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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ijams odd Saturday staff says, "Happy Halloween"

If you stop by Ijams today, you'll discover that the normal Saturday staff has been ousted by an even odder group. 

All in good fun, there's Rex the pirate; the one, the only, Dr. Peg Quackenbush; Louise the hairy-footed Hobbit; a very sleepy Bruce Wayne (he was out fighting crime all night); while not to be outdone: Marvel's Captain Lauren America and finally tattooed-knuckled biker chick Sharon. The part of the large purple spider is being played by a large purple spider, while out working the leaves on the plaza is Overly Cautious Man: Luke.

And, most fittingly appropriate for the holiday, Zoe the turkey vulture is out greeting the afternoon visitors. She is also looking for any leftover truly dead undead zombies.  

- Stephen Lyn Bales   

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ijams loves the inquisitive Little Tykes, especially at Halloween

Little Tykes Hike for Halloween.  - Photo by Jennifer Roder

Our Little Tykes Hike for Halloween was great fun! (Notice we had two Batmen. And the stormtrooper girl in a tutu on the back row.) 

The inquisitive little tykes were invited to come in costume and they did.  

Our next hike for the little ones is Tuesday, November 3, 10 - 11 a.m. Like always it's recommended for children under 6. 

Little Tykes Hikes are perfect for little ones that love to explore, find, play and learn. Join Ijams on the trails to look under, over, and into secret places along the way. Learn all the fun things about autumn. Program is free, but pre-registration is required. Please call (865) 577-4717, ext. 110 to register. (Costume is optional.)
Here's a link to our WBIR Live@5@4 segment with Jennifer and her adorable witchy daughter: Little Tykes.

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ijams staffers attend October sturgeon release, bring home two

Ijams veterinarian Dr. Louise Conrad watch fifth graders release young sturgeon at Sevens Islands

TNACI's Dr. Bernie Kuhajda

On October 8, 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 1,000 lake sturgeon 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 that is listed as endangered within Tennessee’s waters.

Students from a fifth grade class at Gap Creek Elementary in Knoxville helped release the y.o.y. (young-of-the-year) sturgeon. The hands-on classroom activity, 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 181,000 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.

French Broad River at Seven Islands
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.

Some of the 1,000 sturgeon sampling the taste of the French Broad River for the first time.

What did the sturgeon young of the year look like? 

Well, you can visit Ijams and find out. 

Ijams veterinarian, Dr. Louise Conrad and Peg Beute attended the release to bring two y.o.y. back to the nature center. They are 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.

These two sturgeon spent the past year at Ijams in the exhibit Hall.
But they have outgrown their aquarium and will now move on to a larger one in New Orleans
Two new young-of-the-year sturgeon are now on display at Ijams.

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Secret: Nature Day Campers searched cave for lost time

GNI SPECIAL REPORT: Dateline Knoxville: Now that he's safely out of the country on other adventures, we can report that Barcus, world renowned archaeologist and suspected tomb raider, i.e. dealer of lost artifacts, paid a visit to Ijams last summer. 

The International bon vivant Barcus—mensonge énorme—is secretive. Little is known about him except he speaks with an awkward French accent. At Ijams, Barcus quickly called for a closed door meeting with the second, third and fourth graders attending the Tall Tale Nature Day Camp at the South Knox nature center. Barcus shared a secret and none of the campers are talking. It's all very hush, hush. 

Afterwards, the group slipped out of the building and quietly explored one of the iron-gated caves nearby in search of lost time. The hidden cavern is sealed-tight to protect the wildlife that lives inside: bats, salamanders and various cave-dwelling squiggles. 

The campers were surrounded by a sandy limestone formed during the Ordovician Period of geologic time, meaning that the young cave explorers were going back over 440 million years. The cave itself is thousands of years old, steeped in mystery but does it really hold a shadowy secret?

Who knows? Lips are sealed. And Barcus is once again, incommunicado.

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Saturday, October 10, 2015

DOW funds new interpretive signs around the park

Are you going to visit Ijams anytime soon? 

Well, there are 25 new educational interpretive signs around the 300 acres. All give you a brief insight into your surroundings. Above is a sign by the Plaza Pavilion about the frogs and newts that live in the pond. All were written, illustrated and designed internally by Jen&Lyn. 

Can you find the other 24 new signs? All were paid for by a grant from DOW. 

(Hint: The new signs sport the DOW logo.) 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

TN Naturalists @ Ijams search for insects, other creepy crawlies

The seventh TN Naturalists @ Ijams class covered insects and other Arthropoda: arachnids (spiders), myriapods (millipedes and centipedes) and some crustaceans (pill bugs, a.k.a. sowbugs, a.k.a. roly polies).

After a short class indoors where we discussed orders, body parts and who eats who, we went outdoors. 

We scratched in the leaves. We turned over rocks. We ran around like kids with butterfly nets.

Great fun!

- Stephen Lyn Bales

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ijams Butter-FlyAway searches for season's last butterflies

Common Buckeye
Before the dreary weather set in, we lucked out and had a sunny, calm day. Perfect for our Butter-FlyAway last Sunday. After a short lesson indoors accompanied by buttery butter pecan ice cream and cookies, we ventured outdoors for our sine qua non...butterflies. 

On a scouting mission earlier, we found one passing monarch headed to Mexico (Good Luck) and a couple of yellow sulphurs

Great Spangled Fritillary
But the best catches of the day by our group were a common buckeye and a great spangled fritillary. After holding them captive for awhile in spacious tents for all to see, we shouted "Butter Fly Away," and let them go.

Many thanks to all of our butterfly hunters!

- Stephen Lyn Bales