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Coming Home to Clemson

Fall has arrived in Clemson. A hint of color is beginning to show in the trees, evening temperatures are cooling off (just ever so slightly) and the First Friday Parade has come and gone. Every Friday, but more so on game weekends, traffic picks up as alumni returning to campus cruise down College Avenue with tops down and windows open.

Conversations on the street vary, but at least once in every block, you hear snippets that reference the Study Hall or Capri’s, Chanello’s or the Fashion Shack. Judge Keller’s and Mr. Knickerbocker and the Athletic Department have customers 2-3 deep replacing worn-out t-shirts and sweatshirts, and selecting baby-sized Tiger apparel for new members of the family. Stocking up on items (orange items, that is) that you don’t find just anywhere.

Like everywhere, Clemson has changed over the years, both the campus and the town. With growth in enrollment has come growth on campus — new residence halls, classroom buildings and athletic facilities. In town, restaurants and bars have changed names and menus, and more neighborhoods and apartments are built every year. But if you spend some time here, re-trace your favorite path through campus and stroll down College Avenue and onto side streets, we’re betting you’ll still find a lot of those places that will spark memories and stories your kids have never heard.

So, as you’re making plans for this fall, take time to return to Clemson.

It still feels like home.

10 THINGS NOT TO MISS ON CAMPUS

ICE CREAM IN THE ’55 EXCHANGE: Yes, it’s real Clemson ice cream, even if it’s not sold out of Newman Hall. A double scoop of peach ice cream will still have you drooling before you get your spoon in it. You can get real Clemson blue cheese at the same spot. If you have a yen to see where it all began, you can make it to Stumphouse Tunnel in less than an hour. While you’re there, don’t miss the opportunity to hike down Issaqueena Falls.

CARILLON GARDEN: Nestled between Sikes and Tillman halls and overlooking the library, Carillon Garden was given to the University by the Class of ’43 and is dedicated as a lasting tribute to the entire class, particularly to those who lost their lives during World War II.

MEMORIAL PARK AND SCROLL OF HONOR: Across from Memorial Stadium, Memorial Park pays tribute to alumni who have served the state and nation in fields ranging from agriculture to the military. The Scroll of Honor is maintained by the Clemson Corps and honors alumni who gave their lives in service to country.

FOOTBALL PRACTICE FACILITY: Dedicated in 2013, this 80,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the football practice fields and indoor track facility includes a full-sized synthetic turf football field.

LIFE SCIENCES BUILDING: Facing Cherry Road, just adjacent to the P&A building, this facility houses researchers in microbiology, biochemistry, food safety and genetics who are collaborating to solve the world’s problems.

HOWARD’S ROCK: Not quite as large as it was originally, the rock now has video surveillance to make sure it doesn’t fall victim to vandals again. Originally from Death Valley, Calif., the rock was first placed on a pedestal at the top of the hill in 1966. Players rub it for luck as they run down the hill before each home game.

PRESIDENT’S PARK: Located in front of the President’s Home and extending through the Azalea Gardens to Sikes Hall, this is one of the most beautiful places on campus. Housed in the park is the President’s Park Rotunda. In conjunction with the Class of 1957, the rotunda was built to portray Clemson’s historical responsibilities of teaching, research and public service.

BOWMAN FIELD: Bring your Frisbee, your football, your blanket or just your best relaxed self. Spend some time on Bowman Field and relive your days on Clemson’s green beach.

WALK DOWN HWY 93 PAST HISTORIC RIGGS FIELD: You can now do that without fearing for your life, thanks to a newly constructed pedestrian walkway.

FORT HILL: Learn a little history while you’re here, and tour Fort Hill, the home of John C. Calhoun and later of his son-in-law, University founder Thomas Green Clemson and his wife Anna Maria. A registered National Historic Landmark, it’s located in the center of campus. Open Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–noon and 1–4:30 p.m., Sun, 2-4:30 p.m.

WHAT’S STILL HERE

Sure, things have changed here — but not everything. Regardless of when you graduated from Clemson, you’ll find an old favorite haunt still open, if updated. Here’s just a sampling:

JUDGE KELLER’S (1899): It’s been in its current location since 1936, and about the only things that have changed are the faces behind the register and the style of the t-shirts.

ESSO CLUB (1933): A service station at its beginning, this was the only place in Clemson where you could sit down and have a beer between 1956–1958. Legend has it that the bar top is made of old stadium seats from Death Valley. In 1997, Sports Illustrated named it one of the top sports bars in the country.

MAC’S DRIVE-IN (1965): Built by the late Mac McKeown ’56, Mac’s is still serving burgers and fries on Pendleton Road. Make sure you ask for a milkshake while you’re there.

M.H. FRANK (1970): Billing themselves as “Updated Traditional Men’s Clothiers,” the folks at M.H. Frank have been making sure Clemson men are ready for every occasion for more than 40 years.

