Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Call me crazy! Field trip to Mt. LeConte!
I am so proud of these students. I asked them to do some research on current events in the field of microbiology and several of them began discussing the emergence of the hantavirus out of Yosemite National Park and what a scary scenario that is. Hantavirus is carried by rats and mice; humans are exposed to the virus by breathing in dried feces or urine particles that are in the air in rodent-infested shelters and cabins in Yosemite. According to what I have read recently, this disease is lethal approximately 40% of the time, and survivors may suffer debilitating symptoms long after they have "recovered." My students began making the connection between the rat/mouse infestations in Yosemite Park shelters and cabins with conditions in the part of the Smokies with which some of them are familiar. They wondered if a rodent control program is in place in the LeConte cabins as well as in the shelters along the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.
My students quickly decided that, as a part of our course work in Microbiology, they wanted to think like epidemiologists and investigate the conditions in Yosemite which have allowed the hantavirus to become such a problem and look at ways to prevent similar conditions from developing right in our own park. From that arose the idea that we would actually visit Mt. LeConte to gather information for their project. While we are up there, I hope to be able to get LeConte Lodge employees to meet with my students and provide some insight to whatever programs are in place relevant to rodent control or explain to my students the impediments that prevent such programs. I truly hope that park or lodge employees will appreciate the real-world relevance that such a project provides for these students and will honor my request.
I will be looking for some corporate sponsors to help us purchase things like Clif Bars, bananas, and water bottles. I'll also be looking for a company to provide breakfast biscuits and juice or milk for us to eat on the bus ride up to the trail head. In addition, I would LOVE for someone to donate enough money to purchase each student one of the "I Hiked It" shirts available at the LeConte Lodge store! I'll let you know who steps up and helps us out with this. The transportation and other expenses are more expensive than I thought they would be when I first considered the idea. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them with me as I try to arrange a trip these kids can afford and will enjoy. Also, if you don't mind, pray or hope for great weather for us! :)