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Exploring Arkansas June 2012

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Boston Mountains Scenic Loop, Unique Arkansas Salamanders, UCA Nature Reserve
A combination of the old and new-the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop is Highway 71 and Interstate 540 which connect Alma and Fayetteville traversing some of the highest plateaus in the Ozarks. Two species of woodland salamanders make their home in the Ouachita Mountain range of Arkansas and are found nowhere else on earth. The Jewel Moore Nature Reserve on the UCA campus in Conway provides a 19 acre outdoor classroom for thousands of students both on and off campus.

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IT'S A WONDERFUL COMBINATION OF THE OLD AND THE NEW. TOGETHER THEY MAKE UP THE BOSTON MOUNTAINS SCENIC LOOP AND QUITE THE SCENIC DRIVE IT IS AS YOU TRAVERSE ALONG SOME OF THE HIGHEST PLATEAUS IN THE OZARKS.

THE NAME BOSTON MOUNTAINS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BOSTON BUT A PHRASE MEANING "ROUGH ROAD" AND BEING A STAGE COACH ROAD IT WAS A ROUGH ROAD AND TWISTING AND FALLING THROUGH THE TERRAIN OF THE OZARKS. BEFORE THE CONSTRUCTION OF INTERSTATE 540 HIGHWAY 71 FSES THE MAJOR ROUTE TO FAYETTTEVILLE AND FOR US THAT REMEMBER THE DRIVE WAS ANYTHING BUT PLEASANT DEALING WITH THE TRAFFIC AND CONGESTION. TODAY IT'S A NIGHT AND DAY DIFFERENCE AND THERE IS HARDLY ANY TRAFFIC BETWEEN THE 42 MILES BETWEEN ALMA AND FAYETTTEVILLE WHICH MAKES FOR A ENJOYABLE SCENIC DRIVE COMBINED WITH THE MILES ALONG INTERSTATE 540. WITH LESS TRAFFIC ALONG HIGH 71 TRAVELERS HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ENJOY THE TERRAIN AND THE MOUNTAIN VISTAS. THE HIGHWAY 71 DRIVE OFFERS A WONDERFUL SENSE OF RURAL LIFE WITH COUNTRY CHURCHES, OLD BRIDGES AND SMALL MOUNTAIN TOWNS SUCH AS WINSLOW RIGHT OFF THE HIGHWAY. THERE'S ALWAYS LAKE FORT SMITH STATE PARK WHICH IS A COUPLE OF MILES OFF HIGHWAY 71. ALSO SOMETHING NEW ARE SCENIC OVER LOOK PULL OFFS ALONG HIGHWAY 71. AND SPEAKING OF SCENIC OVER LOOKS A MUST STOP IS ARTIST POINT ALONG 71. HERE YOU CAN EXPERIENCE ONE OF THE MOST BREATHTAKING MOUNTAIN VISTAS IN THE STATE. ALONG SOUTH OF FAYETTTEVILLE IS CHOPPERS AND PLANES DATING BACK TO THE WORLD WAR II ERA AND STREAMS AS YOU GO ALONG VALLEYS AND RIDGES. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST ARKANSAS' ONLY HIGHWAY TUNNEL IS ALONG 540. AFTER IT WAS BUILT AND ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE HEADED TOWARDS FAYETTTEVILLE THE LOCALS CALLED THE GATEWAY TO HOG HEAVEN AND RIGHT FULLY SO.

THE MOUNTAIN RANGE IN SOUTH ARKANSAS. IN THIS NEXT SEGMENT WE WILL FILL YOU IN ON SOMETHING YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT, A SPECIES OF FOASH SALAMANDERS AND WE START HERE. HER OUTING IS WITH TWO HERPETOLOGISTS WHO PUBLISHED THEIR RESEARCH IN 2011.

