- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Stephen Lyn Bales, editor

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ijams launches new adventure ropes course

Ropes course ribbon cutting: (left to right) Knox County Parks Director Doug Bataille, Knox County Commissioners Mike Brown and Ed Shouse, City of Knoxville Councilman Finbarr Saunders,  Ijams Executive Director Paul James, New Horizons Director Phil Bateman and Ijams Board President Karyn Adams 

Low element: Log Walk
Last Thursday, October 24, Ijams hosted the grand opening of the park’s newly constructed ropes course.

In partnership with New Horizons Center for Experiential Learning, a Knoxville-based training and development firm with 20 years of experience in ropes course design and management, Ijams Nature Center now offers exciting, custom experiences that utilize action-centered learning to build teams, develop leaders and strengthen organizations.

Ijams’ Executive Director, Paul James, introduced Phil Bateman, Director of New Horizons to unveil this latest outdoor experience at one of Knoxville’s oldest and largest parks. The event will showcase the new course featuring live course demonstrations among the high and low elements. The course has been built to industry standards and certified by the Association for Challenge Course Technology.

Paul James, Ijams Executive Direstor
In addition to a broad range of engaging nature and wildlife programs for people of all ages, the new ropes course complements Ijams’ other outdoor adventures available to individuals and groups ranging from biking, canoeing, paddle-boarding, family camp-outs, rock climbing and bouldering.

Dozens of visitors braved the chilly gray weather to be part of the unveiling of Ijams Nature Center’s newest outdoor experience. After the ribbon-cutting, visitors were invited to try out several of the high elements, including the log walk, the rickety ladder and the pamper pole.

- Jennifer Roder

How do you get from one pamper pole to the other? Fly, Robin, Fly!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ijams Fall Break Campers ENJOY the leaves

 There are those quintessential childhood nature moments that stay with us as we move into (and through) adulthood: catching fireflies, building woodland forts, climbing trees, and… jumping in piles of colorful fall leaves! 

I don’t know if it’s the satisfying crunch when you land in a carefully-raked pile or the subtle scratchy feeling as the leaves find their way into socks, waistbands and ponytails. 

Maybe it’s just the carefree abandon that propels us down the hill and into the heap! Whatever it is, fall brings a certain magic to childhood that can’t quite be described. If it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, here are my 4,000 attempts to capture the wonder!

- Story and photos by Jennifer Roder

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

School fall field trips are now in full swing

Kids and Ijams just seem to go together. Why?

Because the nature center offers them a safe place to explore and learn about nature. And it has been that way ever since the nature center opened its doors in 1968. Thousands of students from area schools have visited and walked away refreshed, enlightened. It's the largesse we give freely.  

From what lives under a log, to where do squirrels hide their acorn larder? Why do male birds sing in the spring? Where do turtles spend the winter? All questions are answered. Nature is alive and active in every season. 

Now that it is fall, school field trips have started once again. School buses pull in almost every day. And for me, it's the best part of being at Ijams. Sharing nature with young nascent minds.

Example: recently we've had several large groups that include first graders from Montvale Elementary, third graders from Mary Blount both from Blount County and kindergarten kids from Farragut and Ball Camp and first graders from Moreland Heights in Knox, plus fourth graders from Concord Christian. All eager to learn and spend time in the "real woods."

Thanks, kids. You bring smiles to all of our faces!

- Stephen Lyn Bales

One tradition at Ijams? Having your group photo taken on the photo log!

Here's that photo log again! Let's all wear red day. 
A chilly day
A let's wear blue day!
A let's wear maroon day!
And one even cold day!

Friday, October 18, 2013

100th Anniversary of Conservation Expo celebrated

A night view of the spectacular lights at the National Conservation Exposition at Chilhowee Park in Knoxville in 1913.

One hundred years ago this fall, Knoxville hosted an event of such magnitude that it attracted more than a million visitors during its two-month run. 

