New Event at West Virginia’s Blackwater Falls State Park: Biodiversity Weekend June 22-24


A nature adventure for people who appreciate the outdoors is planned at Blackwater Falls State Park the weekend of June 22-24. “Mountain Biodiversity Adventure is perfect if you want to learn a little more about the winged, mud, tree, flower, ecology or geology of the Mountain State,” said Paulita Cousin, park naturalist.

Weekend presentations include a Golden Eagle Survey; music of Mick Souter, “Celebrate West Virginia;” and the Three Rivers Avian Center’s Wings of Wonder – Birds of Prey program. Various experts in their fields of study and professions will lead walks, workshops, and provide programs. “It is a diverse weekend filled with natural history topics and a focus on our mountain region,” said Cousin.

Saturday field trips will feature these topics: Tree and Plant Identification Tour led by Alan Miller and Krista Schaffer; Crayfish Biology and Conservation with Dr. Zachary Loughman presenting and leading the search; Geology of West Virginia with geologist Ken Ashton; Cathedral State Park Field Trip and Tour with Supt. Eric Risinger; Bees, Beetles, and the Buzz about Pollinators with Emily Grafton; and Butterflies of West Virginia with Destiny Phillips. A bird walk is scheduled for Saturday at 7 a.m.

Special Saturday evening guest will be Dr. Thomas K. Pauley presenting Amphibians and Reptiles of West Virginia.  Pauley, a Professor of Biological Sciences at Marshall University, is finishing a new book that covers the amphibians and reptiles in West Virginia’s state parks. Pauley specializes in ornithology, herpetology and conservation biology and has taught and worked with thousands of college students since 1966.

The complete weekend package, which includes five full meals, a two night stay at Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge, refreshments, memento, all activities and programs and associated taxes, is $203 per person based on double occupancy.  Single, triple and quad rates are also available. Reservations are strongly encouraged and accepted until June 18, as space is available. To reserve the weekend package call Lois Reed at 304-259-5216 Monday-Friday, 8-4 or email [email protected].

“Individuals are welcome to attend specific presentations and programs” said Cousin. To register for any session, email [email protected]  for details and information.  A donation per program is suggested, but not required, when attending individual presentations to offset costs.  The Birds of Prey program by Three Rivers Avian Center Program on June 24 at 10 a.m. is open to the public without registration or charge.  Activities start from or are held at Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge.

Blackwater Falls State Park is nestled high in the Allegheny Mountains and is named for its famous waterfall of the Blackwater River.  Blackwater River plunges five stories to a cascade noted for its impressive beauty.  Below the falls, the river thrusts itself through Blackwater Canyon, a deep gorge strewn with massive boulders. Blackwater Falls State park offers overnight lodging in 54 lodge guest rooms, 39 cabins with 26 units on the south side and 13 units on the north side.  A 65-site campground is open and situated in wooded and partial wooded areas. Learn more at .

Event Leaders

  • Paulita Cousin is a 1993 graduate of Garrett College with a degree in wildlife management.  She is the naturalist at Blackwater Falls State Park.  The summer assistant naturalist is Krista Schaffer.
  • Alan Miller has been forest entomologist for 24 years with West Virginia Department of Agriculture and retired from Division of Forestry in 1997 as head of fire control.  He currently serves as secretary treasurer for Conservation Camp with 40 years’ experience, director of Forestry Camp with 45 years’ experience, president of Treasure Mountain Festival Association and White Oak basket instructor for Augusta Festival in Elkins.
  • Destiny Phillips-Judy works in Commercial Print at the Elkins Inter-Mountain newspaper. She is certified in the Indiana MLMP (Monarch Larva Monitoring Project) and participates in Monarch Watch butterfly tagging program.
  • Ken Ashton is a native of West Virginia and a West Virginia University graduate.  Ken is a geologist with the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey with more than 27 years’ experience.
  • Eric Risinger is park ranger at Cathedral State Park with a background in wildlife management.  Risinger holds an associate’s degree from North Dakota State University in wildlife and fisheries and a bachelor of sciences degree from West Liberty State in Criminal Justice.
  • Emily Grafton, a West Virginia native, is a noted biologist with degrees in botany and special education with an emphasis on teaching science. She is the author of numerous articles on plants and wildlife and two comprehensive field guides to two state parks, and is an avid birder. She also studies invasive species and insects.
  • Trish Miller is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a B.S. in biology in 1995 and she earned a master’s degree in ecology from Penn State in 2007. From 2004-2009 she worked for the 2nd Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas and in 2006 she established the Geographic Information Systems Lab at Powdermill Nature Reserve, the biological field station of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Trish began working as a wildlife biologist at WVU in 2011 and as an adjunct faculty member of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. For her dissertation she is studying the movement ecology of golden eagles in eastern North America.
  • Dr. Zachary Loughman spent his childhood in search of salamanders and snakes in Marshall County, W.Va..  Because the natural history of Appalachian fauna is his passion, he is still chasing herps along with any other enigmatic animal that crosses his path. Currently, Dr. Loughman is an assistant professor at West Liberty University where he teaches classes in zoology and ecology. Loughman’s major research interest is crayfishes and currently he and his students are working on a statewide assessment of West Virginia’s crayfish fauna.  Dr. Loughman has described one new species of crayfish native to West Virginia and has discovered several additional new species in the mountain state.
  • Dr. Thomas K. Pauley is an educator with teaching specialties: herpetology, ornithology and conservation biology. He has developed a course in conservation biology that examines current issues that threaten the existence of native species in the United States.  Dr. Pauley has more than 64 research papers, 172 abstracts and 25 books chapters/species accounts and books.  Current books in progress include:  Amphibians and Reptiles in WV (2nd edition), Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in WV, Amphibian and Reptiles of the Central Appalachians (WVU Press), Amphibians and Reptiles of Monongahela National Forest, Amphibians and Reptiles of the National parks in West Virginia and Amphibians and Reptiles of the State Parks in WV.
Read More