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Outdoors Great Smoky Mountains Association looks skyward for February’s member events

Michel Skinner, executive director of the Balsam Mountain Trust near Sylva, N.C., along with Freedom the bald eagle, will present the first of two February events sponsored by Great Smoky Mountains Association. For more information about how GSMA membership supports Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org or call 865.436.7318, Ext. 325.Great Smoky Mountains Association is looking toward the sky for both its member events in February, one each in North Carolina and Tennessee.

“Heads Up for Hunters of the Sky” is first on the calendar Thursday, Feb. 6, and will be held at 2 p.m. in the Oconaluftee Multipurpose Room near Cherokee, N.C. Michael Skinner, executive director of the Balsam Mountain Trust near Sylva, N.C., will present this program on bird-of-prey populations and biology in a hands-on lively discussion that showcases non-releasable birds. Participants may meet Freedom the American bald eagle, Rasta the screech owl, Rusty and Chayton the kestrels, Zeus the aerial hawk, and other gorgeous species of regional raptors.

As director of the non-profit environmental education and research arm of Balsam Mountain Preserve, Skinner is responsible for directing natural and cultural resource management, environmental education programming, and scientific research on the preserve. Prior to joining the Balsam Mountain Preserve, he was the Emmy-nominated host of “Georgia Outdoors” on Georgia Public Television. He is an experienced field ecologist, naturalist, nature photographer, environmental educator, taxidermist and musician.

“Heads Up” is limited to the first 50 participants to register by Feb. 5.

Then on Saturday, Feb. 22, Kris Light will present “Jewels From the Sky” in the Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room near Gatlinburg, Tenn. Snow crystals vary greatly in shape, size and clarity depending on conditions in the clouds, according to Light, who has been involved in teaching science outreach programs in the east Tennessee area since 1987. Her program will illustrate the beauty and diversity of these tiny pieces of ice.

“Most crystals are not your typical ‘ski sweater’ snowflakes,” said Light. “You’ll be amazed to see what falls from the clouds during a winter storm.”

“Jewels” is limited to the first 50 members to register by Feb. 20. Cost to attend each event is $10 for GSMA members and $35 for non-members, which includes a complimentary personal or gift membership opportunity.

Great Smoky Mountains Association, the national park’s oldest non-profit funding partner, has provided more than $32 million to support the park’s educational, scientific and historical programs since its inception 60 years ago. Proceeds from the sale of official national park merchandise enhance the visitor experience, as well as benefit the educational and historical programs of the park, said Duff.

For more information about either event in February or how you can enrich your national park experience by becoming a GSMA member, visit SmokiesInformation.org or call 888.898.9102, Ext. 325, 222 or 254.





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