Scientists, students and backyard naturalists can now explore, within seconds, the range and more of Georgia’s most rare animals and plants.

A new Georgia Wildlife Resources Division web portal blends the agency’s data on occurrences and natural communities with interactive maps to document the in-state ranges of more than 1,250 species, from coldwater darters to velvet sedge.

Viewers can zoom and pan ranges defined using seven map units such as counties and watersheds. Occurrences are color-coded by time, according to portal creator Greg Krakow, conservation data manager for Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section. Also shown: where a species possibly has been extirpated or introduced. (To protect species and landowners, specific sites are not marked.)

The result for researchers and simply the curious is a detailed view of where a plant or animal has been found in Georgia. “This is a more information-rich range map than anything I’ve seen,” Krakow said.

In the works for years and debuted this spring, the project is based on NatureServe Biotics, the state’s most comprehensive database of rare species occurrences and natural communities. The data are used for everything from environmental site reviews to conservation planning and habitat restoration. The Nongame Conservation Section, part of the state Department of Natural Resources,  manages Biotics.

The map portal at www.georgiawildlife.org/about_rare_species_range_maps also links to rare species profiles, lists the conservation status of each species and connects to NatureServe overviews of the plants and animals. NatureServe is a data conservation network that monitors the status of species in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. DNR is a member.

There are limits to the system, Krakow said. The focus is on occurrences and habitat areas significant to conserving a species.

There also are data gaps. Nongame Conservation Section Chief Jon Ambrose suggested that the maps for some taxonomic groups, such as rare plants, freshwater fishes and mussels, provide a more complete picture than those for more wide-ranging animals such as birds. But, Ambrose said, “We’re continually doing surveys and regularly updating the database.”

Krakow calls the data dynamic. “There’s a lot of information that we need to add to this.”

Yet what is in the database, and even what’s not, can help target surveys and other conservation projects. And the map portal is flexible, allowing system-wide updates in a few clicks.

Krakow is switching an agency webpage that lists rare species by county to the new system. He is also basking in some well-deserved praise for the range maps portal. Included is a second-place award in an international map contest at NatureServe’s annual conference in April.

The range maps portal is one example of Nongame Conservation Section efforts to conserve Georgia’s endangered and other wildlife not legally fished for or hunted, as well as rare plants and natural habitats. For this vital work, the agency depends primarily on fundraisers, grants and contributions.

Public support is critical. Georgians can help by:

  • Purchasing or renewing a DNR eagle or hummingbird license plate. Most money from sales and renewals is dedicated to nongame conservation. Upgrade to a “wild” tag for only $25!
  • Contributing to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund when filing state income taxes – line 26 on Form 500 or line 10 on Form 500EZ. Giving is easy and any amount helps.
  • Donating directly to the agency. Details at georgiawildlife.com/conservation/support.

Learn more about nongame in Georgia:  www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/annualreport.

Grand opening for new Piedmont College student center is Aug. 21

Piedmont College freshman Kyndal Goss of Demorest, left, and junior Osmond Robinson of Knoxville, Tennessee, checked out the new Student Commons that opened this week at the Demorest campus.

Students returning to the Piedmont College campus in Demorest for the fall semester are exploring a brand new student center featuring everything from a new dining hall and coffee shop, to a new bookstore, racquetball court, and even a rock climbing wall.

The Student Commons, a 58,000-square-foot, steel and glass building located at 375 Georgia Street in Demorest, opened Aug. 10 just as students returned to classes for the start of the 2015-16 school year. The building also includes a banquet hall, a gymnasium with walking track, a new fitness center, and offices for a variety of student services.

Piedmont will hold a grand opening for the new facility at 5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 21, and everyone is invited. “The community is welcome to use many features of the Student Commons,” said Piedmont President James F. Mellichamp. “The dining hall, which is operated by Chartwells, is open to the public, as is the Starbucks coffee shop and the Barnes & Noble book store,” he said.

Kyndal Goss, a freshman from nearby Mt. Airy, says she was impressed by the new Student Commons even while it was under construction. “I love it—so modern and cool,” she said. “I like the new dining hall and the food court. When I was looking at colleges, this drew me in. I think it will be a big thing for everybody.”

Mellichamp agrees that the building, located between the main academic buildings and the residence halls and athletic facilities, will be the new focal point for the Piedmont campus. “It is equal to—or better—than student centers at larger colleges in the Southeast, and I think it will improve the college experience for all of our students and the faculty and staff as well,” he said.

Mellichamp said the new student center was badly needed, especially as Piedmont has experienced record growth in its incoming freshman classes for the past three years, and as new residence halls have opened on campus. The college currently houses more than 650 students on campus and added space for about 180 more in a new cluster of 12 apartment-style buildings that will also open for the fall semester.

Firms involved in the construction of the Student Commons include architects Beck Design of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Walter P. Moore engineering of Dallas, Texas; and Scroggs & Grizzel Contracting of Gainesville, Georgia.

Emily Pettit, Piedmont Dean of Student Engagement, said the new buidling will help students on many fronts. “This centralized facility will be a place to gather for meals, coffee, fitness, recreation, and student activities,” Pettit said. “Students can push themselves outside their comfort zone as they try out the rock wall or build their leadership skills by getting involved in co-curricular activities. Having these opportunities under one roof provides more ways for students to connect and have shared experiences, building our Lion Pride.”


US Postal Service honors Coast Guard with Forever Stamp

US Postal Service honors Coast Guard with Forever Stamp

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — The U.S. Postal Service honored the U.S. Coast Guard Friday during a dedication ceremony at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City.

Rear Adm. James Heinz, Director of Operational Logistics, Cmdr. Bruce Brown, Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City commander and Denise Edmonds, marketing manager for USPS, unveiled the 2015 Coast Guard Forever stamp during the ceremony.

The stamp honors the Coast Guard for its role in protecting the security of the nation and advancing its maritime interests. The stamp also celebrates the Coast Guard’s 225th Birthday and the 75th anniversary of Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City.

Collectable envelopes and stamps were available for purchase after the event.