When Savana Pugh and Dusty Keeton came to Tennessee Tech as transfer students after completing their first years of study at Roane State Community College in Crossville, they knew what they wanted to study: wildlife and fisheries biology.
“We both want to move out west and be park rangers,” Pugh said. “But we are both pretty happy with what we are doing right now.”
The pair works on the Cumberland Trail project, developing a portion of what will ultimately extend more than 300 miles from Chattanooga to the Cumberland Gap.
“The Cumberland Trail will be a part of the larger Great Eastern Trail which runs parallel to the Appalachian Trail,” Keeton explained. “Someday, when it is finished, it will be like the AT where people really love it and want to get out there.”
At Tech, they have found work in the classroom that directly relates to their area of interest and have even begun working in the Hollister Herbarium in Pennebaker Hall. The herbarium is a collection of preserved and mounted plant specimens with emphasis on the flora of the Cumberland Plateau.
“There have definitely been some of the plants we have seen working in the herbarium that we recognized out on our trail work,” Pugh said. “Which is pretty cool.”
Assistant Biology Professor Shawn Krosnick, who oversees Pugh and Keeton’s work in the herbarium, has been impressed with their interest and quality work.
“They do such a superb job mounting specimens, they are really beautiful as a result,” she said.
Pugh and Keeton say the care they take with their work comes from their general interest in and respect for nature and the outdoors. Plus, really enjoy their studies at Tech.
“We both really loved Roane State, but everyone is so nice here at Tech,” Keeton said “We really feel like we are getting the experience of a big university while still having the personal relationships and opportunities of a small school. We feel good about the education we are getting here in a program of study we are interested in.”
Keeton and Pugh are on Tech’s campus three days a week and work on trail the other two days. So far, they have worked to complete about 10 miles of the Cumberland Trail.
“It’s really good,” Pugh said. “We are doing something we love and learning a lot.”