The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

4 months ago

Birmingham’s McWane Science Center announces two new fossil shark discoveries


A team of scientists, including Jun Ebersole of the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, announced Wednesday the discovery of two new species of prehistoric shark that lived in the southeastern U.S. millions of years ago.


How McWane Science Center discovered new shark species in Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The two new species are ancient relatives of modern sand tiger sharks and lived 35 million and 65 million years ago, respectively. Until this discovery, members of this same genus, Mennerotodus, which are now extinct, were known to have lived only in Europe and Asia.

In order to identify these new species, scientists Ebersole, David Cicimurri, curator of Natural History, South Carolina State Museum, and George Martin, retired USDA soil scientist from Auburn, spent months comparing hundreds of individual prehistoric teeth to those of modern species.

“By piecing together and examining the dentitions of these new shark species, we were able to determine that they are closely related to modern sand tiger sharks,” said Cicimurri. “It was so close, in fact, that we were able to use modern sand tiger jaws to reconstruct them.”

According to Ebersole, the front teeth are very tall and fang-like in both the prehistoric and modern sand tiger sharks.

“The teeth often project out of the mouth, giving the shark a snaggle-toothed appearance, which is perfect for feeding on fishes, crabs, squids and even other sharks,” Ebersole said.

The team examined shark teeth from various museum collections and found that Mennerotodus teeth were fairly common in the Southeast, but they had never been correctly identified.

“Our study is significant because it documents the first occurrence of Mennerotodus in North America,” Ebersole said.

“In addition, because the Mennerotodus mackayi teeth found in Alabama are older than those from other parts of the world, it strongly suggests that this group of sharks originated right here in the ancient Gulf of Mexico,” Ebersole said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 months ago

New species of fossil shark named for beloved Birmingham volunteer

(McWane Science Center/Contributed)

A new species of fossil shark from southern Alabama has been discovered, a team of scientists led by Jun Ebersole, director of Collections at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, announced this month. The discovery was made as part of a larger study examining the diversity of fossil sharks and bony fish living in Alabama 40 million years ago during the Eocene Epoch.

Ebersole collaborated on the research with David Cicimurri, curator of Natural History, South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, and Gary L. Stringer, Ph.D., professor emeritus of geology, University of Louisiana at Monroe.


“This new species is a really early member of Carcharhinus, a genus of shark that is still alive today, Ebersole said. “At least a dozen species of Carcharhinus are known to have a range in the Gulf of Mexico today, and this new species was likely very similar to the modern bull shark or pigeye shark.”

Nicknamed the “Mancin shark,” the species honors the late Lois N. Mancin of Birmingham for her years of volunteering and her love for educating visitors to McWane Science Center and the Birmingham Zoo.

Mancin, a Memphis native, moved to Birmingham to marry John Mancin in 1969. Following the births of her daughters, Shannon and Nickey, Mancin volunteered regularly at their schools and with their Brownie troop. As her children got older, she joined the Birmingham Zoo, where she served as a docent for 20 years and served as the president of the Docent Association.

“Lois joined the McWane Science Center in 2004,” Ebersole said. “She was an integral part of the Collections Department volunteer group – her sense of humor and love of learning is a part of the rich legacy that she leaves behind.”

In the 13 years Mancin volunteered at McWane, she donated more than 6,000 hours to educational programming and organizing and identifying artifacts in the Collections Department. She was twice recognized as McWane’s Volunteer of the Year and was honored at Alabama’s National Philanthropy Day in 2016.

“It is an honor to be able to name this shark in her memory,” Ebersole said. “In addition, we are working to develop a display that will open at McWane Science Center in early 2020, to share the discovery with the public.”

The study, titled “Taxonomy and biostratigraphy of the elasmobranchs and bony fishes (Chondrichthyes and Osteichthyes) of the lower-to-middle Eocene (Ypresian to Bartonian) Claiborne Group in Alabama, USA, including an analysis of otoliths,” was published Dec. 6 in the open-access European Journal of Taxonomy.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 years ago

Birmingham women talk workforce development, finding success

(Wynter Byrd/Alabama NewsCenter)

To commemorate Women’s History Month, Alabama Power hosted a panel discussion Friday on workforce development with Birmingham leaders Melanie Bridgeforth, CEO of the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham; Yazmin Cavale, CEO/co-founder of Glow; and Britney Summerville, vice president of community engagement at Shipt.

“Today, we are here to celebrate Women’s History Month,” said Cathy Sloss Jones, panel moderator and CEO/president of Sloss Real Estate. “We are here to celebrate the contributions that women have made to the workplace here in Alabama and continue to make every day in workplaces throughout our state.”


The discussion focused on inclusion, workforce development, work-life balance, mentoring, giving back to the community and Birmingham revitalization.

“I feel like Birmingham is in this neat phase right now, and we’re all getting to experience it, we’re kind of in a resurgence,” Summerville said. “(We’re) definitely getting on the map in terms of technology, that is something that we’ve never been known for before.”

Partnerships between city officials and companies like Shipt work “to grow and improve the image of the city, to retain the talent that we have, (and) to also attract new people to our city, and say ‘this’ is Birmingham,” Summerville continued. “You can grow and scale your business beautifully here.”

For Cavale, who co-founded her company as part of the Velocity Accelerator program, increasing the number of women in technology is an important goal.

“There’s definitely something out there in society that’s telling women that tech is really just for men,” Cavale said. “That developers, engineers can’t be women. I think we need more events like this that are focused on women and entrepreneurship … and specific tech programs for women and girls.”

The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham hopes to be part of the change. According to Bridgeforth, less than 7 percent of philanthropy in the U.S. targets women and girls.

“Nearly half of the women with children in Alabama live in poverty; that’s less than $22,000 a year,” Bridgeforth said. “So, when you compare that and combine that with the fact that less than 7 percent of giving is targeted toward the populations that need it most, that’s a problem.”

