Clay County residents joined with Western Carolina University representatives in celebrating the county’s African-American heritage with the opening of a new exhibit in the Old Jail Museum and a tour of a previously abandoned slave cemetery, both in Hayesville, on Saturday, May 27.
After Leslie Montoya applied for an internship with UNAVCO’s Research Experiences in Solid Earth Sciences program, her father kept telling her she was going to be one of the rare students chosen. When the Western Carolina University senior geology major got the call that she was accepted, he quickly reminded her that, “You didn’t believe me when I said you’d get it,” Montoya recalled.
For more than 30 years, geology professor Steve Yurkovich has taught students history – ancient history. Yurkovich takes them back more than 450 million years to the collision of the North American and African plates that formed the Appalachian Mountains. He has shown them how to read geological clues in the rocks during field trips to rock formations near the Jarrett House in Dillsboro, Arby’s in Sylva, Mount Rogers in Virginia and points further west.
Fast-moving mountain landslides called “debris flows” topped the news in September 2004 when one such slide killed five people in Macon County’s Peeks Creek community, but it is another type of less-understood slope failure that is the focus of a long-term research project involving Western Carolina University geology students and faculty, and the state’s Geological Survey and Department of Transportation.
The U.S. Department of the Interior has awarded a $118,000 grant to a Western Carolina University geologist to develop a systematic process to guide the monitoring of the vast variety of geological resources found in the nation's parks, from Acadia National Park in Maine to Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.