PIXIE & BILL’S (1971): Offering steak, prime rib and seafood, it’s been called “Clemson’s original fine dining establishment.” Co-eds used to say that a trip to Pixie and Bill’s (or its sister restaurant Calhoun Corners) was a sign that a relationship was getting serious.

MR. KNICKERBOCKER (1973): Opened as a men’s clothier in 1973, the store shifted to carry fraternity and sorority apparel as well as Clemson merchandise and hand-sewn jerseys.

TIGER SPORTS SHOP (1974): Opened by legendary soccer coach I.M. Ibrahim, the store grew from selling shoes to offering a wide range of Clemson apparel and memorabilia.

ALLEN’S CREATIONS (1976): Begun in Trent Allen’s basement, it’s been in the current location since 1988, providing art prints and framing for all things Clemson.

TIGER TOWN TAVERN (1977): It’s expanded since it opened in the 1970s to include outside seating and a second-floor private club, but you can still play a game of pool while you catch up with friends.

NICK’S (1976): Opened by Nick Vatakis and Milton Antonakos on the site of what used to be Pat Belew’s Gold Nugget, Nick’s is now owned/managed by Esther Revis-Wagner and her husband Ken, a retired biology
professor.

COLUMBOS’ (1984): Tucked behind the National Guard Armory on Pendleton Road, Columbo’s has been serving Chicago-style pizza and calzones since the early 1980s.

TDS (1988): Offering daily specials plus a “meat and three” for lunch, TDs also is the spot for occasional live music on the weekends.

TIGERTOWN GRAPHICS (1988): There’s a good chance your student group got their shirts designed and printed here.

VARIETY & FRAME (1992): Specializing in custom-designed diploma frames, Variety & Frame also offers a wide range of Clemson memorabilia and art supplies.

POT BELLY DELI (1994): Tucked behind the Rite Aid on Wall Street, Pot Belly almost always has a line of students waiting for sandwiches or a breakfast burrito.

SARDI’S DEN (1994): Started by Louis and Gale Sardinas in 1994, Sardi’s was purchased by alums Irv Harrington and Mike McHenry in 1995. Sardi’s specializes in ribs but has a host of daily specials.

BLUE HERON (2002): Serving steaks, seafood and sushi, Blue Heron also has a downstairs bar with daily specials and live entertainment.

MELLOW MUSHROOM (2000): It’s part of the chain, but doesn’t really feel like it since it occupies the former Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house, which was condemned in 1999. Creative remodeling and a sense of humor combined for the current interior design.

SMOKIN’ PIG (2009): Only open Thursday–Saturday, this family-owned barbecue spot has quickly become a Clemson tradition.

10 FUN THINGS TO DO WHILE YOU’RE IN CLEMSON

Play a round of golf at the 18-hole championship JOHN E. WALKER SR. GOLF COURSE, with its signature Tiger Paw hole. Call 864-656-0236 to set up a tee time.

Spend an afternoon at the SOUTH CAROLINA BOTANICAL GARDEN (take a picnic). Almost 300 acres, it includes formal and informal gardens, woodlands, ponds, walking trails and garden structures such as the nature-based sculpture program. Pick up a map at the Fran Hanson Discovery Center.

The “90 MINUTES BEFORE KICK-OFF CONCERT.” Tiger Band leads this pep rally in the amphitheater before every game. Then head over for Tiger Walk to cheer on the football team as they arrive.

Sit in a swing at ABERNATHY PARK overlooking Hartwell Lake. Built in 2004 to honor the late Clemson mayor (and Clemson professor), Larry Abernathy, the park includes walkways, boardwalks, picnic tables and boat docks.

STUMPHOUSE TUNNEL AND ISSAQUEENA FALLS (or broaden out and check out the other waterfalls close by). It’s worth the drive to see the birthplace of Clemson Blue Cheese.

HIKE THE FOOTHILLS TRAIL. Not the entire 76 miles from Table Rock State Park to Oconee State Park, but you can find sections that range from easy to strenuous. The University has been involved since its inception, and students recently constructed an accessible viewing platform at Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in S.C. Map of Foothills trail.

Take a hike or a bike ride in the EXPERIMENTAL FOREST. It’s large: 17,500 acres dedicated to education, research and demonstration. There are trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. See maps and pdfs of the Clemson Experimental Forest trails and waterfalls at clemson.edu/cafls/cef/maps_of_trails.html.

Take a picture under the CENTENNIAL OAK, the largest bur oak in South Carolina and believed to be more than 100 years old. Four feet shorter than it was in 1988, it’s considered “over mature.” That means you need to take your picture this year, not next.

Wander through CEMETERY HILL. It’s a favorite place to tailgate, and it’s full of Clemson history. If you’re a cemetery buff, you might find some headstones worth a rubbing. Take a virtual tour.

If it’s GAME DAY, get to campus early and enjoy the excitement. There’s nothing like it anywhere else.

