Past Events

Likin’ Lichens

January 5, 2020 1-3pm
High Cove Firefly Lodge
Bakersville, NC

Lichens are an odd bunch. A symbiosis between an algal partner and two different fungal partners, they grow slowly, unobtrusively, on the surface of bark, rocks, soil, and other surfaces. In the depth of winter, when opportunities for botany are sparse, they provide botanists with something interesting to do (besides sit indoors and catch up on ID’ing last summer’s photographs!) They invite us to slow down and take a closer look at their beautiful structures.

Lichens grow best where the air is clean, so come on up to AS IF Center for a lichen hike! The hike will be moderate, about a mile loop, with some elevation gain — but we’ll take it slow. We’ll ID a few and learn from each other. If you bring a camera, you might want to stop to take photos of these beauties. After the hike, we’ll enjoy hot tea in front of a roaring fire at the Firefly Lodge, browse lichen books, and share what we learned.

At High Cove — RSVP for meetup location and directions.

Winter Botany

February 15, 2020, 1-3pm
AS IF Center
Bakersville, NC

Red Oak has striped pajamas. Beech buds are shiny cigars. Black birch smells like wintergreen when you scratch and sniff. The dead of winter isn’t dead at all — millions of tiny apical meristems are growing and forming, folded up neatly in their little buds. It’s a time when we have to look a little bit closer, but the trees still give us lots of clues about who they are. Want to find out more about the wonders of winter botany?

We’ll hike about an hour on trails at AS IF Center — at High Cove in Mitchell County. Using the Winter Botany guide by William Trelease, we’ll identify trees and shrubs using winter clues — bark, buds, and leaf scars. We may also find seed pods leftover from last summer’s wildflowers, like puttyroot, sweet cicely, and burdock.

After our hike, we’ll have tea at AS IF Center and share what we found. Rain/ snow date Sunday, February 16.

At High Cove — RSVP for meetup location and directions.

Walk through Time

November 29 (day after Thanksgiving), 1pm-4pm 
AS IF Center — directions here
Followed by pot luck dessert

How old is the earth? How deep is time? When we read about the era of the dinosaurs or the Big Bang, it’s hard to comprehend how long ago those events took place. Those are big numbers! How do we put them into perspective with human history?

At this event, we will walk a mile and a half round trip along a country road, and use distance as a proxy for time. We will “walk to” the time when the solar system formed, then walk through the geological eras — the emergence of life forms, extinction events, and other key moments in history. Along the way, we’ll pause to reflect the events of each era, and what history can tell us about the present — and the future. What you will learn will surprise you!

When we return to AS IF Center (and the present day) we’ll enjoy a pot luck  dessert (BYO leftovers). After walking through 4.5 billion years or so… you deserve some pie.

SEEDS | Exploration, microscopy, and watercolor

October 13, 2019, 10am-1pm
AS IF Center
Bakersville, NC
$20 per person

This workshop will start with a 30-minute walk and talk focusing on different types of seeds and fruits (dehiscent, fleshy, floating on the wind, sticky, etc.), and the seed dispersal strategies they exhibit. We will collect a few seeds and fruits, and then return to the AS IF lab/ studio to study their details through microscopes and hand lenses. For the remainder of the workshop, we will use watercolor to render seeds and fruits in scientifically accurate detail. Materials will be provided, but feel free to bring your own.

Instructor Nancy Lowe holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is proprietor of Art + Science In the Field: AS IF Center, a science studio/ art lab. Her scientific illustrations and works of art about evolutionary biology have been exhibited in many galleries in the US and Europe. For two decades, she has taught scientific illustration and nature journaling at biological field stations, universities, museums and K-12 schools in the US and Costa Rica, and worked as a research technician in several research labs focusing on pollination biology, microbial symbionts of insects, and large-scale ecology.

All Small

April 13, 2019, 1pm-4pm
(Rain date April 20)
AS IF Center Yellow House
1229 Rebels Creek Rd., Bakersville, NC

Claytonia virginica with bee

When spring comes to the Appalachian mountains (an phenomenon so charming that Aaron Copeland even wrote a beautiful symphonic work to celebrate it), it begins with all the small things — bloodroot and trout lily, bee flies that look like fluffy flying teddy bears, cold little mountain streams. Come investigate the spring awakening of our forest by spending time with all the small things. We’ll hike a little bit (a moderate hike, 2 miles ish, with about 500 feet of elevation gain), then along the way we’ll sit a little bit and draw and make notes about small things we observe. We’ll focus on things that could fit in the palm of your hand (or smaller). What will you notice when you spend ten minutes watching a patch of moss, a single wildflower, or a small section of lichen-covered bark? Bring a nature journal or sketchbook, so you can draw or write about things that fit in the palm of your hand. Bring a loupe or magnifying glass if you have one. We will finish our hike by using microscopes to look at the small things we found, sharing our notes, and munching on some very small snacks. All are welcome, but if you are under 18, bring along a responsible adult.

