Skip to content

ISSE Project: Appalachian Dark Skies Network

Team: Tim Ezzell, Political Science/ISSE, and Catherine Wilt, ISSE

2016-2017 Funded Proposal

As awareness of light pollution increases, dark sky areas are becoming more significant for both Yisitors and the research community. These areas, however, are increasingly hard to find -particularly near the urban centers of the Eastern and Central United States. The vast majority of the handful remaining accessible sites are largely found in the Appalachian Mountain region. Recognition of this fact has increased in recent years and a number of communities and facilities are beginning to market themselves as night-sky destinations. In spite of this fact, there have been almost no efforts at communication or cooperation between these sites. Sites have little awareness of one another and communities often view one another as competitors rather potential partners and allies.

As a result, communities working to preserve and promote these important resources lose valuable opportunities to share knowledge and resources. In an effort to remedy this, we propose the creation ofan Appalachian Dark Skies Network. This network would be composed of the region's dark skies destinations, night sky advocates, and other important stakeholders. These stakeholders might include as telescope and lighting manufacturers, regional colleges and universities, government agencies, and philanthropic organizations.

The potential organization's goals and activities could include the following:

  • Exchange of ideas and best practices through meetings, networking, and online communications resources.
  • Creation of shared marketing resources, such as an Appalachian dark skies website, travel guide, or travel itinerary.
  • Shared research into technical issues, including lighting technologies, land-use and zoning regulations, and low-impact development practices.
  • Create shared educational media and materials.
  • Grant development and funding partnerships.
  • Shared advocacy related to dark skies preservation issues.
  • Potential conferences for regional dark skies organizations, advocates, researchers and enthusiasts.

During the initial planning phase of the project we will undertake the following activities. First, we will survey potential partners and organization to evaluate interest in forming a regional dark skies association. At the same time, we will also contact funding agencies and organizations to solicit their support. The overall goal of these efforts would be to have a coordinated and organized effort to create a consortium in place in 2017 and a kick-off organizational meeting soon afterwards.

The organization would initially be housed at the University of Tennessee and would be supported by membership fees, grants, and donations. Within a few years the organization would become a freestanding nonprofit with a paid director and, potentially, a small staff.