 

Clemson Engages Students in Public Art Initiative

THIS SPRING, CLEMSON UNVEILED THE UNUSUAL FINAL PRODUCT of a Creative Inquiry class: “The Clemson Genus Project,” a public art installation by internationally recognized artist Klari Reis spanning the three atriums of the life sciences building.

The CI class, called Atelier InSite, was the brainchild of art professor David Detrich and his colleagues Joey Manson and Denise Woodward-Detrich. While most public art programs have an experienced board of directors selecting artwork, these professors envisioned a different model, one that engaged and educated students. The word “atelier” is derived from the French word meaning “workshop” or “studio.” Atelier describes the atmosphere and attitude toward the installation and development of public art on campus.

 

“Atelier InSite is uniquely Clemson because we’re engaging students as the primary generator of this project,” said Detrich, adviser to the Atelier InSite students. “You see a lot of top-20 schools with similar programs, but those are not student driven. We want to establish a precedent for student engagement in similar programs.”

Faculty recruited art and life sciences students for the course, where they researched the nature of public art, investigated the design-build process, conducted a site analysis and identified site locations for artwork. When they put out a request for proposals, they received more than 200 applications from artists. They chose Reis because of her attention to detail and ability to fulfill the goals of the project.

The artist allowed the public to name each of the 600 individual paintings, so students, faculty, staff and friends were able to suggest titles. A legend is on display so visitors can see the names given to each one. The paintings were done in petri dishes and depict microscopic images similar to those studied in scientific research.

The public art initiative is the mandate of the design guidelines for current and future campus projects that stipulate, “All capital development projects that are anticipated to exceed two million dollars will consider the benefits of public art and will apply ½ of 1 percent of the construction budget for such work.” As a result, plans are underway to identify other artists for existing and new projects in the following buildings: Lee III, the Watt Family Innovation Center, ONE, the WestZone and the renovated Littlejohn Coliseum. In the process, the Atelier InSite program, along with the Department of Art and the Center for Visual Arts, will be collaborating with all five colleges as well as athletics.

Additional information about the art installation can be viewed at http://clemsongenus.blogspot.com. And find more information here about public art at Clemson.

Performing arts programs inspire imaginations

Robert Allen ’08 has achieved something that many people only dream of — he’s made it to Broadway. You won’t see him under the spotlight, though. He is a sound engineer, working on various Broadway and off-Broadway productions, sometimes traveling with touring companies, to make the performers on stage sound amazing for their audiences.

Allen graduated in performing arts with a concentration in audio technology, but he had been attending programs at Clemson’s Brooks Center for the Performing Arts for years before enrolling at Clemson.

Allen was one of the thousands of children who file into the seats at the Brooks Center every year to enjoy performances of classical music, children’s plays, dance and more, made possible by the Bill and Donna Eskridge Tri-ART Series.

“I think Tri-ART’s primary influence would have to be the creation of a ‘comfort zone’ with the performing arts,” said Allen. “If it weren’t for my early exposure to theater, I may have shied away from studying at the Brooks Center and pursuing a career in the arts.”

That’s the kind of impact Bill and Donna Eskridge wanted to have when they decided to endow the Tri-ART program. The couple were introduced to the Brooks Center shortly after retiring to Lake Keowee in 1993. After learning about the Tri-ART program and its funding needs, they decided to support it by creating an endowment. They have also decided to include the program in their estate plans, to ensure that it will continue to inspire children for generations.

“It’s probably the best investment we’ve ever made,” Bill said. “I have a framed quote at home that says, ‘A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the kind of car I drove … but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.’ That’s the significance of the Tri-ART program, and why we wanted to support it.”

Each year, the Brooks Center hosts 18 Tri-ART programs, with an annual attendance of about 13,000 children. Children are able to attend the programs for $2, and some programs are free.

“There is nowhere else in this country where children can see events of this quality for just $2,” said Lillian “Mickey” Harder, director of the Brooks Center. “We are enriching the lives of thousands of children, and Bill and Donna Eskridge have made that happen.”

Construction begins on Watt Center; Haworth partnership announced

The University has begun construction of a four-story, 70,000-square-foot Watt Family Innovation Center that will transform student lives and the academic center of campus. It is made possible in part by a gift from the Watt family of Kennesaw, Ga. — Charles ’59 and his wife, Linda; son, Steve ’81, and his wife, Pam ’83; and son, Mike ’84, and his wife,
Kim ’85.

President Clements welcomes Haworth President and CEO Franco Bianchi to the podium.

President Clements welcomes Haworth President and CEO Franco Bianchi to the podium.

In May, the University announced a partnership between the Watt Center and Haworth Inc., an innovative international company in furniture and organic workspace design and products. The partnership is a comprehensive engagement in collaborative research activities, product use and demonstration, and philanthropic support. Haworth Inc. has pledged a gift of $3 million to the Watt Center, including $800,000 in research funding and a $2.2 million gift-in-kind of interior products.

This is Haworth’s first engagement with Clemson University. Franco Bianchi, who has led Haworth as president and CEO since 2005, visited Clemson in 2013 and has a strong relationship with Watt Center director Charles Watt.

