April 2, 2023
Well this was it, the last day on the property of Southern 8ths. It was most certainly the most unique experience I’ve ever witnessed in my whole life. I had a very informational, engaging, and relieving time at the wonderful piece of land. However, on our last day, we went down to Thompson Creek for the last time and it seemed to have risen in depth a little but had low turbidity. There was a lot of River Otter scat surrounding the bank where otters have claimed their territory. When observing the bank and the surrounding area, it was clear that the vegetation had increased at a recognizable amount. The bank went from brown loose soil to flourishing and overtaken by vegetation. We traveled off to our woodland transect where we saw our Yellow-bellied Sliders basking on the logs in the old cattle pond. As we observed and recorded the data of our varying plants such as the Red Maple, Common Blue Violet, and White Oak, I stumbled across a baby Eastern Box Turtle. It seemed to have been resting in the leaf litter as it was covered up. As we traveled to the Fireworks Prairie, we stopped by the storage sheds where we noticed signs of barn owls being present due to their scat which look like balls of fur or mice, and droppings called “. We continued to the Fireworks prairie where we noticed numerous Tree Swallows flying above our heads and even noticed a Red-winged Blackbird near the pond. We even found the Common Milkweed had started making its comeback for the spring and summer. Afterward, we went off to Rock Bluff which is where I truly fell in love with Brad’s land. You could see almost the entire property. Here we learned that the soil was extremely acidic and we saw a mix of Wintergreens, Chestnut oaks, Virginia Pines, and a variety of other vegetation. We traveled through where we saw Bobcat scat, White-tailed Deer eer scat, and even a pelvic bone of an organism. Holima and I went around tearing down dear trees that were on their last limbs due to termite damage. As we traveled back Brianna noticed what was most likely a deer skull due to the absence of canines and the dominance of molars. Despite this, the last trip was a beautiful one and this land will forever have a special place in my heart. To the future students, take it all in, enjoy it, and do your best to incorporate similar land across the world. We never know if we will be able to enjoy nature the way we have at the Southern 8ths property.
Journal Submission #8
March 26th, 2023
Southern 8ths was very eventful and full of exploration today. For starters, we were missing a lot of people today. However, the fun and excitement that it entailed continued. We started off as usual discussing the weather data and our readings. Afterward, we took our daily trip down to Thompson Creek to assess the turbidity and water level. Thompson Creek was very clear and not as low as it has been in the recent past. After this, we went to our transect over in Fireworks Prairie. We assessed our plants and entered our data into nature’s notebook. We then traveled to our woodland transect where we noticed a lot more vegetation. We also saw a Devil’s Urn mushroom cluster in our transect. Afterward, we traveled over to Turtle Pond. Here we saw extensive Wild Hog damage all throughout the trails. When we reached Turtle Pond, we saw numerous Yellow-Bellied Sliders on a log which quickly dispersed into the water when we got too close. I had also noticed Beaver had been hard at work due to gnawed trees and a dam that had been built at an overflow part of the pond. I, of course, was very tempted to take down the dam but left it due to Brianna wanting to stay on the safe side and not have any negative consequences. We ventured down to assess erosion and where Ellie had seen an Eastern Box Turtle covered in leaves and a Yellow-Bellied Slider in a drainage pipe. From here we traveled to Chimney Pond and saw how low the pond was and ventured off to find a “boar jacuzzi” as we deemed it on site. As we were walking back to the gator, Ellie noticed a rather large Red-Bellied Water Snake tucked in a pile of brush, which quickly slid into the water. When we were about to pull out of the woods, Kaitlin noticed a dead Boar that Brianna had mentioned earlier in the day. From here we traveled to the Love Shack and Kayak Launch where we saw a Luna Moth that was drying its wings. I found a very round and smooth rock which I took with me as a souvenir. We then traveled back to the Learning Center, said our farewells, and headed back home.
