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Episode 201: For the Birds
In 1902 a dynamic young speaker explained to a Greensboro audience that many of North Carolina's most beautiful birds were being slaughtered for their plumes (used in hats) and that a number of other bird species needed protection. Following the meeting, 148 people signed up to form the Audubon Society of North Carolina. The speaker, T. Gilbert Pearson had arrived in North Carolina in 1891 with an extensive collection of birds and eggs, which he offered to Guilford College in exchange for an education. After receiving his formal education at Guilford and Chapel Hill he began teaching at the State Normal College (now UNC-G).
A year later in 1903 the eloquent Professor Pearson convinced a skeptical North Carolina General Assembly to pass the Audubon Act, a bill that he had drafted. The Act offered protection for many bird species and also authorized the Audubon Society to act as agent of the state for the enforcement of game laws and bird protection legislation. By 1909, 100 Audubon Wardens helped protect the North Carolina's wildlife laws for the mountains to the coast.
In 1912 Pearson left North Carolina for New York to lead the National Association of Audubon Societies. During his 25 years as leader of Audubon he helped pass the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and he also founded the International Council of Bird Preservation in 1922. Even while in New York he continued to work for North Carolina's wildlife by helping to transform the Audubon warden system into the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission in 1927.
Much of his work in North Carolina involved his close friend and colleague, Herbert Brimley, Director of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences. In 1919 Pearson, Brimley and Clement Brimley (Herbert's brother) produced the Birds of North Carolina , the first major bird guide in the southern states. The Brimley brothers were also giants in the world of conservation in the first half of the 20 th Century. Herbert was the first Curator and Director of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and served the state for almost 60 years. Brimley's reconstructed office is on display at the Museum. Clement Brimley, who like his brother Herbert was an accomplished taxidermist, worked for the Division of Entomology for 45 years.
In the episode, ENC will examine the extraordinary lives and legacy of Gilbert Pearson and the brothers' Brimley. We will also cross the state to visit many of species of birds (with special emphasis on hummingbirds) and mammals in North Carolina to which they were devoted. Today, this trio is recognized in the pantheon of the most important naturalists of their time, and their influence still extends far beyond North Carolina. Theirs was a life "for the birds."
Episode 202: Natural Boundary
The cabbage palms and alligators of Baldhead Island and the spruce-fur forests and red squirrels on North Carolina's highest peaks (43 of which are over 6,000 feet in altitude) have something in common: both of these groups of plants and animals mark ecological boundaries. North Carolina is the northern border for cabbage palms, alligators and red-cockaded woodpeckers, and the southern extension of spruce-fur forests, red squirrels, and numerous birds including the giant tundra swan. The long list of both plants and animals with northern or southern ranges ending in North Carolina makes our state a place of unique ecological diversity.
In this episode, Exploring North Carolina will attempt to answer the question, why does so much natural diversity occur in the Carolinas and Virginia? ENC will look at the many factors affecting our climate, including ocean currents, elevation differences, placement on the globe (as the Earth's axis tilts), and rainfall. This episode will highlight climate variations in the region (ranging from sub-tropical to sub-arctic) and its effect on plant and animals like no other ever offered on television.
ENC will look at many "north/south border" plants and creatures that are either permanent or seasonal residents. We will also examine living things such as the Venus' Fly-trap, which are endemic (found only in this region). With experts from coastal beaches to the highest mountains, ENC viewers will visit with birds, fish, mammals, and insects living on their northern or southern ecological boundary. Many of these "border species," including two salamanders from North Carolina, reach over two feet in length. Viewers will visit plant communities featuring trees, flowers and other plants that will demonstrate that North Carolina is truly eastern America's natural boundary.
Finally, since this region is the North/South border for many living organisms, will North Carolina (and portions of her sister states to the north and south) be the "litmus state" where affects of global warming, or cooling, can be more readily observed? When, global climate changes occur, whether caused by the hand of humans or nature, North Carolina will be an early warning zone. Scientists will most likely see changes in our "border" plant and animal communities before they occur elsewhere.
Episode 203: Man and Mammouth in the Carolinas
Children and adults are often surprised to learn that the first human inhabitants of North Carolina and the Southeast were well established thousands of years before the construction of the Parthenon in Greece (2,500 years ago), the rule of Egypt's King Tut (3,300 years ago), or the building of the famous Stonehenge monument in England (5,200 years ago). This important episode will examine the evidence that shows Paleoindians living in the Carolinas and Virginia between 10,000 and 12,500 years ago. and possibly thousands of years earlier. Paleoindians were nomadic people who lived in the region after the last Ice Age and the ancestors of today's American Indians.
The Carolinas of 12,500 years ago was similar in landscape and had most of the same plants and animals we know today. Like today, the region provided a huge variety of fruits, berries, nuts, fish, small mammals, and fowl to early inhabitants. Viewers will learn, however, that sea levels were much lower than today because much of the Earth's fresh water was still locked up in the great glaciers of the last Ice Age. Twelve-thousand years ago the coastline of North Carolina was many miles east of its present location.
Perhaps the biggest difference was that the earliest human inhabitants of this land shared the land with mega fauna--- wooly mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloth, North American lions, giant tortoises (think Galapagos-sized tortoises), and beavers the size of bears. With the help of experts from across the region ENC will show viewers the remains of giant animals, now extinct, that until about 10,000 years ago roamed Virginia and the Carolinas. ENC will also examine the most prominent theories relating to the demise of these mega fauna in the Southeast and North America.