“At Haworth, we value continuous education and the innovative schools and programs in our communities that never stop exploring and teaching. Haworth is proud to support Clemson,” said Bianchi.

The Watt family gift and the Haworth pledge are part of the University’s Will to Lead campaign to raise $1 billion to support students and faculty with scholarships, professorships, facilities, technology and enhanced opportunities for learning and research.

 Erwins’ continuing investment benefits students

Students will benefit from scholarships, additional experienced faculty and new state-of-the-art classroom space thanks to the continuing investment of Joe Erwin ’79 and his wife, Gretchen.

The co-founders of Greenville-based advertising and marketing firm Erwin Penland gave two new gifts totaling $1.08 million to benefit the University’s Erwin Center for the Study of Advertising and Communication, $800,000 to further the center’s programming and $208,000 to establish the Eugene and Valerie Getchell Scholarship Endowment. Named for Gretchen Erwin’s parents, the endowment allows Clemson to offer two need-based scholarships each year to students studying in the Erwin Center, beginning this year.

The gifts are part of Clemson’s Will to Lead campaign. The Erwin Center was created in December 2012 when the Erwins gave a lead gift of $1.05 million.

Call Me MISTER receives $1.3 million

William Buster, director of the Kellogg Foundation’s Mississippi and New Orleans programs

William Buster, director of the Kellogg Foundation’s Mississippi and New Orleans programs

Clemson’s Call Me MISTER program has received $1.3 million from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., to collaborate with Jackson State University to increase the number of African-American male teachers in Mississippi K-8 classrooms. The three organizations gathered on campus to commemorate the collaboration and grant.

Clemson established the now nationally recognized Call Me MISTER program in 2000 to increase the number of African-American males teaching in South Carolina K-12 schools. MISTER stands for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models. After more than a decade, there is a 75 percent increase in the number of African-American male teachers in South Carolina’s public elementary schools.

The program has expanded to 17 colleges in South Carolina. Nearly 100 students are enrolled in the program in six additional states: Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Mississippi and Georgia.

“The demonstrated success of the Call Me MISTER collaborative model in South Carolina, which has resulted in a significant increase in African-American male teachers in our state, provided confidence that the same result was possible in Mississippi,” Roy Jones, director of Call Me MISTER said. “We simply exported our nearly 15 years of successful experience in recruiting, retaining and developing pre-service teachers to Jackson State, which has a long tradition and history in producing African-American educators.”

Chi Zeta celebrates 40 years, endows scholarship

Chi Zeta Chapter 40th AnniversaryThis spring, the alumni brothers of the Chi Zeta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity returned to Clemson to celebrate the chapter’s anniversary. Forty years ago, a group of students chartered the first black Greek-lettered organization on campus. Since then, 122 brothers have been initiated, and more than 90 of those returned for the reunion.

Chi Zeta took a leadership role during the 50th anniversary of the ending of segregation at Clemson. The “50 for 50” campaign was designed to celebrate 50 years of integration at Clemson by creating 50 diversity endowments, with a goal of fully funding the endowments within five years. Chi Zeta saw this as an opportunity to create its own endowment to provide financial support for deserving undergraduate students now and for years to come. Chi Zeta met its commitment within four months and awarded the first scholarship in the fall of 2013.

To mark its 40th anniversary as a campus organization, the alumni brothers of Chi Zeta raised another $25,000, which doubles the endowment to $50,000. With these additional donations, the brothers of Chi Zeta, in conjunction with Mrs. Veronica Clinkscales and the Clinkscales family, were able to establish the Dr. William C. Clinkscales Sr. ’74 Diversity Scholarship Endowment honoring her late husband, one of the founding brothers of the fraternity.

Freeman Hall expanding

Freeman Hall renderingFreeman Hall is expanding to make room for rapid growth in the industrial engineering department. The $10-million addition will include new offices, conference rooms and a 108-seat auditorium, and will include additional room for a fast-growing online Master of Engineering in industrial engineering with an emphasis on supply chain and logistics that has been supported by Fluor Corporation. The program now has about 120 students and is expected to grow to 160. Growth in the industrial engineering department underscores the power of philanthropy and the importance of Clemson’s long partnership with Fluor. Fluor contributed $1.5 million in 2013 to create the Fluor-Clemson International Capital Projects Supply Chain Partnership to help with the online program’s expansion.

 

One Clemson event supports scholarships

ONE CLEMSON MAINC.J. Spiller ’09 was one of the more than two dozen legendary Clemson athletes who were in attendance at the One Clemson Main Event, held in April at the ONE Building in downtown Greenville to support athletic and academic scholarships. Auctioned items included a personal “C.J. Spiller Experience” at a Buffalo Bills game and golf with PGA Tour players Charles Warren and Ben Martin. Proceeds benefit the One Clemson scholarship initiative, a part of the Will to Lead campaign.

