MC professor and student featured on ABC Network’s “Rock the Park”

On the second season of ABC’s Emmy-Award-winning show “Rock the Park,” the Maryville College community may recognize some familiar faces. The first episode of the season, which aired on Oct. 3, featured MC Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. David Unger and MC biology and environmental studies double major Thomas Moore ’17.
The episode, entitled “Cumberland: Island Animal Encounters,” was shot over last summer, and it follows hosts Jack Steward and Colton Smith as they explore the Cumberland Island National Seashore. During this time, Unger and Moore were working with Jacksonville University’s Associate Professor of Biology Dr. John Enz and his student Alexandria Gagne on research regarding the Cumberland Island National Seashore’s gopher tortoise.
The study was entitled “Population Dynamics of Gopher Tortoises on Cumberland Island National Seashore on the most Southern Barrier Island of Georgia.” This research was a pioneer on this topic, and going forward, the population data collected will be useful information for the National Park Service.
Unger and Moore initially got involved in the show when the head biologists on the project told them that “Rock the Park” wanted to film the group as they collected research. Unger said he immediately agreed, knowing it would provide national coverage for MC and the students working on the project as well as promote the National Park System.
“The reason I was so compelled to be on the show was because the hosts are highlighting the importance of the National Park System and exposing folks of all ages to the diversity they contain,” said Unger. “As a professor, I respect and admire that the show isn’t relying on gimmicks or melo-drama to get ratings; they are an Emmy award winning show for simply showing us the beauty and wonder of nature.”
Being featured on the show was also a great experience for Moore, who plans to pursue a graduate degree in wildlife management. After graduating, he hopes to be a field biologist working for the state or for the National Park Service, a career very relevant to the research he was featured doing on “Rock the Park.”
“I’m glad that they gave our segment so much time….” said Moore. “It was the first time I’d ever been on TV, so to be on a show about ecology and getting outdoors was an amazing experience for me.”
Those who missed the Cumberland Island episode can view it here, but it is not the last time MC faculty will be seen on the show.
In an episode set to air on ABC this Saturday, Oct. 17 at 11 a.m., the “Rock the Park” hosts will visit a location closer to MC as they travel to the Smoky Mountains National Park. Once again, Unger will be featured on the show, and this time he will be discussing the salamanders of the Great Smoky Mountains. Unger will serve as Steward and Smith’s guide as they locate, capture, and learn about the salamanders in the park.
“The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to one of the most diverse salamander populations found anywhere in the world, and it’s in our own backyard!” said Unger.
Unger explains that the Smokys are part of a “mixed mesophytic forest,” one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world aside from the tropics. During his appearance on the show, he will explain more about the diverse ecosystem present in the Smoky Mountains and why its conservation is important.
“The more I can help people appreciate our living world, the greater the chance society will begin to appreciate it and, in turn, protect what habitat and organisms we have left,” said Unger. “The very future of our society depends on it.”

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