Archive for Science

WCU Ballon Recovered in Outer Banks

WCU CAT 7 Baloon Launch

WCU CAT 7 Baloon Launch

The seventh Western Carolina University physics research balloon to be launched to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere – Cat 7 – left Cullowhee on Saturday, Feb. 1, and traveled unexpectedly to Tennessee, across Virginia and on to the Atlantic Ocean, where it appeared to be lost at sea.  The hydrogen-filled balloons carry about $1,500 worth of equipment – cameras, tracking devices, sensors and a radiation detector. The data collected helps students learn more about radiation levels and radiation sources in the atmosphere and about weather phenomena such as dark lightning, said Enrique Gomez, assistant professor of physics and astronomy. Dark lightning is an invisible burst of high-energy radiation immediately preceding a flash of lightning. About a week after the Cat 7 flight, Coker received surprising and good news. Two teachers walking on the beach at the Outer Banks found the balloon’s science box, and a few days later, a Southern Shores resident located part of the radio box. Although the equipment will have to be replaced, Coker is excited about the possibility of being able to retrieve some of the data from it and continuing to investigate what happened with Cat 7. The crew assisting with the launch was small, which made holding on to the balloon difficult. The craft ascended more slowly than previous balloons but clocked 130 mph at just under 50,000 feet “When the balloon got into the upper jetstream, it took off and was soon halfway through Virginia,” said Coker. Coker met up with chase team volunteers including members of the Catamount Amateur Radio Group and the Haywood County Amateur Radio Club at Cracker Barrel in Statesville. They monitored the balloon’s radio signals, some of which were not functioning properly, and periodic location updates. The balloon traveled about 560 miles in 6 hours and 41 minutes, reporting a maximum altitude of 90,510 feet over Gloucester, Va. The craft continued east, and the group realized continuing the chase would likely require a boat. Coker said she notified the Coast Guard about Cat 7 and reached out to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, which gave her updates about conditions and accessibility. The equipment continued to transmit location coordinates through the night before falling quiet. A week later and about 100 miles away from the balloon’s last reported location, two teachers from Poquoson Middle School in Virginia walking on the beach noticed what looked like a cooler held together with duct tape and wires washing up on the beach. Out of an abundance of caution, Penny Huskey and Doreen Nadolny left the package on the beach and had fun letting their imaginations wander.  An officer contacted the radio group using a phone number found online and spoke with Daniel deCourt, a WCU alumnus who had been part of past balloon flight projects. The science box of Western Carolina University’s Cat 7 research balloon washed up on shore in the Town of Nags Head. the research balloon experiments help teach about basic science as well as how to carry an experiment from conception to design, deployment, retrieval and analysis. As for Cat 7, they have high hopes that the flight’s research data can be retrieved from the salvaged equipment. Previous flights have suggested a peak of radiation at that layer of transition between atmospheric layers, which is expected from cosmic rays.

Communicative Disorders Confrence

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University’s College of Health and Human Sciences will host the 22nd annual Cullowhee Conference on Communicative Disorders on Thursday, March 27 from 1pm to 5pm, and Friday, March 28 from 8:30am to 5pm. The event, a regional favorite for continuing education in the field of communication sciences and disorders, will feature a broad range of presentations designed to be of interest to speech/language pathologists, allied health providers and family members of individuals with communication disorders. or more information about the conference, contact Bill Ogletree, head of the WCU Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, at ogletree@wcu.edu.

Magnitude 4.4 Felt In Jackson County

Epicenter in Edgefield, SC

Epicenter in Edgefield, SC

At 10:23 last evening we got reports of shaking near Webster. Soon after the USGS confirmed a 4.4 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter near Edgefield, South Carolina. There were reports of people all over the Southeast feeling it. Residents in Atlanta, GA, Greenville, SC and into Tennessee. There were no reports of damage or injury.


Ginsing Poachers Get Jail Time

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell sentenced Charles R. Nash, of Whittier, N.C. to serve 10 days in jail for the illegal possession or harvesting of American ginseng from the Nantahala National Forest, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and Kristin Bail, Forest Supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina. According to the January 30, 2014 sentencing hearing and other documents, on October 12, 2013, Nash admitted to illegally possessing 24 American ginseng roots he had dug from the Mosses Creek and Wayehutta Off-Road Vehicle areas in Jackson County. He pleaded guilty to the poaching charge. Staff of the Forest Service replanted the recovered viable roots. American ginseng is on the list of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reminds the public that gathering ginseng on the Nantahala National Forest without a permit is illegal. U.S. Forest Service lands have been severely impacted by ginseng poachers in western North Carolina. American ginseng was formerly abundant throughout the eastern mountains, but due to repeated poaching, populations have been reduced to a point that they can barely reproduce. The roots poached in this park are usually young, between the ages of 5 and 10 years, and have not yet reached their full reproductive capacity. In time, the plant’s populations could recover if poaching ceased. The Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is the regulatory agency that evaluates the biological and management status of wild American ginseng throughout its native range. The Division issues an annual or biennial report detailing if any harvest conditions need to be modified to ensure the sustainable harvest of wild native ginseng. Permits to collect ginseng root in National Forests are issued through the U.S. Forest Service in early September. Permits are not available in National Park lands such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where even the possession of American Ginseng is prohibited.
The investigation of the case was handled by the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville handled the prosecution.
To report illegal harvesting activities of American ginseng, please call 828-257-4200.