Your cell phone or GPS may cut out in our mountainous terrain, so study this page for directions before you leave.

RSVP by April 6

What the Trees are Telling Us: a Phenology Citizen Science Project 

March 16, 2019, 1pm-3pm
(Rain date March 23)
High Cove Firefly Lodge
1215 Rebels Creek Rd.
Bakersville, NC 28705

Aesculus flava, the Yellow buckeye, from April 22, 2018.

We will explore nature journaling old school and new. After a short talk in the Firefly Lodge, we will walk in the woods to fill our nature journals and collect data for a citizen science phenology project. Photographic data of bud burst and tree leaf-out can be uploaded to Nature’s Notebook, a website of the National Phenology Network. BRING: Any journal or sketchbook, pen, pencils, color pencils, and/or a cell phone with a camera.

Your cell phone or GPS may cut out in our mountainous terrain, so study this page for directions before you leave.

RSVP  by March 9

Asheville Tempestry Project

February 10, 2019, 5pm-6pm
White Labs Kitchen & Tap
172 S. Charlotte St.
Asheville, NC 28801

In tandem with Asheville Science Tavern, AS IF Center Director Nancy Lowe will introduce the Asheville Tempestry Project.

A series of Tempestries showing maximum daily temperature data for several years.

The Tempestry Project is a global climate mosaic for visualizing yearly data of maximum temperatures. The project was founded by Justin Connelly, Marissa Connelly, and Emily McNeil in Anacortes, WA. Each Tempestry is a scarf-sized knitted wall-hanging that portrays daily maximum temperature data for a specific location over one year.  So that everyone’s Tempestries everywhere can be compared visually with each other, colors are standardized. The Tempestry Project supplies a template that matches temperatures with their corresponding yarn colors.

Yarn colors are standardized to correspond with maximum daily temperatures.

During 2019, AS IF Center will coordinate a series of Tempestries that show max temp data over several years for Asheville, NC.  Asheville is not only our nearest city — it is also headquarters for the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), housing NOAA’s climate data. When the Asheville Tempestry series is complete, the Tempestries will be donated to an Asheville organization that focuses on climate science and science education. It is our hope that they will be displayed where they can help educate the public about climate change.

There are three ways to participate in the Asheville Tempestry Project. You don’t need to know how to knit! You can

  1. Download data from NOAA and populate max temp information in a yarn color spreadsheet (data are automatically converted to the corresponding color). This is fun for people interested in climate data and have some fundamental skills working online …and/or
  2. Knit a Tempestry. The pattern is easy, even for beginners who have never knitted before …and/or
  3. Sponsor a knitter by purchasing their yarn and needles for about $50. Once we connect knitters with sponsors, you will be on your own to work out details. Sponsors please note: Neither AS IF Center nor Asheville Science Tavern will be responsible for any unfinished Tempestry knitting projects. Knitters who can’t finish can send their unfinished project to us and we can try to find another knitter to finish it.

You can also take on a whole project on your own, start to finish — download the data, buy the yarn and needles, and knit one yourself.  You do not have to live in the Asheville area to participate. But please get in touch with us to select which year your panel will represent.

The Asheville Tempestry Project is a great way to learn how to access and visualize NOAA’s climate data, work with your hands and make something beautiful, and make new friends in the process. Interested? To find out more, join us for Asheville Science Tavern’s Second Sundays for Science event on February 10, 2019 at 5pm, at White Labs Kitchen and Tap, in the upstairs community room — or just contact us and we’ll get you started.

Sea Ice and Emperor penguins:
A talk with photo+sphere resident Lynne Buchanan

Lynne on the Kapitan Khlebnikov

On November 2 at 6pm, please join AS IF Center at the Firefly Lodge at High Cove, 1215 Rebels Creek Road, Bakersville, NC, for a presentation by photographer Lynne Buchanan, who will share images of her recent trip to Antarctica. Lynne will be at AS IF Center for a week as the photo+sphere resident, working at the intersection of photography and environmental science.