Site locations, including campsites and ancient quarries, across this region tell the story of versatile hunter-gatherers and toolmakers capable of sustaining themselves in a myriad of ways. This episode will examine the various theories of how the ancestors of today's American Indians came to the Western Hemisphere, and eventually to the Carolinas. ENC examines the evolution of stone tools, and how they were made and used. We will at look the climate, geology, and plants of this region following the last Ice Age. Scientists will also explain the dating techniques use to determine the age of soils and artifacts.
Episode 204: 10,000 Years Before Contact
Exploring North Carolina will introduce viewers to the people living in North Carolina from the end of the last Ice Age (approximately 10,000 years ago) to the arrival of the first Europeans. We will visit several locations, including Barber Creek near Greenville, the Warren Wilson Site near Asheville, and the Hardaway Site near Albemarle. ENC will examine technological and social change.
Viewers will be able to explore the "natural grocery store" and pharmacy available to American Indians. Viewers will see early art in the form of petroglyphs, learn about early agricultural practices and see giant cypress canoes (some 4,600 years old) (from Phelps Lake in eastern North Carolina). We will examine the evolution of pottery in the Archaic and Woodland Periods).
It is probably safe to say that students in American classrooms know more about the ancient peoples from other continents than about the complex societies that evolved in North America. The evidence of early man in Virginia and the Carolinas is abundant and convincing. In this series ENC will help unlock the secrets of America's first human inhabitants with the help of scientists from many disciplines, including archeology, paleontology, and climatology.
Episode 205: Natural Symbols of the State
Exploring North Carolina tries very hard to communicate to its viewers the state of North Carolina's natural wonders. It this episode, however, ENC will review the official "natural things of the State" as chosen by the North Carolina General Assembly.
Like most states North Carolina has a State Flag, State Song, State Seal, State Motto, State Nickname, and State Toast. We also have an official State Beverage (milk), State Dog (Plott Hound), State Vegetable (sweet potato), and a State Historical Boat (the shad boat).
Over the last 100 years our elected representatives have also chosen many natural symbols of North Carolina. Since ENC knows North Carolina from east to west, we believe that we are "naturally" suited to report on the choices made by our leaders. For example, we have a State Red Berry (strawberry) and State Blue Berry (the blueberry), a State Fruit (scuppernong grape) and a State Bird (cardinal). We also have a state insect (honey bee), state mammal (gray squirrel) and State Reptile (box turtle)
From here it gets confusing since we also have a state flower (dogwood) and state wildflower (the Carolina lily). There is also a state rock (granite) and a state stone (emerald). We have a State Fish (channel Bass) and an official Mountain Trout (Eastern Brook Trout.)
Why do we have state symbols and why are they important for school children and other citizens? How does a grape, wildflower or fish gain a constituency? What process allows a carnivorous plant to wield political clout? This episode will combine science, great photography and fun as we look at our "official" natural symbols.
Episode 206: Works in Progress
North Carolina holds some of the most spectacular gorges in eastern America. Perhaps the best know is Linville Gorge, often called the Grand Canyon of North Carolina. The rim of the Gorge is 2,000 to 3,000 feet above the Linville River that falls almost 2,000 feet in just twelve miles.
Fifteen miles east of Asheville Hickory Nut Gorge drops 1,800 feet in less than 10 miles. Bat Cave is in this gorge, the longest granite fissure cave in North American (main chamber over 300 feet long). In the southwestern part of the state is the spectacular Nantahala Gorge, surrounded by peaks in excess of 5,000 feet. Finally, ENC will visit Gorges State Park, North Carolina's newest state park located in Transylvania County. This 10,000 acre park features the fantastic rock formations of the Jocassee Gorges.
These gorges and others in North Carolina were carved, and are being carved by fast moving water, ice, plant roots, and wind: they are works in progress. The geology of each offers a window to the state's distant past. These unique canyons are home to rare plants and animals. After seeing this episode, ENC viewers will want to explore them all.
Episode 207: North Carolina's Other Ocean
In 1524, Giovanni daVerrazano sailed the east coast of North America. After sailing between two land masses (the present site of Ocracoke Inlet), he was certain he had found the long sought passage to China. In reality he had found an inland sea separated from the Atlantic by the barrier islands known today as the Outer Banks. To him the Pamlico Sound looked like another ocean. The Pamlico and its smaller sister sounds to the south and north (Core, Croatan and Albemarle) are among the most productive marine habitats in eastern North America. They have played an important role in the development (or lack thereof) in North Carolina and the Southeast. These waters were used by Native Americans, colonists, pirates, fisherman, loggers and tourists.
In this show ENC will also examine the geology and geologic history of the "other ocean." We will travel this shallow sea (seldom more than 25 feet in depth), and see it through the eyes of those who know it best. Viewers will get to know the Pamlico's finfish, shellfish, birds, and the people who make a living from its bounty.
Episode 208: Stuck in Clay
Are the clay soils in many parts of North Carolina a curse or a blessing? Red clay is as much a part of our state's heritage as pine tar and basketball. Those who try to grow crops in red clay often have a distinctly different view from those who make pottery or bricks.
Whether you are a fan or a detractor, the clays of North Carolina are an important part of our heritage. From where does clay come? How does it get its color? In this episode Exploring North Carolina will visit geologists, potters, brick makers, and paleontologists. In one way or another, we are all "stuck in clay."