Bringing Electricity to the Globe’s Darkened Corners

Rajendra Singh said that his work has accelerated since the White House named him one of 10 “Champions of Change” for solar deployment this spring.

Rajendra Singh said that his work has accelerated since the White House named him one of 10 “Champions of Change” for solar deployment this spring.

CLEMSON’S EFFORT TO BRING ELECTRICITY to the globe’s darkened corners has gathered momentum since the White House honored a professor for his four decades of work with solar energy.

Rajendra Singh said that his work has accelerated since the White House named him one of 10 “Champions of Change” for solar deployment this spring. Groups that support green technology and other aspects of his research have been approaching him in the wake of last month’s award, he said. Singh is the D. Houser Banks Professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Center for Silicon Nanoelectronics.

“Can we do something that I never thought would happen in my lifetime? Well, now it’s close to reality,” said Singh.

Singh said the technology is available to bring electricity to the entire world in as little as five years while lowering utility bills in the United States. It’s a matter of integrating electrical components, finding a business model that works and moving public policy in the right direction, he said.

According to Singh, about 1.5 billion people have no access to electricity and another 1 billion have access only to unreliable electricity networks. And providing basic education, health care and life skills are all dependent on electricity.

Singh’s focus is on solar power because fuel from the sun is free. At the same time, hardware prices for solar power are falling faster than for wind power. Solar panel costs fell by 62 percent from 2011 to 2013, while wind turbine costs dropped 12 percent, Singh said.

Part of the challenge in bringing electricity to some areas is figuring out how to deliver it to rural towns and villages that are disconnected from main grids. For Singh, the solution is to create microgrids and nanogrids that get their power from solar panels and distribute it like mini-utilities. Microgrids cover a small area, such as a single town, while nanogrids are small microgrids that distribute power to an even more limited area, such as a village of a few dozen homes. Batteries are used to store the electricity.

Singh is an advocate of using direct current (DC) in microgrids and nanogrids, a concept he said is similar to what Thomas Edison had in mind when he invented DC transmission. Solar panels generate DC electricity. The sprawling grids that deliver electricity to most homes and businesses around the world carry alternating current (AC), Singh said. While the cost of generating local DC power has fallen, AC power generated by centralized facilities has remained the same, Singh said.

“Wind- and solar-generated power is cheaper than power produced by coal-fired plants when factoring the social costs of carbon,” he said. Using direct current also solves an electricity-conversion problem. LED lights and an increasing number of consumer devices, such as televisions, run on DC electricity, Singh said. So do battery-based hybrid and electric cars.

When AC electricity flows into homes and businesses, it has to be converted to direct current to power DC devices. More than a third of the energy can be lost in conversion, Singh said.

“Globally, as the AC electricity infrastructure retires, all new electricity infrastructure should be built on DC,” Singh said. “Loads that require AC must be equipped to convert AC into DC. The dominant use of DC in place of AC will be a major improvement in increasing our energy efficiency.”

If Singh’s ideas sound futuristic, it wouldn’t be the first time he was a step ahead of the pack. Work he did in “rapid thermal processing” in the 1970s and 1980s helped lay the foundation for solar-cell and semiconductor manufacturing. He is now leveraging his experience to overcome the technical and business challenges that come with bringing electricity to the parts of the world that remain in the dark.

Clemson Research Minute featuring Professor Singh:

Graduates Commissioned as Second Lieutenants

SHAROSCA MACK ’14, AN ECONOMICS MAJOR FROM LORIS, WAS commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army at a joint Army and Air Force ceremony on May 8. Nineteen students received commissions into the U.S. Army and 11 received commissions into the U.S. Air Force. The ceremony featured guest speaker Col. (Ret.) Rick Schwartz M ’95. A former Army ROTC instructor, he retired last year after 29 years in the Army.

Following the commissioning ceremony, the new lieutenants participated in a Silver Dollar Salute ceremony at Military Heritage Plaza. The ceremony marks the first salute the new officer receives from an enlisted service member. As a sign of mutual respect, the officer presents the enlisted member with a silver dollar.

Are Fireflies Vanishing?

Clemson team recruits citizens scientists to answer the question.

In the liturgy of a late spring night, the call and response of a tree frog chorus accompanied the fireflies’ ethereal light, as a guard let in a dozen people to the Cooper Library to launch a “flash” mob.

It was the May 31 kickoff for 2014 Clemson Firefly Count, part of a project investigating the question, “Are fireflies vanishing?”

Over the summer, firefly census takers would count lightning bugs for the fifth year in a row. New technology was being used, and the Vanishing Firefly Project team of scientists and students was keeping their fingers crossed that it would work without a hitch.

The count this year included new and improved mobile apps, software to view the count in progress and social media to get the word out. The work spanned the University, calling on talents of entomologists, environmental and computer scientists and science educators.

Computer science senior Joshua Hull hunched over his laptop, checking the computer network that collected observers’ tallies and displayed their locations. He also had upgraded one of two mobile apps people used to “phone” in their counts.