Lynne says, For my trip to Snow Hill Island, I traveled on the Russian icebreaker the Kapitan Khlebnikov.  It was the first time since 2010 that ship or any ship had been to Snow Hill Island, where there is a large emperor penguin colony. The scientist on board said the Snow Hill Island colony had increased from 4,000 to 8,000 penguins, while in other locations their problem was dwindling. Those who had been on the ship before stated that the sea ice had diminished greatly since the last time they were there.  Emperor penguins are the only creatures to lay their eggs on ice, so dwindling sea ice is a problem for them.”

 Lynne will share her photographs of the emperor penguins and their chicks, some so small they still live on their parent’s feet.  Her slide show will also present images of multi-layered sea ice, as well as large tabular icebergs the size of city blocks that passed by the ship as the passengers were traveling.

Seating is limitedRSVP by Wednesday, October 31 to reserve your spot.

Joe Bigley presentation and Open House at AS IF studios

Please join us Saturday, May 19 at 4pm for a presentation by resident Joe Bigley followed by an Open House at AS IF Center studios. The presentation will be held at High Cove Firefly Lodge; After the talk, join us at AS IF Center’s Yellow House garage and studio facilities, where we will serve light eats. BYOB. Two dollars per person will cover the rental fee for use of the Lodge.

Joe Bigley is an assistant professor of art and sculpture at Spelman College in Atlanta. He received an MFA from Alfred University and has taught at the university level and lived abroad. His creative practice is typically a form of social commentary. He works in various sculpture processes, site specific installation, painting, collage, kinetic works, performance, and digital video. 

Joe Bigley, Product placement (2017), Site-specific Kinetic Installation. Trees (21), Motion Sensor, Motors, Microcontroller, Mixed. 16′ x 18′ x 60′ (Eyedrum Gallery. Atlanta, GA)

At AS IF Center, Joe will focus on two different projects. First, he will continue progress on a 100-work series of collages that incorporate various scientific principles into the text and imagery. Second, he will work on a project in response to present invasive pest species that affect our local forests. He will conduct research on forest ecology, including collaboration with the US Forest Service. The end result of this project will include large scale semi-permanent sculptures installed at High Cove. The installations will highlight the widespread impact of unseen forces on expansive ecosystems, focusing on small organisms such as the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle, Hemlock Wooly Adelgid or Phytophthora ramorum spores which cause Sudden Oak Death. 

Joe Bigley, Conglomeration #8, wood, copper, brass, stone, gut. 16” x 7” x 5”

To get to the event, follow the directions to the Firefly Lodge. If Lodge parking is full, go back onto Rebels Creek, take a right, then in just a few meters take the first right at Castanea Street (at the black studio under construction). Park at the pullout areas off Castanea Street, near the black studio and community garden on the left, or near the barn on the right . For questions, please contact us.

In My Backyard: An art-science talk by Kristen Orr and Kate Fleming


Artists Kristen Orr and Kate Fleming will be in residence at AS IF Center for two weeks this spring. They will give an art-science talk titled “In My Backyard” at the Arts Resource Center on May 5 from 11am-12pm.

This event is co-sponsored by AS IF Center and Toe River Arts and is free of charge.

During their residency in April, Kristen and Kate will be creating a series of prints based on an artistic and scientific research trip they took across North Carolina in May 2017. The artists spent a week visiting seven nature preserves, each within a distinct ecoregion of the state—Roan Mountain, Linville Gorge, Uwharrie National Forest, Weymouth Woods, Green Swamp, Black River, and Carolina Beach State Park. They documented the species, colors, textures, sounds, and smells of each location using a variety of artistic and scientific methods. Using the data they collected on their trip, they are collaborating to create imagery that is representative of each location.

 At the talk on May 5 at the ARC, the artists will share stories from their epic road trip across the state and describe how they used artistic and scientific methods to capture the essence of an ecosystem. Their collected visual data, including notes, sketches, paintings, color swatches, pressed plants, soil samples, and field recording will also be on display.

It is easy to take for granted the place where you live, and sometimes it takes a bit of distance to notice. It took Kristen several years of living away from her home state of North Carolina to properly appreciate all that it had to offer. At a surface level, this project is about highlighting the diverse ecosystems of North Carolina. But even more, it is a project about place, home, and finding value in the things in your own backyard. Kristen and Kate hope that their project serves as a reminder that you don’t have to go far to find wild, unusual, beautiful places.

Kristen and Kate are working on their project with scientific guidance from Dr. Peter Weigl, an ecologist at Wake Forest University and from The Nature Conservancy of North Carolina.

