The increasing number of visitors to Redlair and their range of activities, make some coordination and advance planning necessary.
All potential visiors should read the Redlair User Information and Guidelines.
Applications are reviewed quickly and the approved activities are posted on the Redlair calendar.
The calendar is available to the public on the Redlair website (http://redlair.org/calendar.html).
Redlair has been a center for teaching and research for the past decade, but the pace has accelerated with every passing year. The Rankin family has sought a means to balance the ecological fragility of the property with its desire to give the public an exposure to its biological richness and diversity. The compromise the family hit upon has been to open the property for research and teaching, but not to the general public except on special occasions, such as the annual festival of the Catawba Lands Conservancy. Three years ago, after a meeting at Redlair attended by educators, researchers, and staff members from many universities and environmental organizations, a Redlair Advisory Council was established and has been meeting regularly since. The Council has set up a web site (http://redlair.org), elaborated procedures for conducting research, and is in the process of finalizing a protocol for education groups coming to Redlair. Reflecting the fundamental desire of the family and the Conservancy, the overriding issue that the protocol will address is how to protect Redlair’s ecosystems while affording teachers and researchers flexibility in visiting the property. Up to this point, Haywood Rankin has been the gatekeeper for education groups, doing his best to welcome and guide them while attempting to ensure protection of the property; however, with ever-increasing use of the property, a more rigorous and less personal approach is becoming necessary.
Research and education fall along a spectrum, and it can be difficult to say whether an activity is one or the other. Dr. Missy Eppes of UNC-Charlotte is conducting a year-long project involving expensive equipment measuring the effects of weathering on stone – this is pure research. Dr. Robert Peet of UNC-Chapel Hill is conducting a multi-year, in-depth assessment of vegetation state-wide, with Redlair as a principal site representing the piedmont. At the other end of the spectrum are the Environment, Ecology and Biology classes that come to Redlair, some with as many as 20 or 30 students. The activities of these students range from simply gaining exposure to the natural (and now often rare) natural habitats of the Carolinas piedmont to more intensive and intrusive observation and experimentation. For example, there have been undergraduate students, particularly from Queens University, who have conducted research projects, some of them quite sophisticated. From the standpoint of intrusiveness (or potential level of impact), Dr. Eppes’s project, is complex but nonintrusive, whereas some introductory classes have come to Redlair to sample organisms living among the rocks and leaf litter on the bottoms of streams – an inherently intrusive activity that could impact on-going research .
Queens University is the most active institution among those utilizing Redlair for education purposes. Five professors in its biology and environmental studies departments have brought classes to Redlair this year, typically for multiple visits. Biology professors at Johnson C. Smith and Belmont Abbey also bring introductory classes to Redlair every semester. The Schiele Museum in Gastonia brings elementary school students to Redlair. Once a year, Queens brings high-school teachers of environmental studies to Redlair. Redlair has hosted the occasional group of environmental studies students from local high schools, but secondary-school involvement will not reach its potential until transport and insurance issues, and rigorous procedures, have been worked out. The annual festival of the Catawba Lands Conservancy is also a powerful educational event. Over 1200 people attended the festival held in June 2010, and its principal feature was a plethora of themed hikes led by experts in fields spanning botany, ornithology, geology, hydrology, and mycology. Over the course of any year, Redlair also welcomes an array of groups of nature-lovers, to include wildflower groups, bird-watchers, hiking clubs, and garden societies.
Use of the Redlair Preserve
Education and Research