Ecology of the Southern Appalachians: A Field Course for Teachers

BIO 772D

To images of vegetational communities within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

DESCRIPTION: This course is a classroom/field oriented course designed to introduce participants to the ecology of the Southern Appalachian mountain system. Emphasis will be on selected vegetational communities within the Smoky Mountain National Park. The course will consist of ten, 3-hour classroom meetings and a one week field trip to the Smoky Mountain National Park.

CREDIT: Three semester hours of graduate credit.


TELEPHONE: 641-3558



SUGGESTED GEAR: Sleeping Bag (tents will be provided), Flashlight, Toiletries, Quarters for showers, towels, comfortable hiking shoes, backpack, canteen, rain poncho, binoculars, camera, bathing suit, sweatshirt and/or medium weight jacket that fits in backpack, hat, toilet paper (biodegradable preferred)


Geologic formation of the Southern Appalachians
Glaciation and the evolution of the vegetational communities of the Smoky Mountains
Whitaker's classification system
Abiotic factors that affect the plant and animal communities of the Southern Appalachians
Plant morphology
Plant taxonomy
Exotic species and their effects on native species Balsam Wholly Adelgid
Wildlife Management
Use of map and compass

OBJECTIVES: By the end of this course participants will be able to:

  1. describe the various peneplainations and orogenies that formed the Southern Appalachian Mountain system
  2. describe the geology of the Smoky Mountains
  3. describe how glaciation affected the present day plant communities seen in the Southern Appalachians
  4. describe Whitaker's system for classifying vegetational types in the Smoky Mountains
  5. describe the fallacies in Whitaker's system
  6. describe how abiotic factors affect the vegetational communities within the Smokies
  7. use a compass and map
  8. describe how exotic species have affected the this mountain system
  9. identify the plants that dominate the vegetational communities of the Smoky Mountains.


  1. Attendance and participation (125 pts) - to receive credit participants may only miss 1 class, no matter if the absence is excused or not excused. A missed class will cause the final point total to be reduced. Participation will be subjectively assessed.
  2. Quizzes (125 pts) - there will be 5 quizzes (at least 3 of which will be during the field trip). Quizzes will be on plant and community identification.
  3. Final Exam (100 pts) - the final exam will test the participants knowledge of topics covered in the classroom.
  4. Field notebook (100 pts) - participants will be required to keep a field notebook, recording observations and activities while on the field trip.
  5. Organism Report (75 pts) participants will do a report on organisms. This report will be created so that it can be seen on the WWW.
  6. Lesson (75 pts) - participants will be required to develop a lesson that demonstrates what they learned in the course. Participants will be required to present their lesson to the class two weeks after returning from the field trip.

Field Notebook

The instructor will keep the field notebook permanantly. The teacher must make a copy before submitting the notebook if a copy is desired. The following sections are to be included in your field notebook:

  1. Daily Log - in this section you should include the date, times and activities performed during that day.
  2. Trail Log - in this section you should include
    1. date, name of trail/location, weather conditions.
    2. description of trail/location (types of communities,plants, slope exposures, canopy types, etc.)
    3. plant species list - common and scientific names
    4. animal species list - common and scientific names
  3. Evaluation Section - Give a one paragraph evaluation each person on the trip, including the instructor.
  4. Complaint Section - in this section you are to write down all the complaints you have while on the field trip. Try to do this every day so that you don't forget something.

Class projects and field notebooks due - 14 days after returning to USCA


Day 1 - course introduction, geologic history of the Southern Appalachians
Day 2 - Vegetational history of the Smoky Mtns. Smoky Mtns. General Information
Day 3 - Vegetation communities Whitaker's classification system
Day 4 - Vegetation communities cont., plant taxonomy, plant morphology
Day 5 - Use of map and compass
Day 6 - Plant taxonomy, plant morphology
Day 7 - Plant taxonomy, plant morphology
Day 8 - Plant taxonomy, plant morphology, Exotic species (biological pollution)
Day 9 - Review
Day 10 - Final Exam

7-day Field Trip in June, Smoky Mountain National Park (Greenbriar Island Campground, Route 3, Box 572 Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (615) 436-4243

Day 1 - leave USCA campus at 7:00 a.m.
Day 2 - Andrews Bald Trail (grass bald community)(4 miles)
Day 3 - Ramsy Cascade (Cove Hardwood Forest) (8 miles)
Day 4 - free day
Day 5 - Bull Head - Rainbow Falls (cove, pine/heath, chestnut/oak) (7 - 13 miles)
Day 6 - Mt. Le Conte (Northern Hardwood Forest, Spruce-fir community, heath slicks) (13 miles)
Day 7 - Cades Cove (human/animal relationships)
Day 8 - Leave for USCA


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