Western Carolina University Celebrates their 125th Birthday With A Bold Vision

Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher and Melissa Wargo unveiled their long term and short term Comprehensive Master Plan Tuesday in a special presentation to the Jackson County Commissioners. Wargo explained how the process to develop a plan to serve as a blueprint for future campus access and building construction was developed. Nor only is the campus poised for growth, the area around the campus is on the verge of significant development as well with several residential and commercial on the drawing boards. Wargo and Belcher stressed the critical need for a significant upgrade to the mid campus area adjacent to the Natural Sciences Building, McKee, and Killian. The plan calls for the construction of a facility which would replace the Niggli Theater property and attach to the Natural Sciences Building which is now forty years old and in need of an upgrade. The road through that property would be closed in order to create a better pedestrian friendly center of campus. While Western Carolina University swelled to over ten thousand students this year Chancellor Belcher pointed out that the University’s future growth would be contingent upon the availability of additional classroom space especially in the sciences. The WCU  Millennium Campus is a large acreage tract of real estate about two thirds of that property is not suitable for development. The plans show how several smaller structures to accommodate the new Health Sciences building could fill out that campus. Also the need to connect the two campuses with pedestrian and shuttle service are in the plans. Two other significant projects were shown one if the eventual change of the main entrance to adjoin the Little Savannah Road intersection which would also connect in with a new road to connect the current road around Belk Building and the Bardo Center with the oldest part of the campus near the chancellors dwelling. The property now known as the camp building would be converted into a 1200 car parking deck. The University has a busy day planned for Thursday with the kickoff of the observance of the 125th anniversary celebration. Activities will take place at the University Center. Also the first 500 fans at the WCU and Davidson basketball game on Thursday will receive a WCU white T shirt to celebrate the anniversary celebration.

Jackson County Transit Vehicles Now Converted To Natural Gas

Several months ago the Jackson County Commissioners voted to move forward with the conversion of the vehicles used by Jackson County Transit to propane and stop using gasoline for fuel. The Commissioners received a report this week the conversions had been completed. While it is too early to determine the savings of the conversion it is expected that the fuel costs will be about a dollar and a half cheaper than gasoline per gallon. Other counties having made similar conversions report the vehicles have a longer life expectancy, are less polluting, and have no drop off in power with the use of propane. The payback for the conversion is expected to be in between three and five years thus rendering a savings for the remaining life of the vehicle.

Tick Season is upon us

(07/18/13) Spending more time outdoors this summer increases the risk of bringing ticks home with you. Only a small percentage of the tiny bugs carry organisms that lead to disease, but in North Carolina, the dog tick poses a serious risk of spreading Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which can be fatal.
It takes 24 to 48 hours after the tick has attached to the body for it to transmit disease, so it’s important to search for them after being outdoors, especially in tall grass or wooded areas.  Dog ticks can be as small as a poppy seed.
“They’re hard to spot, and it helps if you have light clothes and you search for them carefully,” said Dr. David Weber, an infectious disease expert at UNC Hospitals. “Specific spots you want to look are under the arms, around the groin, along the hair lines, in the hair. Both feel for them and look for them.”  If you find a tick, pull it off gently and flush it down the toilet. If it’s already attached, use tweezers – not your fingers.  If you develop a rash at the bite site or other symptoms, see a doctor.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can cause headache, fever, rash, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) has been a reportable disease in the United States since the 1920’s. The highest incidence rates, ranging from 19 to 63 cases per million persons were found in Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.   Although cases of RMSF can occur during any month of the year, the majority of cases reported to the CDC have an illness onset during the summer months and a peak in cases typically occurs in the months of June and July. (by: Dick Ellis)

Earthquake Measured at 2.5 on the Richter Scale felt in Cullowhee

According to the United States Geological Society, an earthquake with its epicenter approximately eleven miles west of Cullowhee was recorded at a 2.5 on the Richter Scale at exactly 5:58 Thursday morning. . Dating all the way back to 1776, people living inland in North and South Carolina and in near by parts of Georgia and Tennessee, have felt small earthquakes and suffered damage from infrequent larger ones. The largest earthquake in the area (magnitude 5.1) occurred in 1916 near Waynesville, NC and was felt as far as Kentucky. Moderately damaging earthquakes strike the inland Carolinas every couple of decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt about once every few years.


ECU Study is Looking for Volunteers

The Environmental Health Program at East Carolina University is looking for participants for a research study dealing with tick and mosquito exposure in forestry workers in western NC, western VA, southern WV, eastern TN, and eastern KY. The study will require minimal time from participants and up to five sets of their clothing, if they are chosen for the treatment group, will be treated with Insect Shield(www.insectshield.com) repellant at no cost to participants. The study will take place between May and June of 2013, and all 80 participants will be asked to continue their normal daily routine. If you are interested in enrolling or want more information contact East Carolina University’s Stephanie Richards at 252-328-2526 or richardss@ecu.edu