“I feel like my mother must have felt when she dropped me off at college,” Hull said. “She had prepared me the best she could, and it was time to let me go into the real world. But I’m not going to cry like she did.”

Hull paused, scanning a new screen load of data. “Unless things go bad, then I might cry.”

By the end of the evening, Hull was smiling, not crying.

Firefly project

NOSTALGIA+SCIENCE

Are fireflies disappearing? A lot of folks say so. They remember summers when children dashed and darted through the dark holding an empty jelly jar in one hand and its lid poked with nail holes in the other in pursuit of the greenish glow. Triumphant young whoops of capture and the bittersweet release “bye-bye firefly” are not heard so much today.

Joshua Hull

Joshua Hull

Nostalgia needed to be buttressed by science, and so the Clemson Vanishing Firefly Project began. It was started by a scientist who had not seen a firefly until he was an adult, and then became enchanted by the blinking little lights in the night.

“My family had not yet come from California, so I was working late,” said Alex Chow, an associate professor stationed at Clemson’s Belle W. Baruch Institute for Coastal Ecology and Forestry in Georgetown. “As I walked from my office to the dorm, I saw these lights in the woods, and I didn’t know what they were.”

Chow grew up in Hong Kong, where he never saw fireflies. During his first southern summer in 2008, Chow enjoyed the light show. The next year, he did not see as many fireflies. His curiosity was piqued.

“We had done some prescribed burning, and I wondered if it had affected the fireflies,” Chow said. A biogeochemist, Chow studies how land disturbances such as fires, flooding or timbercutting, affect soil and water chemistry. He could imagine a relationship between firefly abundance and changes in their habitat. Chow decided to do an observational study looking for the effect of human activities on firefly populations. But Chow wasn’t a firefly guy.

Alex Chow

Alex Chow

“I needed an entomologist,” he said.

Chow searched the Clemson faculty and found one in Florence, which was closer to him than Clemson. But there was a problem.

“I didn’t know anything about fireflies, but I was willing to learn,” said Juang Horng “JC” Chong, stationed at the the Pee Dee Research and Education Center. Chong specializes in controlling insects that harm ornamental plants and turfgrass. Landscape plants and grass are multimillion-dollar industries in South Carolina.

Chong reviewed firefly studies and found that nothing had been done to learn about fireflies in South Carolina since the 1960s.

With so much to do on a spare-time project, the researchers had to be committed. Are fireflies worth the work?

“Absolutely,” said Chong. “Fireflies may not be endangered, but they are an indicator of environmental conditions. Just as important, fireflies affect our feelings about the future. What kind of world are passing on to our kids? I want my children to see fireflies like I did growing up in Malaysia.”

That Chow did not see fireflies growing up and Chong did see them lights the way to understanding what fireflies can show us about the environment. In Chong’s Malaysia, the fireflies that flash synchronously in large groups in the mangroves near Kuala Selangor are an international tourist attraction. In South Carolina, fireflies in the Congaree National Park swamp glow en masse, too.

Water or moist areas is one key to a robust firefly population. Another is tall grasses, bushes and trees. But perhaps the most important element is darkness.

Chow’s Hong Kong is a nightmare for fireflies. The bright white lights of a big city make it virtually impossible for one firefly to see another’s flashes. And the glow is not simply an ornamental taillight, but the medium by which the fireflies communicate about safety, food and sex. Light pollution prevents the signals from being seen.

Add the concrete and asphalt landscape of urban living and the malls and lawns of the suburbs, and it’s not hard to believe firefly numbers are declining.

But are they really vanishing, or is it just that many of us now live in places where fireflies do not flourish?

A CRACKERJACK TEAM

Chow and Chong needed help counting fireflies. They didn’t have the time or resources to sample beyond Georgetown, so the scientists turned to the public, launching a citizen-science project. The researchers also needed to enlist experts who could help them. Chow sent emails and made phone calls and began to assemble a crackerjack team.

David White was the first onboard, coordinating the computer work. Director of environmental informatics for Clemson’s Cyberinstiute for Technology and Information, White developed the firefly webpages and mapping programs.

In 2009, the tallies were recorded on paper, and researchers would enter the data online. Then White installed a Web page form in 2010 that observers could use directly via computer. Chow, Chong and White knew what was needed to make the process easier.

There had to be an app for that.

So Chow made calls.

“I was at a conference three years ago in Raleigh when my cellphone rang — it was Dr. Chow,” said Roy Pargas. “He introduced himself and said he was involved in counting fireflies.”

Firefly Project viewPargas is an associate professor in human-centered computing. He teaches courses in mobile app design and development — Apple IOS in the fall and Android in the spring. Students have to put theory to use.

“Students can work alone or in groups, but theyall have to do projects that produce a benefit — help students learn, help faculty teach, help Clemson in some way,” said Pargas. “Dr. Chow’s project was a good fit. I mentioned it to my Apple class.”