IS THIS IS A SPECIES MUCH THE SALAMANDER THAT OCCURS IN THE WATCH THAT MOUNTAINS AND ONE HERE AND RICH MOUNTAIN BEING ONE AND THAT'S HOW IT GETS ITS NAME BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE IT WAS FIRST DISCOVERED NOT TOO FAR FROM THIS SPOT. THIS IS A GROUP OF SALAMANDERS, -- THIS IS THE MOST DIVERSE GROUP. THEY'RE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SALAMANDERS AND THEY'RE LUNGLESS AND BREATHE THROUGH THEIR SKIN WHICH MEANS THEY'RE SENSITIVE TO TEMPERATURE AND MOISTURE, SO A SITUATION WE HAVE HERE ON RICH MOUNTAIN TO WHERE WE ARE LOCATED IN THE SOUTHWEST PART OF WHERE THEY'RE MOST DIVERSE THIS REGION HERE -- RICH MOUNTAIN PROVIDES THE KIND OF HABITAT THE SALAMANDERS NEED AND MOIST AND COOL AND WHY THEY'RE IN THIS REGION HERE. BECAUSE THEY REQUIRE MOIST AND COOL CONDITIONS THEY OCCUR MOSTLY AT THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS IN THESE MOUNTAINS. THE VALLEYS THAT SEPARATE THE MOUNTAINS ARE HOT AND DRY. IN FACT TOO HOT FOR THESE SALAMANDERS TO SURVIVE, SO WE HAVE LOOKED ACROSS THE MOUNTAIN TOPS AND ASKED WHETHER OR NOT INDIVIDUALS ARE MOVING BETWEEN MOUNTAINS, WHETHER THERE WAS GENE FLOW AND WE SAW THEY'RE ISOLATED ON THE MOUNTAIN TOPS AND WE HAVE A SITUATION THAT WE CALL "A SKY ISLAND" AND THE HABITAT FOR THE SALAMANDERS THE HIGH ELEVATION OR WILL VALLEYS ARE BARRIERS TO MOVING BETWEEN, SO YOU HAVE POPULATIONS ON DIFFERENT MOUNTAINS ISOLATED FROM EACH OTHER FOR A VERY LONG TIME THROUGHOUT CLIMATIC HISTORY AND ICE AGE AND THINGS LIKE THAT, SO THEY HAVE BEEN ISOLATED FROM EACH OTHER AND CURRENTLY THEY'RE RECOGNIZED AS ONE SPECIES THERE ARE PROBABLY MULTIPLE DIFFERENT SPEICES IN DIFFERENT ONES.

AND THERE ARE ALSO THE OTHER TWO SPECIES FOUND THERE BUT ARE UNIQUE TO ARKANSAS, THE CATTLE ONES AND THE FOURCHE.

RIGHT. THE FOURCHE IS HERE AND WE HAVE THE OTHERS HERE AND ALL SISTERS OR CAN YOU SINS IF YOU LOOK AT IT LIKE THAT AND THEY PREFER COOL MOIST HABITAT, BUT YES THE FOURCHE IS IN ARKANSAS AND THE RICH MOUNTAIN ONE IN ARKANSAS BUT ALSO OKLAHOMA.

OUR SECOND LOCATION TAKES US TO THE BUCK KNOB AREA ALONG THE RIDGE OF BUSH MOUNTAIN. HERE WE OVER TURN COUNTLESS ROCKS IN SEARCH OF THE FORCE SALAMANDER.

IT'S MUCH TOUGHER IN THE DAY TIME. SALAMANDERS ARE NOCTURNAL BUT WE SEE BETTER IN THE DAY TIME. WHEN CONDITIONS ARE GOOD YOU CAN GO IN THE DAY TIME WHEN IT'S COOL AND WET AND MOST OF THE TIME FIND THEM PRETTY EASILY. HOWEVER THEY CAN TOTALLY DISAPPEAR ON YOU. YOU WOULDN'T KNOW IF YOU CAME OUT AND LOOKED FOR 30 MINUTES YOU DON'T KNOW IF YOU'RE ON A DIFFERENT DAY 30 INDIVIDUALS IN A FEW MINUTES. THEY'RE SENSITIVE AND ALMOST TOTALLY DISAPPEAR. THEY'RE DEEP UNDER GROUND WHERE THEY CAN STAY COOL AND MOIST.

