Hunting for snakes and tardigrades, also known as water bears, is the lure to
hook people on driving to DeSoto State Park this weekend, according to Renee
Morrison, JSU Field Schools director.
JSU Field Schools is sponsoring activities at the park near Fort Payne as
part of a family weekend for people who want to learn more about nature.
“We’re giving (people) options instead of sitting indoors,” she said.
The tours on Friday and Saturday are free, though a hike through the canyon
on Saturday will cost $5.
The first tour, titled “Can snakes crawl backwards? (and other creepy
stuff!)” begins at 7 p.m. Friday.
Morrison said the timing of the tour is fitting because the seasonal
slithering has started.
“This time of year the snakes are moving. It’s a great time to learn about
venomous versus non-venomous snakes,” she said, explaining that the educational
emphasis will include teaching people not to kill them unnecessarily.
Around 40 people have already signed up for the canyon hike which will
include eight guides, she said, so the numbers will not be limited.
On Saturday a session will take place at 7 p.m. about microscopic animals
that live in water called tardigrades, or water bears.
Frank Romano, head of the biology department at JSU, will guide the hike.
Romano said he plans on looking at samples with the group, who he hopes will
share his enthusiasm for them as “really cute little critters.”
The name “water bears” derives from their aquatic habitat and hulking
appearance in which they appear to have paws, said Romano.
Romano is one of the only people in the United States studying the creatures,
“The fascinating bit for me is, how do you study the ecology of an animal you
The next family weekend at DeSoto State Park, scheduled on Oct. 26 and 27,
will include ghost stories and hiking, said Morrison.
Partnering ecotourism with the park’s resources is crucial for promoting
awareness and engendering success, she said.
To register call 782-5697 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Matthew Kasper
Matthew Kasper covers Jacksonville, Piedmont,
Ohatchee and Alexandria for the Star.
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com