ETSU students partner with Steele Creek Park

Published 3:19 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2022

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JOHNSON CITY — Before even arriving at Bristol’s Steele Creek Park, a recreation area spanning more than 2,220 acres of fields and forests, you can compile an impressive list of facts, figures and observations.
You’ll notice that the park is home to over 200 species of birds, over 70 species of butterflies and a range of mammals, including beavers and black bear. You’ll learn the reasons why the fields are so rounded and why the craggy knobs in the forest are so steep. You’ll read about the arboretum path, a paved trail lined with trees.
Thanks to the work of East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Andrew Joyner and graduate students Darian Bouvier, Karah Jaffe and Travis Watson, that information and much more is available to the public.
“This project fully integrates all aspects of park information into a single, user-friendly digital space. It is a one-stop location for information on programs, rates, facilities and trails,” said Jeremy B. Stout, manager of the park’s Nature Center. “We are so thankful to Dr. Joyner and especially Travis, Karah and Darian for their work and professionalism this semester.”
Joyner’s students spent months working at the park, and the result is a detailed, comprehensive map that the public can view online.
One element is a look at the natural history of the park. Another section shows some of the park’s features and attractions. The final two tabs focus on trails — details such as length and elevation — and a trail maintenance survey that gives both employees and visitors the chance to report any issues. There are also directions for how to use iNaturalist, a website and app that serves as a social network for naturalists, citizens scientists and biologists who want to map and share observations of biodiversity.
“This relationship with Steele Creek Park serves ETSU and the community in so many powerful ways,” said Joyner, an associate professor in the Geosciences Department and the State of Tennessee’s official climatologist. “For one, our students created a high-quality product for a regional park, something that helps bolster the mission of ETSU which is to improve the quality of life in the region. For another, this is an outside-the-classroom, hands-on learning opportunity for ETSU students.”
Students in the geographic information system graduate course found the class engaging and useful. Watson said the project created “valuable experience in creating marketable online products for real-life stakeholders,” and Bouvier added that “working directly with a company partner has provided an experience that will ultimately be beneficial in future careers and positions.”
Jaffe agreed.
“I hope visitors will learn more about the park’s natural and recreational opportunities,” she said. “This is also a translatable skill for producing public-friendly interfaces at other parks.”
To see the final project, visit

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