Betsy Conger’s Sewanee Report

This past July, I had the opportunity to attend Sewanee’s Environmental Institute (SEI), at Sewanee, the University of the South, in Tennessee.

Sewanee’s campus boasts 13,000 acres located on top of the Cumberland Plateau. The vast campus acts as a living laboratory, which afforded me outdoor, hands-on learning experiences. SEI was attended by 26 rising juniors and seniors who traveled from 11 different states and 2 countries. At camp, I learned about many different ecosystems, plants and animal species, GPS and GIS technology, and conservation strategies. The photos below exhibit highlights from camp. 

The first picture was captured at one of the many lookout points along the perimeter trail, a 22-mile hike around Sewanee’s campus. Hiking the trail gave me a greater appreciation for trail blazing, an activity we later participated in, which involves expansion of the trail’s hiking routes.

My favorite part of camp was spelunking (or caving), an activity that I can’t do in the northeast. Whereas in Tennessee, there are almost 10,000 caves because limestone, which is eroded into caves from acidic groundwater, is very prominent. At the center of the cave, we turned off our head lamps and enjoyed complete darkness and shared scary stories.

Another camp highlight was our visit to Sewanee’s farm to observe how a farm is managed. We met beekeepers and learned how bees select the Queen Bee and create honey, a lesson that taught me how important and influential bees are.

In addition to the photographed highlights, I participated in an astrology night, tagged and released wild mice, went evening herping (the act of searching for amphibians or reptiles), canoed, and visited an archaeology site where we looked for a rock painting from hundreds of years ago. 

I am grateful for the outdoor adventures and valuable insights I experienced at Sewanee’s Environmental Institute. I am excited to bring what I have learned about ecology and conservation back to Fishers Island.

 Betsy Conger, Fishers Island Sentinel