Researcher explains efforts to restore the American chestnut

Dr. Stacy Clark explain her research on the American chestnut to a crowd at Friday’s UT Science Forum.

Dr. Stacy Clark of the U.S. Forest Services, spoke at Friday’s installment of the UT Science Forum on “American Chestnut Restoration: Can We Bring Back the Mighty Giant.” Her presentation highlighted current efforts being made to restore the large tree.

The American chestnut was once one of the most important trees within its growth range, stretching from Canada to Mississippi and Alabama. In the last 100 years it has been nearly decimated due to blight, ink disease and insect habitation.

“It’s sad to think about, this tree that was once deemed one of the most important trees in terms of timber production and nut production is pretty much wiped out,” Clark said.

WATCH: News package about Dr. Stacy Clark’s presentation.

Clark and her team are currently conducting research to help protect, and eventually restore, the American chestnut.

She has been working closely with The American Chestnut Foundation, which breeds disease resistant chestnuts. The ACF provides nuts (seeds) to Clark and her team. The team has 11 planting sites in The South where they grow and perform research on plants.

The goal of the research is to test how the plants fair in a forest setting. The sites have been slightly manipulated to create more advantageous growing conditions for the saplings.

A crowd of UT students, employees and members of the community were in attendance for Clark’s presentation.

“You really have to have an approach that is multi-disciplinary. If you think you are going to restore a chestnut by creating a tree that is resistant to the blight, you’re not going to get very far,” said Clark.

Success rates have varied in the growing areas. Average survival for their 2009 planting is about 77 percent. If the tree had a lot of roots, it tended to survive at higher rates. The 2010 plantings were not as successful, with survival rates below 30 percent in some areas.

Clark warned, “We’re probably decades away from true, large scale restoration efforts.”

While researches still face plenty of obstacles, Clark feels that their work needs to continue.


Edited by Nichole Stevens 


Paleontologist’s research offers warnings on rising sea levels


Paleontologist Don Goldstein speaks to a crowd Friday at the UT Science Forum.
Paleontologist Don Goldstein speaks on climate change and rising sea levels at the UT Science Forum.

Don Goldstein, paleontology researcher at the University of Tennessee, spoke at Friday’s Science Forum in an installment entitled: How Can Florida’s Geological Past Help Us Prepare for the Future?

In his presentation, Goldstein explained that at times, over the past two million years, Florida has been partially covered by seawater, leaving behind troves of fossils to study. The fossils allow researchers to predict where future flooding may occur as sea levels rise.

“The past gives us an evolutionary view of how behavior has developed into the present,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein warned the crowd of the dangers of procrastination on issues such as preparing for rising sea levels.
Goldstein warned the crowd of the dangers of procrastination on issues such as preparing for rising sea levels.

Goldstein studies intertidal slugs and snails at sites 40 to 50 miles inland from the coast. At these sites, Goldstein has found marls, or mixtures of sea fossils, that include shallow-water and deep-water species. They were likely placed together by massive storms or hurricanes during interglacial periods marked by higher levels of seawater.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that sea levels will rise between three inches and two feet in the next 100 years. Researchers predict that current climate change will create larger and more violent storms.

Goldstein warns that these factors will cause more storm flooding, migration of barrier islands and saltwater infiltration into groundwater, amongst other issues.

“There are going to be larger more violent storms. There are going to be some near term effects. There will be increased storm flooding,” Goldstein said.

Dr. Mark Littmann, Program Coordinator for the UT Science Forum, introduces Don Goldstein.
Dr. Mark Littmann, Program Coordinator for the UT Science Forum, introduces Don Goldstein.

He explained that flooding brought on by Hurricane Sandy will become a common occurrence in coastal areas. He says that large storms will rework the coast with just modest sea level change.

Amanda Womac, President of the forum, reacted to the speech by saying, “I think that our long term solutions to address climate change, at this point, are a drop in the bucket. There are still questions about whether or not it is happening, which is absolutely ridiculous.”

Goldstein believes it is necessary for governments to prepare for these changes by first fostering a dialogue.


Edited by Nichole Stevens 



City to tear down McClung warehouses

The McClung Warehouse suffered major damage in the fire. Claire Nelson // TNJN
The McClung Warehouse suffered major damage in the fire. Claire Nelson // TNJN

After much deliberation city officials decide to tear down the McClung Warehouses in downtown Knoxville after the tragic fire that took place last week.

Early Saturday morning, Feb. 1, the McClung Warehouses were engulfed in flames.Emergency response teams arrived at the fiery scene at the corner of Broadway and Jackson Avenue at 3:30 a.m., at which point the flames had reached 100 feet.

After seven hours spent trying to contain the fire, the Knoxville Fire Department was unable to determine what sparked the flame.

No one was significantly injured in the fire.

“Old warehouses were maintained by spreading kerosene to keep the dust out,” Fire Department spokesperson D.J. Corcoran, said. “The saturated wood floors fueled and helped the flames grow.”

Friday Feb. 7 marks the six-year anniversary of the first fire in the McClung warehouse. The previous fire left only two of the five buildings standing and is recognized as of the worst fires in East Tenn. history.

Because of the buildings historical significance, city officials took much caution in surveying the damage in order to determine how much of the property was salvageable.

At the time of the fire, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero was visiting Turkey but toured the site with city officials on Monday afternoon to discuss plans for the building. After deeming the building “not structurally sound”, Mayor Rogero heads an operation for demolition crews to begin tearing down the warehouses this Saturday.

Officials predict that the demolition itself should take two to four days to complete and the clean up of debris could take as long as five weeks.

In an effort to preserve the memory of the warehouses, the city of Knoxville will keep 500 bricks from the buildings after they are torn down.

Edited by Zach Dennis