RA’s of Asheville, NC Unite in the Field!

I couldn’t help but think of our group as like Power Rangers protecting natural resources after seeing this group photo. As part of field day to an undisclosed location in Nantahala National Forest near Rainbow Springs, the Botanist of the NFs in NC got all four RA interns stationed at the Supervisors Office in Asheville, NC together to assess site impacts at this serpentine barren that were reported by the public. While one of us is a botany intern, the others include a GIS intern, public affairs intern, and me the landscape architect intern. It just so happens that all four of us work through EFTA!

Resource Assistants of Supervisor's Office for National Forests of North Carolina

One of the great things about the RA program is the people you meet and connections you make. From professional development to making new friends to simply being around people with similar values and learning from their different backgrounds, there is tons of social value in the RA internship. I’ve learned from my time working this position that the interdisciplinary overlap is the backbone of United States Forest Service, like this Ven diagram of all these different professions and scientists working both together and separately, but all towards common goals. It takes a whole community of different people from different backgrounds with different skills to manage such massive and diverse public lands as the USFS does. Diversity is a key to success! Anyways, let me tell you a little bit about this special place and show you some of the cool plants.

What makes this landscape special is that it’s a serpentine barren, where the underlying geology is close to the surface or even exposed and has resulted in mafic soil characteristics that are much different from the surrounding soil of region. Contrary to what one might expect (or at least what I expected), the name has nothing to do with snakes as serpentine refers to a type of rock and the prevalence of certain minerals within the rock.

This landscape we visited is also fire adapted with some of these plant species depending on fire to sustain their population here. Fire in this plant community thins out vegetation to allow more sunlight to reach the ground and reach smaller plants which otherwise would get crowded out by larger shrubs and trees overpowering them. Fire also plays an important role in nutrient cycling by returning nutrients from burned vegetation back into the soil to get used again by new or persisting plants. You can see this theme of blues/purples & white from the flowers blooming here in late September which I though was pretty neat to take note of. I hope to return here to see what else is blooming at a different time of year.

creek on-site showing the serpentine rocks including the mineral olivine
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