A student volunteered immediately. Doug Edmonson developed the iPhone app, continuing to work with the firefly project until he graduated. Josh Hull took over from Edmonson, seeing the app through its latest version in the Apple online store. New for 2014 was an Android app done by Greg Edison (“my dad is Tom but no relation to the inventor”). Edison installed a nifty feature, a light meter that lets the user measure the level of ambient light, which may correlate to the number of fireflies seen.

BRIDGING THE GAP

While it would be years before there would enough observation data to determine the fate of fireflies, Chow and Chong were seeing something notable, and they sought to publish their findings.

“We wanted to write up what we were learning about citizen-participation science research,” said Chow. “But we were out of our depth — I do soil, JC does insects. We needed somebody in education.”

Chow again asked around, and Joe Culin, an associate dean and entomologist in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, suggested a collaborator.

“I knew right away I wanted to work with them,” said Michelle Cook, associate professor of education. “Fireflies offer a way to help people learn about who scientists are and how they work.”

Cook’s specialty is science education, a hot topic in the national conversation about what students need to know in order to succeed. Science depends on creativity and figuring things out. Cook advocates adding more inquiry activities that teach and encourage students to work out experiments, using the scientific method, which relies on accurate and repeatable data.

Cook and doctoral student Renee Lyons analyze survey results from firefly counters who volunteer to answer online questions. A number of firefly counters see their efforts as helping scientists. Some believe that the count can have an impact on environmental concern, but other are unconvinced that there is a link between human activities and environmental problems. Overwhelmingly, people surveyed enjoyed participating.

“It helps build a bridge between scientists and the public,” said Cook. “People get to know and talk with scientists, connecting to their work.” The bridge helps people not only develop a positive attitude about science but also helps encourage kids to try science.

MISSION CONTROL

This year, Lori Tanner joined the project as well. Tanner is part of the Clemson IT ivision and runs the Digital Learning Resource center, where firefly mission control set up in the library. The center looked like a high-tech movie set with projections of stunningly sharp digital images, maps and displays of Internet chatter about the firefly project.

Tanner is a specialist in social media — the buzz of the digital communities populating the Internet. Weeks ahead of time, Tanner and recent biosystems engineering graduate Devin Schultze kept the web-based world informed about preparations for the count and how to participate. Well more than 40,000 people were reached digitally.

Firefly Project TweetIn previous years, older people were the largest group of firefly counters. The 2014 counters in their late 20s to mid 30s comprised the larger group, a shift Lyons attributes to an increased use of social media.

By the end of the May kickoff night, nearly 500 people had reported firefly counts. Two months later, it had risen to more than 3,095 — one from Italy. They had reported seeing more than 62,400 fireflies.

Firefly APPThe Vanishing Firefly Project is on the glow.

Additional resources:
The New York Times article about the Vanishing Firefly Project.

CBS Sunday Morning recently produced a story about synchronous fireflies in Tennessee.

My Clemson: Kate Blackmon ’81

Kate Blackmon '81

The technical knowledge I gained in my first undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at Clemson, combined with more human-centered history and English literature classes there, has enabled me to take on a wide variety of challenges in managing human and technical systems. Currently this is as senior proctor of the University of Oxford, a post that dates back to the 1100s.

Two colleges elect proctors each year, and a third elects an assessor. We uphold the University’s statutes and regulations, attend key committees, oversee all examinations, attend official university ceremonies and investigate student complaints and discipline. (But we can no longer hang students for misconduct!) The proctors and assessor are visible because we wear subfusc (academic dress) every day, as well a velvet-sleeved gown, ermine stole and hard-shell mortarboard on official occasions such as degree days (graduations, held in Latin) or the Queen’s Garden Party.

After my year as senior proctor, I will return to my “normal” life, where I am an associate professor of operations management at Oxford’s Said Business School, and a fellow and tutor in management studies at Merton College, which is celebrating the 750th anniversary of its founding this year.

The radical ideas and passion that resulted in a university

In my inaugural address at Commencement May 9, I spoke about the upcoming 125th anniversary of the University’s founding. In November 1889, the state of South Carolina officially accepted the terms of Thomas Green Clemson’s will to establish a scientific institution on the grounds of his Fort Hill home.

But the story of Clemson University begins much earlier than that. It started with a set of ideas and the passion to make them happen.

These were radical ideas for the mid-19th century:

  • The idea that education and research could lift a state and a people out of poverty and despair.
  • The idea that education should not be limited to an elite class.
  • The idea that institutions should serve their states and be engaged with their communities.

All of us at Clemson today are the beneficiaries of the vision — and the bequest — of our founders.

These ideas helped shape the Morrill Act of 1862, which created our national network of land-grant universities. Many of these ideas were actually developed, articulated and championed by Thomas Green Clemson. Mr. Clemson wrote and spoke often about the idea of scientific education as the path to prosperity. In the late 1860s he wrote, “Our condition is wretched in the extreme. There is, in my opinion, no hope for the South short of widespread scientific education.”