Journal Submission #7
March 17th, 2023
Today at Southern 8th’s we had a very festive day full of exploration. We started in the Learning Center where I learned for the first time that Clovers can be Shamrocks but Shamrocks can’t be Clovers! Afterward, we headed down to Thompson Creek where the water was the lowest and most transparent since our time there. I noticed some trees had fallen potentially due to higher winds. I’d also noticed where vegetation had started to spread like a wildfire in the prescribed burn areas across from our viewpoint. We then traveled to the Fireworks Prairie where we were taken by surprise and saw that it had been mowed to reduce the growth of pioneer trees such as Loblolly Pine and Sweet Gum. Next, we traveled to our woodland transect where there had been a lot more vegetation growth. Afterward, we traveled over to a new part of the land along Muddy Branch where we saw some of the most untouched areas. We noticed Wild Hogs had been present due to the soil being torn up and in a pattern-like way. We saw a Wild Turkey run about and it ended up flying away. As we started our way back we made a stop along a section of Thompson Creek that was further downstream from our regular observation point near the Learning Center. Here is where I went down into the stream and found an empty gun case! When down there I noticed numerous Spring Peepers,some Leopard Frogs, and I also examined the rocks that were weathered by Thompson Creek’s force. However, I’m now going to go off of my normal updates and run down the major events that occur every Friday while at the property. Despite our time not quite yet being over, it is reaching its end. For the future students and citizens that are to come out to this property, I want you all to know a couple of things. This isn’t just another plot of land that some rich person acquired to live the rest of their days on. Brad, Pati, Brianna, and David have turned this into a wildlife oasis. During my time here I’ve learned so much about nature, but a lot more about life. Brad always comes in and gives us stories and wise tales about life and what he’s experienced and how we should question everything along with standing our ground on what we believe. David and Brianna’s expertise on wildlife and plants has of course been informative but has been motivational and inspiring. This land takes away the worries of the world and transports you into a whole other world. This property is home to so many walks of life and will be a future safe haven for wildlife given its retreating habitat from human development. I want future students and citizens to know that this type of property, despite already being protected by a conservation easement, should be incorporated all across the globe. This isn’t just some piece of property, it’s home to thousands of species; ranging from insects, microorganisms, plants, and animals. To be more on the selfish side of things, I’ve found this to be a second home to me. This land has etched a big and special place in my heart. I hope in the future many others strive to protect and incorporate these same pieces of land in many other places in the world.
Journal Submission #3
February 10, 2023
Today was filled with lots of exploring, walking, and discussion on what’s currently going on at the Southern 8th’s. We gathered in the Learning Center and discussed our readings for the week and had lots of great points in the discussion. We all agreed that telling more of a story instead of being monotone with lots of data and graphs is much more effective when it comes to communicating science. After we came to our conclusions and finished up our discussion we all hopped in our cars and headed over to Steele Prairie. We arrived to the blatant smell of charcoal and witnessed a prescribed burning had just taken place at the Steele Prairie. We came to learn that prescribed burning helps remove invasive plants without the need of herbicides and harsh chemicals that can affect native plants and organisms in a negative way as well. We noticed many Loblolly Pine seedlings still stood tall given they are fire resistant. There were numerous Robins, Mourning Doves, Mockingbirds, and Fire Ant mounds still in the recently burned fields. After more discussion, we traveled back to the Learning Center and walked to an area of forest with American Holly prevalent in the understory and laid a transect right on the edge of it to get a more diverse amount of species to include in the transect. After this we walked over to a nearby man-made pond where we heard some Spring Peepers and saw numerous insects, such as Water Striders, scurrying around the top of the pond. We learned that this pond was dug out for cattle when the land was used for ranching. We also learned that this is a great place for various species of frogs, salamanders and newts to breed and mate. We then traveled on to the bridge and soaked in the peaceful sounds that come from Thompson creek. We watched the water create different art by whirlpooling, creating ripples, and mirroring the treeline and overcast sky above. It was hypnotizing, gorgeous, and quite literally put us all in a trance as we all stood in silence soaking in all the beauty the Carolina Wildlands had to offer. Once we all snapped out of our trances, we headed back to the Learning Center to learn what it takes to be a master observer. When we were rounding the corner, Holima had spotted a Redbellied Snake which I had picked up with a stick to avoid stressing it out. We all were amazed by its vibrant underbelly that was so mesmerizing to look at. When we arrived at the Learning Center, we learned that it takes much planning, gear, and supplies to be fully prepared to go out for a day of observing.
