyone on a small island, get from tree to tree on tightropes, and we even did the trust fall. I think that these exercises strengthened us as a group.

After lunch, we went on a hike with history professor Dr. Willis through Abbo’s Alley and followed the Beckwith and Piney Point trails. We stopped to see the very cool inside of a coal mine. Dr. Willis told us that some of the structures, even this university, were made mostly out of sandstone and have been around for many years. He also told us how the university began and how the lives of people who lived in this area worked many years ago. This hike was very interesting and educational. Overall, today was a very fun day and I can’t wait to have more!

Katie Depperschmidt

Up at 6:30 this morning

Today was our first full day at SEI, and we did a LOT. My roommate and I stumbled out of bed at 6:30, got our backpacks packed full of waters and Gatorades, and set out to the dining hall to claim our breakfast. After breakfast, we met Dr. Smith, who led us through sites where houses and churches once stood, and told us how to “read the land like a textbook” by looking for indicator species of plants that could tell us where buildings or other man-made objects once stood. After lunch, we journeyed through the northeastern part of the domain with Dr. Evans. We started by discussing the differences in the soil in the plateau versus the lowlands, and learned that while the lowlands’ soil consists mostly of limestone, the plateau’s soil is mostly sandstone. Sandstone, however, is a poor Ph buffer which makes the Ph of the soil very acidic, and is more prone to erosion than limestone, which makes the plateau’s soil quite infertile. Afterwards, we hiked a trail which ran through multiple ecosystems, which were all linked by their differences in water retention. Although the trail was only a couple of miles, there were astonishing differences in each ecosystem. The Domain is likely one of, if not the most, unique and diverse lands I have ever seen.

Kevin Farmer

Our First Day

We spent the start of the day with Dr. Evans learning about the ecosystems that are around Sewanee. It was fun to take a hike and see the different kind of habitats that are in the area and learn what kind of plants and animals live there and why. The second part of the day we spent with Dr. Smith and learned to search the landscape for clues to people who lived in the area and what they may have done with their lives.

Tamura Dunbar


Today, while resting, I looked around and noticed a design printed on everyone around me's lower back. It looked like lungs. Lungs of sweat. I touched my own back in fear of whatever grotesque sweat-pattern had emerged from my skin. Only after I realized the extent of my back sweat did I come to terms of how well-deserved it was. I had spent the morning bounding through high ground covering plants, using them as clues to decipher the lives of those who were at Sewanee before me, and after pausing for lunch, I hiked through the Cumberland Plateau and observed the diversity of the habitats there, all in high temperatures with still, humid air. No wonder I was so sweaty.

Simona Zappas

SEI 2010

Here it is - our blog for 2010! Every day we hope to give some snippets of what goes on at the SEI Pre-college Field Studies Experience. So let's get started!