At the time, its central focus of preservation and stewardship of declining natural resources was both bold and forward thinking. It was a spectacle that would impress and inspire a significant audience including a handful of community leaders and a cadre of young men to create and champion local conservation initiatives the likes of which 
still resonate today. 
Paul James speaks about the contribution to conservation 
made by H.P. Ijams in the early 1900s.

The National Conservation Exposition, held in September and October of 1913, was widely regarded as the first and largest of its kind in the Southeast, if not the nation.

- Paul James, excerpt from the September/October issue of The Tennessee Conservationist.

One hundred years later, Knoxville celebrated the 1913 Expo's anniversary: Saturday, October 12. Numerous organizations committed to conservation, environmental education, sustainability and outdoor recreation in the region came together to honor the spirit of the original expo. Ijams had a booth as well as Paul James gave a talk about H.P. Ijams and his contribution to the movement that culminated in the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other organizations including the nature center. 

For more information go to: Knoxville Conservation Expo

Sharon Lawson and Sabrina DeVault at the Ijams booth.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sturgeon released/ Ijams gets a pair of fingerlings

Kathlina Alford, Thom Benson and Dr. Bernie Kuhajda with the Tennessee Aquarium (right, all in dark blue) help Gap Creek fifth graders release young sturgeon into the French Broad. 

Aquatic biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the University of Tennessee’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries released 1,100 lake sturgeon last Wednesday at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge upstream from Ijams.

This east Knox County location on the French Broad River has been identified as favorable habitat for this species, Acipenser fulvescens, which is listed as endangered within Tennessee’s waters.

Gap Creek fifth grader with
young sturgeon

Students from a fifth grade class at Gap Creek Elementary in Knoxville helped with this release. 

These students have been caring for a juvenile lake sturgeon since the beginning of the school year. Each day the Gap Creek students record data about the fish including feedings, water temperature, pH, ammonia levels, length and behavioral observations.

These hands-on classroom activities and assisting with this release increases their understanding of freshwater conservation. They also discover how the health of the river and human health are connected.

The Tennessee Aquarium and its partners have reintroduced more than 127,000 lake sturgeon to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers since 1998.

Ijams staffer Peg Beute and other local Water Quality Forum members attended the very first major release just below Douglas Dam on July 19, 2000.

The goal of the long-term “Saving the Sturgeon” program is to restore a self-sustaining population of lake sturgeon in Tennessee. So far this effort has proven very successful with anglers reporting these fish downstream in Alabama and Kentucky (yes, the Tennessee River eventually flows north into the Bluegrass State.)

Biologists have also been encouraged by recent surveys to monitor the population between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

These impressive fish are true river giants. Some may grow to more than eight feet in length. Lake sturgeon have also been known to live nearly 150 years, feeding mainly on bottom dwelling crayfishes, mussels, aquatic insect larvae and small fishes.

Students line up to receive a "net full" of young sturgeon.

Students release their young sturgeons. 
Some of the 1,100 sturgeon sampling the taste of the French Broad River for the first time.
What did the sturgeon fingerlings look like? 

Well, you can visit Ijams and find out. 

Ijams veterinarian, Dr. Louise Conrad and Peg Beute attended the release to bring two fingerlings back to the nature center. They will be on display in the Exhibit Hall until they outgrow their aquarium home. (The last sturgeon that lived in the Ijams Exhibit Hall moved on to a larger tank at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. 

Two lake sturgeon fingerlings now on display in the Ijams Exhibit Hall. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Clayton Foundation supports Gateway to Urban Wilderness

The Clayton Family Foundation is supporting Ijams with a grant of $10,000 toward the operations of this 300-acre urban green space.  A member and visitor supported non-profit park, Ijams is the gateway to the South Loop of Knoxville’s renowned Urban Wilderness.
Founded by H.P. and Alice Ijams in 1910 at their homesite in South Knoxville, the park originally began as a land conservancy and wild bird sanctuary. The Ijams’ were involved with the planning of Knoxville’s 1913 Conservation Expo, as well as the promotion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In keeping with the forward thought of its founders, Ijams Nature Center has continued to grow to meet the needs of our changing community. 