WE WERE JUST ABOUT READY TO GIVE UP, OR AT LEAST I WAS, UNTIL FISH AND GAME HERPETOLOGIST KELLY IRWIN FINALLY FOUND ONE OF THE CRITTERS.

CONDITIONS WERE WARMER AND DRYER THAN WE THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO DO SO WE HAD TO WORK HARDER TO FIND THE ANIMALS AND WHEN WE DID HERE ON BUCK KNOB AND IN THE RANGE AND TURN UP ONE INDIVIDUAL. WHEN THE CLIMATE IS COOLER AND MOISTURE YOU CAN FIND IT AND THE THREE UNIQUE SALAMANDER SPECIES THAT OCCUR IN ARKANSAS THIS ONE IS THE MOST RESTRICTED.

NO WHERE ELSE ON EARTH BUT HERE ON ARKANSAS?

NO WHERE ELSE AND THIS IS THEIR ONLY HOME, SO THE FIELD WORK THAT WE HAVE DONE OVER THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS REALLY HELPED TO DEFINE THE RANGE OF DISTRIBUTION IN THE STATE AND GET A UNDERSTANDING OF THE GENETICS AND THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT POPULATIONS ON THE DIFFERENT MOUNTAIN TOPS WHICH CAN BE TRANSLATED THEN TO THE CASE ARISES AND WE CAN CONSULT WITH THE FOREST SERVICE AND ONLY ON THE NATIONAL FOREST SERVICE PROPERTY WE CAN CONSULT WITH THEM ABOUT ANY ISSUES THAT MAY IMPACT THEIR HABITAT AND LIMITED DISTRIBUTION.

WELL, WE DOESN'T HAVE TO TRAVEL TOO FAR FOR THIS SEGMENT. IN FACT IT'S IN OUR BACKYARD HERE IN CONWAY AND THE JEWEL MOORE NATURE RESERVE AND STARTED FOR BIOLOGICAL STUDIES AND NOW IT'S 19-ACRES WORTH ENJOYED BY STUDENTS AND HIGH SCHOOL AND ELEMENTARY GROUPS AND YOU THE PUBLIC OF COURSE, AND HERE TODAY ARE SOME OF THE STUDENTS INVOLVED AND FOLKS INVOLVED WITH THE JEWEL MOORE NATURE RESERVE SO KYLE LEAD THE WAY.

EVERY YEAR THE JEWEL MOORE NATURE RESERVE IS UTILIZED BY ABOUT 3,000 STUDENTS ENROLLED IN 16 COURSES.

I HAVE BEEN HERE FOR THREE YEARS. I AM A JUNIOR AND I WILL GRADUATE IN A YEAR, AND EVER SINCE I HAVE BEEN HERE I HAVE BEEN PARTICIPATING IN ACTIVITIES IN NATURE HERE AND I HAD FIVE CLASSES, BIOLOGY E ETMOLOGY, ECOLOGY, ANIMAL BEHAVIOR, AND AN HONORS CONSERVATION CLASS AND HONORS CLASSES USE THIS PLACE FOR TALKING ABOUT THINGS AND STUFF LIKE THAT, AND I THINK IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO HAVE A PLACE LIKE THIS ON CAMPUS BECAUSE IT NOT ONLY HELPS WITH CLASSES, ESPECIALLY IN THE BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT AND IT'S A PLACE FOR STUDENTS TO GO AND YOU CAN GET AWAY -- NOT REALLY AWAY FROM CIVILIZATION BUT IT'S NATURE IN THE BACKGROUND AND IT'S NICE TO COME OUT HERE AND RELAX EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE.

