Science in Personal and Social Perspective.

Plants and People - Appalachian Expedition Part 2

You are amazed at how many useful plants there are in the mountains. The fact that plants like ginseng are rare is a reminder, though, that the variety of useful plants available in the mountains today is nothing like what it used to be. Traditionally, most collectors were local people who harvested enough for their families. Sometimes they would gather additional plants to sell in the local market. In recent years, however, there has been increased global demand for natural products like medicinal herbs. This has brought outside collectors to the mountain.

Plants and People - Appalachian Expedition Part 1

When you step out of your tent, the rain-soaked landscape reminds you that a storm blew through camp during the night. It's a little cloudy out, but the sun is already trying to break through. Before long the rest of your teammates are awake and you gather around the fire, eating toast with butter and drinking hot tea. Now that you know a little bit about the people of Blair Mountain and have seen their natural landscape, you begin to think about the relationship between the two. Do these mountain people use the natural resources found on Blair Mountain to survive?

Mountains as Biodiversity Hotspots - Appalachain Expedition Part 2

Mountain logging site. Photo: Library of CongressYou've just been fortunate to witness the incredible diversity of plant life on Blair Mountain. Unfortunately, many of these plants are in danger. In addition to the threat of mountaintop mining, these plants are threatened by logging, agricultural practices, and tourist activities. These threats exist because people have discovered the vast resources-from fun to wood-that mountains have to offer and they are taking advantage of them.

Mountains as Biodiversity Hotspots - Himalayan Expedition Part 2

You've just been fortunate to witness the incredible diversity of life in Makalu-Barun National Park. Unfortunately, many of these plant and animal species are in danger. In addition to the degradation of forests and grasslands from cattle grazing, deforestation is taking place as trees are removed for fuelwood. You and your team even brought a camping stove to cook with so you wouldn't increase the pressure on these forests. More pressure comes from the illegal hunting of wildlife and harvesting of wild plants by outsiders.

Mountains as Biodiversity Hotspots - Appalachain Expedition Part 1

The Expedition Begins

The Appalachians. Photo: TMIAfter weeks of planning and preparation, your expedition is finally going to begin. First you land at Logan County airport in Ethel, West Virginia. After renting a car, you drive 20 miles to the town of Hetzel.

Hetzel, the closest town to Blair Mountain, is where you will spend a day making final preparations for your expedition.

Module 2: Teacher's Guide

Time: 9 days, 30-60 minutes/day

Overview: Students begin their expedition by investigating local and mountain biodiversity and exploring the environmental threats and conservation measures related to the biodiversity of these two areas.

Objectives: To become familiar with local native plants through the investigation of and comparison to native plants in the mountain environment.

National Standards Addressed (attached below)

Catching the Rain


Students will:

  • discover the impact of soil conditions on rainwater absorption
  • learn gardening practices to help increase moisture absorption

Central Concepts

Water does not penetrate well in some soil conditions, causing runoff and erosion.


The Benefits of Native Plants


Students will:

  • learn that some plants are better adapted to survive in their local environment than others.
  • discover that well adapted plants grow better with less maintenance.
  • develop a list of landscape plants recommended for your site conditions.

Central Concepts

Using plants adapted for your environment helps create a sustainable landscape and makes better use natural and financial resources.

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