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An enthusiasm for the natural world--Local naturalists, professors to present at KCL

Posted: January 21, 2014 4:54 p.m.
Updated: January 22, 2014 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County Library (KCL) will welcome programming of the natural variety when three local naturalists, along with a local University of South Carolina English professor present on various topics concerning the natural world.

The "Celebrate Nature" series will feature three lectures in February given by Josh Arrants (Feb. 4), Josh Castleberry (Feb. 11) and Austin Jenkins (Feb. 18). Also, a part of this series will be a book club discussion held Jan. 29, Feb. 12 and 26, moderated by Bill Funderburk.

Arrants, who will present on migratory birds, has worked with birds throughout South Carolina for more than 10 years. Specializing in the management of the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, as well as songbirds and birds of prey, Arrants operates Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) stations for the Wildlife Branch at Fort Jackson as well as the Natural and Cultural Resources Branch at Shaw Air Force Base.

Arrants said he was thrilled to be asked by KCL director Amy Schofield to be part of the programming. "She has done a tremendous job with programming at the library and I am glad to talk about migratory birds," he said.

Arrants explained that as both a naturalist and cultural ecologist, his goal is to "interpret and tie the world of nature to human culture…nature has sculpted human culture as much as humans have sculpted nature," he said.

He aims to "demystify birds" for those who attend his lecture. "I want to show how marvelous these creatures are and give people a reason to care about the world around them. A naturalist studies nature and marvels at it," he said. "In my opinion, the marveling is more important."

Castleberry is a program manager for the Environmental Engineering Technology Department at Central Carolina Technical College. His lecture, Natural History of Native Animals, will present a program for kids of all ages about the animals that share our environment with us.

"Born and raised in Sumter county," Castleberry said he thinks of the experience of lecturing at the library as a way to "pay it forward."

"I want to help people get connected with the environment…the animals we see everyday, we take for granted," he said. "I want to return the mystery for people. People like things that are mysterious to them; mundane things they don’t pay attention to. I want to make that happen for them."

Camden native Austin Jenkins, who teaches Natural History of South Carolina at USC Sumter, will present on Knowing Nature, Now and Then. This session will be an informal discussion of the unique natural history of Kershaw and surrounding counties.

Through an array of amazing adaptations, Jenkins will demonstrate how the geology of the past affects the biology of the present. Attendees are encouraged to bring their curiosity and questions as Jenkins discusses the species found here on local lands.

"My talk will be a virtual field trip exploring local species and how their life in the present is controlled by the past," Jenkins said. "The connections in nature are always amazing, but the ones that take us back in time are especially exciting."

In a separate but equally nature-inspired series, Bill Funderburk, owner of Books on Broad and adjunct professor of English literature, will lead a discussion of a selection of books inspired by nature.

This series, provided by a grant from the South Carolina Humanities Council, will convene Jan. 29, Feb. 12 and Feb. 26. The texts that will be discussed, in order, will be:

The Botany of Desire: a Plant’s Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan;

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray; and

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.

As with previous discussions, books may be checked out at the library and read before the discussion.

Schofield stated "Bill (Funderburk) is a wonderful moderator. While he’s well known for the breadth and depth of his knowledge, what I find remarkable about these discussions are the contributions made by the group. I’ve never been to one where I didn’t feel like I’d learned something valuable -- either about the book, something related or someone in the group."

These programs are free and open to the public. For more information about these and other upcoming events at the library, visit the KCL website at www.kershawcountyli brary.org.

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