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BIO 480 : Spring 2014

Field studies in biology

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Day 02 | Sunday, March 2, 2014

Today was awesome! The weather was beautiful, decently warm, and we got to enjoy being outside!

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Our first stop was to Jockey’s Ridge State Park where we got to explore the park and also conducted a “bio blitz”, which is a survey to list all species in an area. This activity gave us the opportunity to look at small details, like animal tracks, and the extensive diversity within the varying habitats. Thickets were patchy throughout the dune area which was not what we expected. The dunes were very impressive. They rise 80-100 ft above sea level depending on wind direction and season. Standing on the dune gives the impression of being in the desert because it is a barren field of sand. The sand dunes can change shape and direction throughout the year. The history behind the park was really interesting to us. The name Jockey’s Ridge is thought to come from early inhabitants racing wild horses at the base of the dune while people watched from the high dune.  

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After a quick lunch, we headed towards Corolla and the horse tour, but since we were early we made a detour to see Currituck lighthouse. This lighthouse is the only red brick lighthouse in the Outer Banks and is made up of over 1 million bricks. To keep the light burning 24/7, they originally used whale oil, then kerosene, before finally going electric. Each lighthouse has a different lighting sequence so that sailors can tell them apart at night. The lighting sequence for Currituck lighthouse is 3 seconds on and 12 seconds off. We explored the park around the lighthouse and took pictures by the bridge and in a beautiful live oak. Also on the site is a functioning, one-room school house that is used today for grades kindergarten through sixth, and the lighthouse keeper’s house.

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Next came the horse tour. WHAT (Wild Horse Adventure Tour) made the day amazing. We rode in an open air vehicle through the dunes to find wild horses. Dave, our tour guide, told us that the horses originated from Spanish ships dumping them when trying to lighten their loads to get off the sand bars. When the horse population became too large the government put a bounty on horses because they were starving. Now there are 130 individuals living on the 8000 acres of land. The painted horse sculptures that can be seen around town were sold to raise money for the acreage needed for the horses. During the tour, we got to see several small herds of horses totaling 17 individuals in all.  We also saw a harbor seal which was one of the highlights of the tour. Dave drove us all the way to the northern fenced area which divides North Carolina and Virginia. He also told us about all the interesting people who live back behind the dunes where there are no paved roads and no stores. Beer-Can Bill, the hoarder; Gravedigger (the monster car driver); and Larry the Wrecker, were just a few of the colorful people who live there. The southern part of the horse area reserve is interesting because there is live ammunition from bombing practice during WWII. No development is permitted but the horses can roam freely and people are allowed to hunt if they use a shotgun or bow and arrow. There was an amazing rental house that had 26 rooms, 21 bathrooms and is rented for $26,000/week!
For dinner we went to the Outer Banks Brewing Station which claims to be the first brew pub to have a wind turbine on the property. The owner had to fight for years to get the permit to install the turbine. He finally realized that they had to get into politics. They helped get a new mayor and three commissioners elected which then facilitated getting the permits to install the wind turbine. One of the interesting rules that they have to abide by is to provide sufficient land so that if the turbine were to fall in any direction, it would fall within the property. The wind turbine the owner wanted to build was 120 ft high but this was too large for his property so he had to settle for an 80 ft tall one. The turbine has a tail mechanism to resist high winds that folds to an 89°angle when winds exceed 34 mpg. This causes the turbine to slow down. The food was amazing and the beer was delightful and definitely worth the stop!

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That night we sat around and talked about our day and made plans for the next day. It was the first time we collaborated as a group. Today was a definitely a bonding day for us.

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