It’s Natural…

Written by:  Joe Staton, PhD

Today, people are drawn to South Carolina, particularly the lowcountry, for the climate and its natural beauty.  Large numbers of birds make use of our beaches, marshes and hammocks (small, isolated islands with trees surrounded often by wetlands) for nesting grounds or for feeding year round or along their migration routes.  We have diverse mammals, amphibians and reptiles from the upstate to the lowcountry, as well as a diverse insect fauna as a source of food.  These in turn feed off the plant life that makes up the inland regions and coastal zones, which is plentiful, especially in the rainy summer we have been experiencing.  The region is both alive and diverse—and it’s natural to be drawn to it.

This is not just a modern phenomenon.  Beaufort and the surrounding ACE Basin have long been known for their diverse wildlife and natural areas that have attracted many of the renowned naturalists of their time.  Of these, John James Audubon was well known for his artistry in Birds of America, and several of his specimens for illustrating this came from the lowcountry.  The impact of his work on birds was also recognized in SC, as the state legislature was persuaded to purchase a double-elephant folio set of his plates for the new South Carolina College.  Audubon collaborated on his last work (on mammals) with Rev. John Bachman of Charleston on the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.

Not so commonly known nowadays is Mark Catesby, whose groundbreaking work Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (2 vols., London, 1731-1743) came nearly a century earlier than Audubon.  It was one of the most exhaustive of its time with 220 plates of many animal types.  While not as precise in illustration as Audubon, his work was state of the art for its attention to detail and its diversity of treatment of the animal kingdom.  The publication of the first volume earned Catesby election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in his native England.  The American bullfrog still bears its species name in his honor, Lithobates catesbeianus.

Of most local renown was Stephen Elliott, a Beaufort native, a state senator, and Yale graduate, who was a member of the original trustees of Beaufort College.  He published his landmark book— A Sketch of the Botany of South Carolina and Georgia in the 1820s.  It was another biological first as a comprehensive treatment of plants of this region, and it contained many of the original species descriptions of plant of the area.  Elliott’s herbarium collection was the largest in America during his lifetime and is now preserved at the Charleston Museum.  His collection aided many of the imminent botanists of his era, and in the latter part of the 19th century—Science magazine described him as the “father of southern botany.”[1]

All of these notables (at least their works) have returned to Beaufort, at our south campus library.  From now until at least mid-October, you can see originals and reproductions of the works of Audubon and Catesby.  The core of the display has toured other parts of South Carolina.  A larger version of this was first displayed for the opening of Greenville’s Upcountry History Museum; it drew over 10,000 visitors in 4 months.  Also in our library, are displayed other notable South Carolinians dedicated to early floral and fungal work.  Be sure to look for more detail information about the display at:

[1] Anonymous. 1900. “The Last Quarter-A Reminiscence and an Outlook”. Science 12 (292): 162.Image

“Yellow-crowned Heron,” plate 336, from Audubon’s Birds of America, no. 68 (London: Havell, 1836). –he painted the birds in this picture in Charleston, South Carolina, in October 1831. From:


The largest white billed wood-pecker & the willow-oak Reproduction, no. 49 of 50. London: Alecto Historical Editions, 1996. (the possibly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker). From:


An illustration of tawny cottongrass (Eriophorum virginicum) and saltwater cordgrass (now Spartina alterniflora) reproduced from Stephen Elliott’s: A Sketch of the Botany of South Carolina and Georgia.

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The RBC Heritage continues to help Hilton Head Island, SC capture a valuable tourism market segment

John SalazarWritten by:  John Salazar, PhD

This week the golf and tourism industries are at the front and center of our regional economy. In 1969 Hilton Head Island, SC hosted the first Heritage Classic which is now referred to as the RBC Heritage. It is South Carolina’s only annually held tournament stop on the PGA tour. In 2010, a Clemson/University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) study indicated that the tournament had an $80 million plus impact on Beaufort County. Since the first tournament, Hilton Head Island has been inextricably linked to the golf tourism market.

So how do golf visitors compare to non golfers to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton community? Through a partnership with the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, USCB’s Lowcountry and Resort Islands Tourism Institute (LRITI) has been able to conduct a preliminary comparison using the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Virtual Guestbook results. The virtual guestbook was implemented to collect real time data from visitors to the area between February 15, 2012 and February 15, 2013. The data collection method incorporated a convenience sampling technique that polled visitors at various attractions throughout Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, SC. Computer tablets were used as the guestbook polling stations.

