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WCU’s Fine Art Museum to present exhibit of works by iconic artist, alumnus

The Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University is presenting an exhibition of paintings, miscellaneous art and memorabilia by the late Joel Morris, a WCU alumnus and an iconic character who was fond of Cullowhee. The “Artist and Friend” exhibit will be on display beginning Thursday, Sept. 8, with an opening reception scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. The showing ends Friday, Sept. 16.

Expert Highlight

Brian Byrd

Associate Professor of Environmental Health

Brian Byrd, associate professor of environmental health sciences at Western Carolina University and supervisor of the Mosquito and Vector-Borne Infectious Disease Facility in WCU’s School of Health Sciences, provides expert commentary on regional health concerns like the prevalency of La Crosse encephalitis in North Carolina, especially in the western counties.

Byrd also serves an adviser to the Division of Public Health’s Communicable Disease Branch of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

He began his academic journey in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Byrd received his bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of North Carolina at Asheville before traveling south to New Orleans, where he earned his master’s of science degree in public health and his doctorate in parasitology at Tulane University.

Byrd’s interest in parasitology began to focus on mosquitoes and the diseases they carry during an outbreak of the West Nile virus. After Hurricane Katrina disrupted the ecology of the Gulf Coast, he began to concentrate on mosquito genetics.

The progress of Byrd’s studies and career can be found in a 2009 article in Western Carolina Magazine, and an interview in WCU’s faculty and staff newsletter. In 2015, he was part of a team that discovered the mosquito species Aedes pertinax in the United States for the first time. Most recently, he has advised state health officials about the threat of the Zika virus.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Bill Studenc, director of communications and public relations, at 828.227.3083 or; or Randall Holcombe, director of news services, at 828.227.3086 or