About the artists: Kristen is a multimedia artist and designer from Winston-Salem, NC. She currently works as an exhibit designer for the Museum of Science, Boston and holds a BFA in Industrial Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. Kate is a painter and printmaker based in Arlington, Virginia. She works as an exhibit specialist at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC and graduated from the College of William and Mary. Kristen and Kate met in 2014 while working together at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Since then, they’ve collaborated on a number of projects that have combined their interests in art, science, and place.

We hope you can join us on May 5. RSVP by email to save a spot.

Seeing Animals Through the Trees:
Spotting Candid Critters in North Carolina and Beyond.

Dr. Stephanie Schuttler, postdoctoral research associate at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, will present this talk on Saturday, April 14 at 5pm, at the Firefly Lodge. Suggested donation of $2 to cover facility event fee.

Camera traps, or trail cameras, are remotely activated cameras equipped with a motion sensor that allow us to capture photographs of wildlife with as little human interference as possible. Stephanie’s talk will explain how citizen scientists can participate in the Candid Critters project and work in collaboration with researchers at the Smithsonian Institution and the NC Museum of Natural Science. In addition to sharing photographs from the Candid Critters project, we’ll learn how citizen scientists can be trained for camera trapping and learn about the eMammal software system used for camera trapping. We’ll hear recommendations for camera traps and information about how participants can use their software to look at pictures, identify animals and upload photos to the digital repository for review and archiving at the Smithsonian.  AS IF Center has purchased a trail camera recommended for use with this project, and we will set it up during Stephanie’s visit, if not before. Maybe we can find that alleged cougar!

This event will take place on the porch of High Cove Firefly Lodge. See the directions page and follow directions to the Firefly Lodge, but don’t drive up the left fork – instead, please park at the bottom of the hill where you will see the parking sign. You do not need tickets but you DO need to RSVP because we need an accurate head count in advance – PLEASE email us by Saturday, April 6 if you plan to attend.

Your $2 per person donation will cover the Lodge event fee.

Weaving Research into Creative Writing: Two Events

Writer Cynthia Reeves is the 2018 “Art of the Climate” resident AS IF Center. Her current writing project is a trilogy of linked novellas entitled The Comfort of Water. All three are set on the Svalbard archipelago, where in June 2017 she shared the Arctic Circle Summer Solstice expedition with 31 other artists. Cynthia is pleased to offer two events, co-sponsored by AS IF Center and Toe River Arts — a workshop on using science in creative writing, and a talk about her adventures in the Arctic and how they have inspired her writing.

See article about these events in Asheville Citizen-Times.

WORKSHOP: Making the Leap from Fact to Fiction 
This workshop will focus on finding inspiration for creative writing in “fact” and incorporating research into fiction. We will address questions such as: How do you write authentically about subjects with which you might be only tangentially familiar? Why do certain subjects–climate change and historical events, for example–intrigue you? How can that fascination be put to use in your writing?

TALK: Of Ice Floes, Whale Bones, and Abandoned Mines: Close Encounters from the Arctic Circle Summer Solstice Expedition
Saturday, March 17, 4:00pm-5:00pm

The author writes: “That one can ‘live’ on an ice floe—at least for the time the floe remains intact—is fascinating to me. During our trip, we anchored to an ice floe so that I was able to experience what that would be like, the dangers inherent in it, the way it moves without you noticing.”

This talk will reflect the ways in which travel and research inspire Cynthia’s work. She will share photos and personal experiences from her Arctic Circle residency aboard the schooner Antigua, and will read from her work-in-progress inspired by encounters from that residency. One impetus from her trip that shaped her project were serendipitous comments from her fellow artist-shipmates as they wound down their adventure. They would say: This is our “last landing,” our “last beach,” and “our last glacier.” The idea of there being a “last glacier” jogged something in her mind—tying the idea of climate change and its potential impacts directly to her work. The stunning and otherworldly beauty of the Arctic landscape was also a source of inspiration, especially contemplating what would be lost if that landscape continues to be compromised.

Moth Party
John Pickering 

July 9, 2016, 8pm – midnight

How will climate change, land use, and other large-scale impacts effect species? Discover Life’s Mothing is a citizen science project that hopes to answer some of these ecological questions. Join John Pickering and other entomologists, ecologists, amateur lepidopterists, and members of Asheville Science Tavern on the porch of the Firefly Lodge as we set up a moth light, enjoy light eats and drinks, and wait for the moths to fly in. BYOB, and BYO camera if you have one with good macro. No fee.