When his wife, Anna, preceded Thomas in death, she left him the land and her resources, which he later bequeathed to the state of South Carolina. This would be used to fund the college that came from their shared dreams — which he called a “high seminary of learning.”

All of us at Clemson today are the beneficiaries of the vision — and the bequest — of our founders.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, the landmark federal legislation that created the Cooperative Extension Service. Through that statewide network, the land-grant promise became a reality.

Like the Morrill Act, the Smith-Lever Act has a direct link back to Clemson. The national Extension network was based on the “Clemson model,” and Congressman Frank Lever, one of the co-authors of the legislation, was a Clemson trustee. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery, on our campus.

The connection among the Clemson will, the Act of Acceptance and the Smith-Lever Act is that they created a unique and permanent partnership between Clemson University and the state of South Carolina. That partnership distinguishes Clemson from every other institution of higher learning in the state.

In this partnership, those of us at Clemson make an important promise. We promise to make a difference, not just for our students, but also in the lives of all the people in this state. And we make a difference by holding true to three commitments.

First, we commit that we will provide the highest possible level of academic quality. Mr. Clemson wrote that this new education system “is the only hope for South Carolina, and … that it will give life, vigor and prosperity to unborn thousands … .” I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Clemson set the bar pretty high for all of us!

Second, we commit that our campus is the state of South Carolina. We pledge to be actively engaged in every county of South Carolina. Clemson has never been content to remain isolated behind a set of walls. We go where the problems are — where the opportunities are — and where the challenges are.

Third, we commit to support the state’s economic development. Mr. Clemson’s will speaks directly to our responsibility to the economic health of South Carolina. One of the ways we can help to deliver on this promise is through research and innovation.

Holding fast to these commitments will ensure that we meet the high standards set by Mr. Clemson to provide an outstanding education for our students and keep our promise to South Carolina.

I am honored to work alongside all of you to achieve these ambitious goals.

Go Tigers!

Jim Clements

Vanishing Fireflies: The Making of a Cover

AKA: Dresses, Preschoolers and Fireflies … Oh My!

CWSF2014cover

When you’re a photographer with a kid, pictures can go one of two ways. The first being that your child is so used to having photos taken, they act like a tiny model and keep trying to help. The second being they have had their picture made so often, that they run when the camera comes out.

Luckily, I have the former … most days. So when I asked my 4-year-old daughter if she wanted to wear one of her favorite dresses, stay up WAY past bedtime and catch fireflies, she was totally on board.

Night # 1

On went the dress and out came the Mason jar. The camera and lighting were ready; all we needed was a few fireflies.

So the three of us headed out. I named my husband, Mike, as Assistant Firefly Catcher. Our daughter, Savana, was obviously in charge because she would yell and point out every firefly that blinked while he ran around trying to grab them out of the air.

**Disclaimer** No fireflies were harmed during the making of this photo.

Mike and I had a “back in our day” moment when we realized just how few fireflies were available for catching, compared to when we were kids. So in the end we had about four fireflies in the jar. Of course, once they were in the jar, they wouldn’t blink for anything.

But Savana was a trooper and an extremely patient 4-year-old, and Mike was my helpful lighting assistant.

We tried multiple angles with Savana looking in the jar, different lighting exposures and even a few landscape long exposures (a full minute) of just the yard. With the yard exposures I was hoping to capture their little lights blinking in the distance, but there were just too few to make a difference. And we had a small window of time to work with them. Too early in the evening, it was still too bright so we couldn’t see them to catch them; too late and they were already gone, no blinking to be seen.

The next day I brought in the photos and discussed the options with the team in Creative Services. I received a lot of helpful guidance and decided to give it another go with better ideas in mind to really highlight our little blinking friends.


Night #2

Savana and I headed back out and again only caught about three fireflies. This time we added some field grass to the jar to give them a little playground while we worked. The first night, I was lighting Savana’s face but failing to light the fireflies well enough for photos. This time I had her sit on the ground and turned on a small battery-powered video light, which went under the fabric of her dress to slightly diffuse it, and she rested her jar on top of the light.

I started with some close-ups of our main subjects, and they were more than helpful this time around. The fireflies were much more active in the jar that night, crawling everywhere and even giving us a couple of blinks, although the longer the light was on, the less they blinked.

When I was just about done, I wanted to try a few with the light on Savana’s face as well. We unscrewed the lid, and she looked down into the jar.

Once the lid was gone, I had beautiful soft light on her face and the natural wonder that a 4-year-old brings to the table.

Once I had the shots down to the best ones, I headed into Photoshop to really make the fireflies stand out. There was one main firefly in perfect position and all he needed was a little oomph added to make him stand out. Other than that, this shot is pretty much straight from the camera. A little skill and a lot of luck went into this particular photo. Fireflies don’t take direction well.

This assignment was so much fun and a great way for me to try to think outside of the box, made even better by having the opportunity to include my family. It was such a wonderful learning experience for both my daughter and me and, as always, I’m definitely looking forward to the next challenge.

*CW-C1-fireflies