What is Episode 144 all about?
The Appalachian Mountain Range in Eastern North America spans 1,500 miles from Newfoundland Island in Canada to central Alabama in the United States. Formed 480 million years ago, the Appachales were historically as tall as the mighty Rocky Mountains in Western North America and the Alps in Europe.
The Appalachians are also one of the most biodiverse regions in North America. Countless fauna and flora call these mountains home, most notably salamanders and other amphibians that need moist environments and leaf cover to thrive.
However, these mountains have undergone intense deforestation and modification since Europeans first arrived in the 1500s. Several charismatic species were extirpated from the region, including one of North America’s most famous deer species: elk. The last Eastern elk was shot in the mid-1800s, and the mountains fell silent for nearly a century and a half.
Today, elk are back in the Appalachians thanks to dedicated conservationists and state governments working together to restore elk populations. As you can imagine, though, undertaking such a huge endeavor was not without challenges, and growing elk herds in a densely populated area of the United States is also not an easy task.
So, how was elk brought back to the state of Tennessee in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains? What went into finding a source population, relocating the herd, and growing the herd after it was established in its new home? And, most importantly, how are they faring today?
To teach us about elk restoration in the Appalachians, in this episode, I’m sitting down with Lisa Muller, PhD, Professor and Assistant Director in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Tennessee. Lisa was part of the team that arranged the elk relocation in the early 2000s and has been in charge of monitoring the herd ever since. She knows these elk better than anyone else and is passionate about helping the herd grow and thrive.
Lisa and I have a fantastic time exploring her story and how she became the lead of the elk restoration project in Tennessee, the history of elk in the Appalachians, the day elk returned to Tennessee’s mountains, the innovative conservation tech she and her team is using to monitor the herd, her struggles along the way, and her hopes for the future.
Super fun note. Lisa was actually introduced to me by the same person that wrote a new review for the show, Eric Shiflett! Eric was a part of our first listener meet-up and gave so much great feedback for me to employ to make the show even better.
On Apple Podcasts, Eric said, “These podcasts are a great way to learn new and different topics about our natural world. Listening to episodes while vegetation sampling certainly makes the time go by faster. Brooke is a naturally enthusiastic human and it shows through her hosting style. Each episode has a good balance of scientifically driven information without being too overwhelming for listeners that may not have a background in wildlife or research. Nerds like me love the numbers, though!”
Oh, yes, Eric. I love diving into good science without making everyone’s eyes glaze over. Please enjoy this fun, science-filled conversation with Lisa.
Listen to this episode.
Watch this episode on YouTube.
Lisa in the Field
Links & Resources
- Aerial Elk by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (YouTube Video)
- Researchers with the School of Natural Resources use helicopter capture for deer monitoring study to collect data on COVID-19, Chronic Wasting Disease and other disease transmission | UT School of Natural Resources
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