The results showed that 69% (446) of the 646 entries were by visitors from outside the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton/Beaufort/Savannah region. The visitors were also asked about their spending patterns at various attractions and events throughout the community. Fourteen percent (14%) of the visitors indicated that they spent money on playing golf in addition to many other activities. Of the 14%, some interesting market segment details arose when comparing the golf playing visitors to the non-golf visitors in the following characteristics: number of previous trips to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton region, length of stay, advanced booking, and total number of activities. The golf playing visitors have more previous visits to the area (3.7 previous visits), have a 6.7 day length of stay, book their trips 4.7 months in advance, and spend money on more activities (average 4.1 activities per trip). Whereas, the non-golf visitors previously vacationed in the area 2.9 times, have a 5.4 average length of stay, book 3.3 months in advance, and spend money on 3.1 activities per trip.

So what does all this mean? The research results show that the golf visitor is an important market to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton tourism economy because they return to the region more often than non-golfers, stay longer, and spend money on more activities. Additionally, the golf visitors book their trips further in advance, therefore providing an early guarantee of their intent to travel to our destination. Declaring this early travel intent is good for tourism operators because it becomes an indicator of future business. In the end, the golf visitor market continues to be important to the community and the 45th 2013 RBC Heritage provides ongoing support toward reaching this important market segment.

Below is a link to the 2010 Heritage Golf Tournament Economic Impact Report. For information regarding other reports contact

This blog is focused on advancing the efforts of the Lowcountry hospitality and tourism industry. John Salazar, Ph.D. is a Professor of Hospitality Management at University of South Carolina Beaufort and Director of the LRITI. The Institute’s website can be found at The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual author and do not reflect any official policy or statement by the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

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Living on the wrong side of the tracks: Consequences of community stigma for community sustainability in the Sea Islands

Dr. Brandon CosleyWritten by: Dr. Brandon Cosley

The Sea Islands region represents a unique social, economic, and environmental landscape through which much can be learned to promote the well-being of the region as well as contribute to improved understanding of basic social processes.

The region is known for its lush environmental landscapes that have attracted individuals and helped to grow local communities and economies since the time of its discovery. Thus, the link between community, economic, and environmental spheres are uniquely inter-related.

Moreover, the way in which communities are designed in the region is also unique. Communities in the Sea Islands are often compartmentalized into discrete areas separated by geographic (e.g. rivers) and/or artificial markers (e.g. gates). This design of the region’s communities creates physical barriers that likely extend into psychological barriers making them easily recognizable sources of social identification.

Social scientists have long recognized that the physical condition of neighborhoods can have significant consequences for the well-being of residents. Physical neighborhood disorganization (e.g. trash) has been linked to mental and physical illness, social isolation, crime, and delinquency. However, physical neighborhood characteristics may not fully capture the impact that living in a particular neighborhood has on residents.

Indeed, what some neighborhoods lack (e.g. amenities) may become a source of mistreatment by others in society. In our recent community survey research we examined the role of perceived neighborhood stigma (e.g. possession of a socially devalued characteristic) in community residents’ self-esteem, sense of community, and their interest in environmental protection.

Our research shows that individuals who feel more stigmatized because of the neighborhood that they live in also experience lower self-esteem, have a lower sense of community, and are less interested in protecting the local environment. These findings support the important role that our living spaces play in determining how we feel about ourselves.

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The World on a Doorstep

ImageWritten by:  Joe Staton, PhD

One morning on the way to my intro biology class, I saw on the USCB library steps a large worm crawling around, just after a spring rain.  Not unusual in the Lowcountry, but I recognized it immediately as the large flatworm called the hammerhead worm.  I would say “commonly” called, but this species (Bipalium kewense) is introduced and is only recently common here and other places, from SC to California and as far away as Japan. 


Even though it originated in the tropics of Southeast Asia, the species name “kewense” (cu-WIN-see) stems from where the specimen described was originally found, the Royal Botanic (Kew) Gardens near London, England.   This species is the only large, terrestrial, free-living flatworm in North America.


Like many other introduced plants and insects, the desire for live exotic foods, plants and pets brings in directly or indirectly species than can “escape” into our local habitats and spread.  The flatworm has moved about with the trade in horticultural plants, and unfortunately, might ultimately be a threat to gardening and agriculture.  As we are crucially aware now of the impact of hive collapse syndrome in bees (Apis mellifera), these hammerhead worms prey on native earthworms, which are the creators of rich organic terrestrial soils that support flower and vegetable gardens, alike. 


Most non-biologists do not know that Darwin’s last book was dedicated to describing the importance of the actions of earthworms.   If the “hammerhead” populations increase by too much, they could be a real threat to horticulture hobbyists, nurseries, or even agricultural enterprises and our food supply. 


As a humorous aside, I showed the specimen to two of my non-biologist colleagues at USCB.  I exclaimed, “This is the largest free-living flatworm in America!”  They both said, completely seriously, “How do you know?” They then scoffed at me when I said, “Because I’m a zoologist!”  Both had taken me precisely at my word that the very specimen I was holding was possibly a record-breaker for the species.   I’ll do my darnedest not to cause such confusion again.

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