SINCE I AM A FRESHMAN I ONLY HAD BIOLOGY ONE AND TWO. BIOLOGY TWO USES THE NATURE RESERVE MORE SO, AND FOR INSTANCE WE STUDY DIFFERENT ORGANISMS THAT WE STUDY IN CLASS. WE CAN ACTUALLY COME OUT TO THE NATURE RESERVE AND ACTUALLY SEE THEM AND GET TO STUDY THEM MORE, AND I FEEL LIKE THAT'S A GREAT WAY HANDS ON IN SOME SORT OF WAY, AND IT'S JUST GREAT HAVING IT HERE, AND THE NATURE RESERVE BEING HERE ITSELF YOU CAN COME OUT WITH FRIENDS, AND EXPLORE AND JUST HAVING THIS IS A GREAT EXPERIENCE OVERALL.

THIS SEMESTER I PROBABLY SPENT 20 HOURS OUT HERE JUST WALKING AND COLLECTING INSECTS, AND I THINK IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO HAVE THIS PLACE BECAUSE MOST OF THE BIOLOGY -- AT LEAST THE UPPER DIVISION BIOLOGY CLASSES THAT I HAVE HAD REALLY COULDN'T FUNCTION VERY WELL WITHOUT HAVING THE NATURE RESERVE HERE BECAUSE WE COME OUT HERE ALL THE TIME TO HAVE A PLACE TO DO EXPERIMENTS. WE CAN COME OUT HERE. THERE'S LOTS OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS THAT WE CAN FIND, AND ASK BIOLOGICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT, FOR AT LEAST THE BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT I THINK THIS IS A REALLY IMPORTANT PLACE TO HAVE.

IT MAKES A WHOLE LOT OF DIFFERENCE THEN DOING IT FROM A TEXTBOOK?

YEAH, IT REALLY DOES. IT'S NICE TO HAVE A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN ACTUALLY PUT THE IDEAS THAT YOU LEARN IN A BIOLOGY CLASS OR ANY OTHER CLASS AND COME OUT HERE AND PUT THEM INTO A NATURE CONTEXT.

I GOT INVOLVED WITH THE NATURE RESERVE MY SECOND SEMESTER OF MY FRESHMAN YEAR. I STARTED TAKING BIO CLASSES AND I GOT INVOLVED WITH RESIDENTIAL COLLEGE. THEY DO STONE DAMN CREEK RETORATION AND WE COLLECT DATA AND SPEND A DAY IN THE NATURE RESERVE. BEFORE DOING THAT I HAD NO IDEA ABOUT PRAIRIES OR ANY OF IT AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE JUST TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND HAVING A PART OF HERE ON U OF A CAMPUS IS GREAT. NOT MANY CAMPUSES HAVE THAT OPPORTUNITY. IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET OUT, GET INVOLVED, AND JUST TO SPEND A DAY OUT HERE IS -- IT'S SOMETHING THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T GET, AND I THINK IT'S GREAT. IT REALLY HAS A GREAT IMPACT ON ME AS FAR AS GETTING INVOLVED, AND OTHER PEOPLE MENTIONED THE BIOLOGY CLASSES WE UTILIZE IT, NOT JUST FOR EXPERIMENTS, BUT JUST LONG-TERM RESEARCH. A LOT OF THINGS ARE BASED OUT OF THIS NATURE RESERVE, AND IT'S GREAT. IT'S WONDERFUL.

I MEAN I THINK IT'S HUGELY IMPORTANT TO BE ABLE TO BRING NATURE INSIDE A CAMPUS AND HAVE AN ENVIRONMENT AND YOU CAN SEE THE ENVIRONMENT IRJT ACT WITH EACH OTHER AND THE ORGANISMS AND THE PLANTS AND EVERYTHING LIKE THAT, SO WHEN WE'RE IN A URBAN ENVIRONMENT AND COME OUT NOT FAR FROM WHERE WE STUDY AND HOW THINGS HAPPEN IN THE ENVIRONMENT INSTEAD OF JUST READING ABOUT IT I THINK IS HUGELY IMPORTANT.