Sixteen years ago, Ijams was an 80-acre wildlife sanctuary with just over three miles of hiking trails. With the acquisition of the Meads and Ross Marble Quarries, in 2001 and 2007 respectively, Ijams grew to 300 acres and has since developed over 12 miles of multi-use trails that are open and free for public use. The modern Visitors Center, built in 1997, boasts live animal and historical exhibits, a live raptor display, plus educational and social programs for children, adults and families.
Thanks to the generous support of philanthropic individuals and organizations like the Clayton Family Foundation, Ijams Nature Center is here for everyone to discover and explore.  

Ijams is a 300-acre urban green space encouraging stewardship of the natural world by providing engaging outdoor experiences.

For more information, please contact Mary Thom Adams at 865-577-4717, ext. 117 or email mtadams@ijams.org.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ijams mentioned in new book about taxidermy as art form

Pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers on display
in Ijams Visitor Center.

The Nature Center's namesake: H.P. Ijams was an illustrator, but he also practiced the art of taxidermy. 

Although H.P. died in 1954, we think he would have been pleased to know that several specimens of the ancient art form are on display in the Visitor Center, the most notable of which is the recently acquired pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers.

A new book by Alex Turner simply titled Taxidermy is the first to focus on the old art form. "It balances showcasing classic work alongside innovative and modern pieces" from museum collections to private smaller collectors.

"This intriguing and engaging volume offers inspiration to anyone seeking to incorporate taxidermy into any type of setting, historical or modern, commercial or residential."

The author is from London and the scope of the book is international. In the back is a list of "Places to Visit" around the world. Only six places in the US are listed: Tulane University of Natural History in Louisiana, Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, American Museum of Natural History in New York, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, The Field Museum in Chicago and...Ijams Nature Center.

Wow. What select company we keep. 

Congratulations Paul James for your contribution to the project.

For more about the book, go to:

- Stephen Lyn Bales 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ijams is a nature photographer's wonderland

To take a photograph literally means "to draw with light."

And this time of the year, the light takes on a golden hue.

Many people come to Ijams to walk around quietly taking photographs. Golden treasures abound.

Ijams regular Timothy Reeves sent me this photo taken at the nature center, wondering about the insect on the woodland sunflower.

There are roughly 455 species of soldier beetles in North America. Nature loves diversity. This one is perhaps a Pennsylvania leatherwing (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus).

Soldier beetles are generally brightly colored. As defense, when molested, they emit droplets of white viscous fluid from pores along their sides. Yuck! Studies have shown they are consistently rejected as prey by birds, mice, other beetles, mantids, assassin bugs and centipedes.

The common name comes from one prevalent British species that is bright red like the coats the English army wore. Also known as leatherwings, as a group they are handy to have around your home because they feed on garden pests like aphids, caterpillars and grasshopper eggs. (I wonder how many grasshopper eggs you'd need to make an omelet?)

- Text Stephen Lyn Bales, photo Timothy Reeves.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ijams goes retro: Groovin’ and Cruisin’

Last Saturday, Ijams went retro: back in time to celebrate the cars and music of decades past! 

Classic and vintage cars (mostly VWs) presented themselves on the grassy hillside surrounding the Plaza Pavilion, while inside the Exhibit Hall we had an art show and sale.

Proceeds went to the Ijams education department.

A good time was had by all!

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ijams staff anxiously awaits arrival of new butterfly

As a follow up to a post from last week, our own Rex McDaniel made a video of the last stages of a monarch butterfly caterpillar shedding its larval skin before hardening into a protective chrysalis. Conveniently, it had chosen a park bench in the plaza at Ijams to re-invent itself.

The caterpillar inside will metamorphose into an adult butterfly, which, depending what source you consult, only takes 9 to 14 days.

We'll keep you posted. For the backstory go to: monarch- slb