Journal Entry #2
February 3, 2023
For our second trip to Southern 8ths, we walked in ready to begin starting some projects. We walked in and we had Brad, David, and Brianna all smiling and ready to go to get some transects laid out. Before we set off for another day full of exploration and work, we discussed our two readings we had to read before we met. The group brought up lots of interesting points of imagery in the readings and how it was a very effective and interesting way of communicating science. It’s important to note that today there is a great divide in science and the community, with misconceptions as well as the fact that science is not effectively communicated to the public by scientists themselves. This brings up the point made by Brad that you need to be able to tell a story along with your data or scientific findings. Once we finished discussing, and reviewing weather station data, we hopped right into beginning our day by checking in on Thompson Creek. When we got to Thompson Creek we noticed it was raised, was flowing fast, and had a light brown color to it. We learned that the color of the creek was due to runoff, sediment, and the way the land has changed over the years due to farming and development. While down by the creek, I found peace in the sounds coming from the flowing water, songs from the wind blowing through the trees, and the warm sun rays gently greeting my cold face. I kind of clocked out from the group at this point, but snapped back from the grasp of nature and continued on with the group to Fireworks Prairie. There were two options, a safari trip in an open Gator, or a modern day car trip to the prairies, I of course took the safari with Brianna. As we traveled Brianna and I made small talk about how she was able to get her job with Southern 8ths and it definitely inspired me to really work hard and study to maybe be as fortunate as her either there or elsewhere sometime in the future. Once we arrived we began talking about transects and how to lay them out. While gathering the equipment, we noticed the screeching of a large bird and looked to the sky for David to identify it as a Red-shouldered Hawk. I was eager to lay out our transacts and got everyone together to begin laying them out. As we ventured into the tall grasses there were lots of Blackberry thorns and Fire Ant hills all over. Our transect for Fireworks Prairie was 80 meters, a square with four sides of 20 meters each, and along the transect we saw a Lanceleaf Coreopsis that will have a large yellow flower in the spring. We learned that the Blackberry stems were the thorns that we were battling with as we laid our transects. Brianna had taught us that Pine Webworms are on Loblolly Pine trees and we saw eggs on a sapling of the pine tree. We continued down to travel to another prairie called Francis’ Field, but the stream known as Talton Branch had blocked out the main path. Holima and I were determined to get across and we helped find a way to travel across the stream. After we left the prairie we saw some false and real Turkey tail mushrooms, heard the sounds of the Eastern Meadowlark, noticed numerous deer tracks, and by then we had run out of time and headed back to the Learning Center. Here we met a professor, Dr. Travis Knowles, and two students, Nakayla and Kimberly, from Francis Marion University who were performing research to document different types of rodents, such as the White footed Mouse. Before we left, we went out with the other students and observed them setting traps and the baits they were using. When we noticed we were really out of time we all headed out back to the Learning Center, said our farewells and went our separate ways.
Journal Entry #1
January 27, 2023
Upon arrival, the surrounding forests gave a calming feeling. When walking into the Learning Center I noticed lots of beautiful woodwork and Brianna and Brad sitting there waiting for me and the other interns with a smile on their faces. We had a great discussion when introducing ourselves. Then Brad began to give us a run-down of the land, his purpose, and his mission. Once David came in we talked for a short while longer. Once introductions and a run-down of the land was finished, we began our tour. Our first stop was at a cemetery with surrounding rolling hills and forests. The cemetery had graves of both slaves and owners of the land dating back to the early to mid 1800’s. We then discussed how this was unusual for the time given that enslaved people tended to not be buried with white people. There was a large dead tree with carvings of painted horses and other animals which was extravagant and detailed. We continued to another piece of tree art which had wild boars and a mother cougar and her son/daughter hunting the boars. Afterwards while driving along the path, we passed a horse-riding area where Southern 8ths previously held horse competitions. Once we finished here we continued past horse stables and to another piece of tree art. This resembled a scene from the Civil War with soldiers of the Union and the Confederate South, along with horses and a bridge with the Confederate and Union flags carved into the tree. This subject was chosen for this sculpture due to its relevance to the land. Confederate troops walked through what is now known as Southern 8ths property, with little to no food, supplies, water, and treacherous conditions. This was a very interesting piece given the time we’re in now and how many people would potentially vandalize this piece of art with the dark history behind the work. We crossed the road and went to the Fireworks Prairie which had another piece of woodwork that had numerous native organisms carved all over the tree. Here we learned the Fireworks Prairie was named this due to quail shooting out of the tall grass like fireworks when walking through. We then drove to a pond which, in the past, has had lots of turtles and some otters nearby. We learned here that controlled burning of these fields is soon to take place, and that another log carving had a black rat snake living in it! We learned here that all of these woodworking’s are from dead or fallen over trees and that none of these are cut down to make this art. We traveled to a nearby prairie where we learned about different types of forbs and plants from Brianna, who is very knowledgeable of many types of plants and their purpose! After leaving here we went to a shooting range where there was a large turkey farm nearby that is a big producer of manure during high production times. The turkey farm has a special way of helping breakdown manure which is the use of bacteria to reduce the high amounts of manure and potential toxic byproducts. This was on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina. We then learned about how Brad has been turning horse manure into fertile soil instead of just sending it off as waste. We traveled back and visited another prairie, which had trees that had been planted to see how well they grow in the area, and we also saw a beautiful creek called Thompson Creek. My experience there was calm, peaceful, and was complemented by the sounds of birds, such as blue birds, woodpeckers, and many others. We then traveled to “Inspiration Rock” which is where Brad and his life partner, Pati, had realized they wanted to protect this land and turn it into a conservation preserve. There was an old bridge near the rock which was right on the river. This had to have been the most beautiful part of the property. It was silent, almost as if humanity had never existed. No cars, no planes, no street noise, just pure nature. After we soaked in the lovely view and sounds, we went back to the Learning Center where we discussed for a while longer about what we thought of the place and what Brad expected of us in the future. The property was something so special that when I left, the world didn’t feel real, it felt as if life was artificial. The property is certainly preserved to perfection and gives such a unique experience that I myself have never experienced before.