WELL, I AM A BIOLOGY PROFESSOR HERE AND MY WORK IS CONTINUING THE WORK OF JEWEL MOORE AND PREVIOUS PROFESSORS THAT HAVE TAKEN ON IN BEING THE VOICE FOR THE JEWEL MOORE NATURE RESERVE. I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE. I AM THE ONE OUT HERE NOW DIRECTING THE STUDENTS AND ACTIVITIES AT JEWEL MOORE. IT DOES TAKE MAINTENANCE AND WE'RE IN THE URBAN AREA AND WE HAVE INVADING PLANTS THAT COME IN AND THAT'S WHAT WE DO.

OF COURSE WE'RE STANDING HERE ON ONE OF THEMATION PORTIONS OF THE RESERVE IS THE PRAIRIE TRACK. TELL US ABOUT WHAT WE SEE HERE.

WELL, THIS MAIN PRAIRIE TRACK IS ABOUT 4-ACRES OF -- AS FAR AS WE KNOW IT'S NEVER BEEN PLOWED. IT REPRESENTS -- WE KNOW THAT BECAUSE OF BOTH HISTORICAL RECORDS AND LOOKING AT THE VEGETATION THAT IS TYPICAL OF THE PRAIRIES THAT YOU FIND AROUND HERE IN CENTRAL ARKANSAS, AND IT HAS BEEN MAINTAINED WITH BURNING AND WITHOUT BURNING IT STILL WOULDN'T BE HERE AND WE THINK IT WAS MAINTAINED IN THE EARLY PART OF THE 1900'S AND PASTURE AND CUT FOR HAY AND IF YOU BURN IT IT'S LIKE THAT AND IT KEEP THIS -- SWINGS THE ADVANTAGE TO THE NATIVE PRAIRIE SPEICES.

THERE ARE ABOUT 250 NATIVE PLANTS THROUGHOUT THE RESERVE SOME WITH UNUSUAL CHARACTERISTICS OR NAMES.

SO WHAT WE GOT HERE IS ONE OF THE NATIVE PLANS AND SNAKE ROOT AND IF YOU GO BY THE NAME BECAUSE IT HAS THIS REALLY LONG ROOT SYSTEM THAT GOES DEEP IN THE SOIL AND WATER WHEN IT DRIES UP AND SURVIVES WHEN IT'S COOL. IT'S NICE AND YOU CAN SEE A WHOLE ECO SYSTEM AND YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER FLOWER SYSTEM THAT COMES THROUGH THAT SUPPORTS THE INSECT POPULATION AND IT'S A GREAT EXAMPLE HOW YOU SEE IT INSIDE OF THE PRAIRIE.

GIVE ME A GRASSHOPPER. I WILL USE IT FOR FISH BAIT LATER.

THERE ARE ALSO TINY FERN LOOKING PLANTS THAT CONTRACT THEIR LEAVES WHEN YOU TOUCH THEM.

SO MIXED AMONG ALL THE BLOSSOMS THAT YOU NOTICE THERE IS A LITTLE VINE PLANT HERE THAT LOOKS KIND OF LIKE A FERN AND CALLED A SENSITIVE BREYER. IT'S REALLY NEAT BECAUSE IF YOU ACTUALLY TOUCH THE LEAVES IT WILL CONTRACT IN RESPONSE, SO IT'S REALLY AN APPROPRIATE NAME WHEN YOU SAY SENSITIVE BREYER, AND IT'S REALLY COOL BECAUSE WHAT IT'S DOING AND PULLING ALL OF THE WATERS OUT OF THE LEAVES AND REACTION TO THE TOUCH AND WILTING ITS LEAVES TO SAY "I'VE GOT SMALL LEAVES. YOU DON'T WANT TO EAT ME".

THIS OVER HERE KYLE IS REALLY, REALLY LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING ELSE.

YEAH. THIS IS ONE OF THE PRIZES OF OUR PRAIRIE RIGHT NOW AT THIS TIME, SO WHAT WE'VE GOT IS A SPIDER LILY SO THIS IS A GORGEIOUS FLOWER AND THEY'RE BLOOMING AROUND THIS TIME AND FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS. YOU CAN SEE THIS ONE IS DROPPING ITS PETALS AND BLOOMING FOR ABOUT A WEEK AND DROP THE PETALS AND CREATE A SEED. THE COOL THING IS EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK YOU CAN FIND INSECTS AND IT FLEW OFF BUT THERE WAS A BEATAL THAT FLEW OFF AND IT WILL BLOOM FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS TOO SO IT'S A REALLY PRETTY PLANT.

WE'RE WALKING FROM THE TALL GRASS PRAIRIE REGION AND THE LAST 5-ACRES OF THE AREA HERE IN CONWAY INTO THIS WOODED AREA THAT IS NORMALLY SURROUNDING PRAIRIE, SO IF YOU CAME TO A NATURAL AREA YOU WOULD FIND YOU HAVE A WHOLE BUNCH OF WOODS AND WALK INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS AND FIND THIS PRAIRIE THAT IS THERE. YOU KEEP WALKING AND YOU COME TO A WOOD LINE AND GO THROUGH THE WOODS AND COME TO ANOTHER PRAIRIE AND ANOTHER 150 METERS OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT AND JUST HAVE THESE TRANSITIONS IN AND OUT, AND AS WE WALK ALONG WE WILL COME TO ANOTHER PRAIRIE REGION AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU WOULD EXPERIENCE IN A NATURAL SITUATION.

GRAD STUDENT KYLE HURLEY HAS MANAGED THIS AND NURTURING WITH TENDER LOVING CARE.

I AM IN MY FIRST YEARS OF MY MASTERS AT UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS AND EVEN THE FIRST YEAR I GOT TO EXPERIENCE NATURE IT WAS A LITTLE TASTE OF HOME SO HERE I WAS NOW IN A VERY URBANIZED AREA. I WAS USED TO THE WOODS AND HAD A CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE THE WOODS AGAIN AND IT'S NICE FOR PEOPLE THAT COME FROM THE COUNTY AND THEY GET TO GO BACK TO THE COUNTRY AND THERE IS THE EDUCATIONAL ASPECT AND I LEARNED MORE IN COURSES AND GETTING INTO IT MORE AND MORE AND GOT INTO BIOLOGY AND TALKED ABOUT THE SYSTEMS AND IT WAS AN INTRINSIC PART OF MY LIFE AND I WANT TO PROTECT THAT, AND I WANT TO SHOW EVERYONE HOW AMAZING IT IS, SO FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS I DO ALL THAT I CAN TO SHOW PEOPLE THE VALUE OF SEEING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL. ON THE OTHER HAND LEARNING THROUGH THE COURSES AND BY YOURSELF INDEPENDENTLY THE NICE THINGS ABOUT ALL THE INSECTS AND SYSTEMS OUT HERE, SO THERE IS -- OF COURSE I AM INSECT BIAS BECAUSE I STUDY INSECTS AND THE BEAUTY IS WHATEVER YOU LIKE, BIRDS, PLANTS, INSECTS AND YOU CAN LEARN ABOUT IT AND ENJOY IT AND IT'S RIGHT IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD. YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO FAR. THE CLOZZEST PRAIRIE IS 30 MILES AWAY AND YOU CAN GO TO CENTRAL ARKANSAS AND HAVE A CHANCE TO ENJOY IT.

FOR MORE ON THIS DESTINATION PLUS MANY OF OUR OTHERS OR FOR A COPY OF THIS EPISODE PLEASE VISIT OUR WEBSITE. AND WE WILL SEE YOU AGAIN NEXT TIME FOR ANOTHER EXCITING ADVENTURE ON "EXPLORING ARKANSAS"

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