Working toward a solution, the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham has been investing in Alabama’s community college system.

“We’ve been investing our funding in those programs, so that they can find women who need the opportunity for advancement but don’t have the funds,” Bridgeforth said. The initiative has been so successful that they’re now seeking public dollars to invest and promote multigenerational change on a larger scale.

“In order to be able to lift all ships, you have to be targeted – you have to think about the people that are most vulnerable,” Bridgeforth said. “Equality is no longer an option, we have to be fighting for equity.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 years ago

Alabama Wildlife Center debuts American bald eagle

(Erin Harney/Alabama NewsCenter)

Shelby County just received a new namesake, Shelby, an American bald eagle now on display at the Alabama Wildlife Center (AWC) in Oak Mountain State Park.

The new eagle, and a Eurasian eagle owl – the largest owl species in the world (cousin to Alabama’s great horned owl) – now reside in a state-of-the-art raptor enclosure, called a mew, on the grounds of the facility.


“This has been a momentous day for us, we have waited for so long, for the partnerships to band together,” AWC board chairman Linda Miller said during the Dec. 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mew.

The Alabama Wildlife Center is Alabama’s oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation, conservation and education center. Founded in 1977, the center has grown to care for almost 2,000 injured or orphaned wild birds each year, from over 100 different species.

“This has been a process of a couple of years for the AWC to get to the point where we are today,” said Doug Adair, AWC executive director. “To be able to add this beautiful bald eagle to our education program … is a wonderful keystone of the progress we’ve been able to make.”

The education ambassadors, including Shelby, have been injured in some way that have made them unable to be released back into the wild. In Shelby’s case, she was hit by a car in Washington state, and even with rehabilitation, is not able to survive on her own in the wild.

Because Shelby is a bald eagle, the process of acquiring her for the center was extensive, with a national registry of organizations seeking the opportunity to house an eagle. “We started

working with her veterinarian in Oregon and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) over a year and a half ago,” said Adair.

The USFWS mandated the basic design specifications for the new mew, but the AWC and its partner organizations, exceeded the guidelines to provide a more spacious permanent home for the raptors.
Work at the center will continue in 2019, with the addition of interpretive signs to the new enclosure, new exhibits, upgrades to the facilities, distance learning initiatives, and video streaming of the enclosures, so that Shelby can be shared worldwide.

Over the next few years, visitors and online viewers will be able to see Shelby change from her juvenile plumage with brown and white mottled feathers to the characteristic white head and brown body of a full-grown bald eagle.

“While the work continues, we wanted to go ahead and have the ribbon-cutting today, because the eagle enclosure is ready for occupancy,” said Adair. “We wanted to get her into her new space, so visitors could enjoy this beautiful animal … a result of partnerships with great organizations and great people.”

Organizations involved with this project include: the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Oak Mountain State Park, the Shelby County Commission, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Alabama Power Foundation, EBSCO International, the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation, the Holley Family Foundation, Fishman Services LLC, Pelham City Council, and a number of members of the congressional delegation.

The AWC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that receives no state or federal operating funding. The center is supported primarily through membership dues, individual and corporate donations, and grants.

To learn more about how you can get involved at the wildlife center through volunteering, joining as a member, or donating money or supplies, visit, call 205-663-7930, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter (@ALWildlifeCtr ) and Instagram (@alabamawildlifecenter).

The AWC is in Oak Mountain State Park and is open every day of the year. Admission to the center is free; however, the park has an entrance fee: adults (age 12+) $5; children 6 to 11 $2 (children 5 and under free); and senior citizens 62+ $2.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 years ago

Miss Alabama USA, Hannah Brown, hopes to bring joy to the lives of others

(H. Brown)

Joy and light are what Hannah Brown hopes to bring to the public through her role as Miss Alabama USA, and she hopes, as Miss USA.

The Northport native began competing in pageants when she was 15 because of the opportunities for scholarships. However, she soon found that being able to share her talent, jazz dance, as well as develop public speaking and outreach skills, were just as important to her.
“My family has seen me grow significantly because of being in pageantry. It has really amplified me as a person,” Brown said. “I have been able to talk to really anybody from all aspects of life.” From children to legislators, “it has given me a lot of confidence in times when there is both positive and negative light shed on me,” Brown continued.


For Brown, the road to Miss Alabama USA was a bumpy one. Her early career included selection as first runner-up in Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen, followed by second runner-up in Miss Alabama Teen USA. However, as she entered the Miss Alabama system, Brown failed to make the top 15 four years in a row.

“It was kind of discouraging,” Brown said. “People always have an opinion about what you do, what you say, how you walk, how you dress. I took the wrong outlook on what pageantry should be – I thought my self-worth was through recognition.”

As she struggled with anxiety and depression, she took time off from pageant competitions. “In that moment, it is so hard to see joy in life. I can remember times where I didn’t want to get up,” Brown said.

For Brown, encouragement from friends and family, combined with her faith, provided her with the support she needed to begin seeing joy in life again. “Even when days are just a mess, there’s always a light in each day,” Brown said.

Brown hopes to be that light for others now. “I am here to encourage people and to be like … hey, I’ve been there, but here I am today. … I’ve been in a dark place, but there is light in the darkness,” Brown said.

This year, Brown started a school program about “joy,” where she shares her story and how she still struggles to conquer her mental health issues. “It is not always a walk in the park to be a human on this Earth,” Brown said. “We all have struggles. To say every day is easy, it’s not. … But to be able to talk about that, and to be able to be honest about that is the best way to be able to solve this issue.”

According to a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control, 2.1 percent of U.S. children in 2011 were diagnosed with depression and 3 percent were diagnosed with anxiety. For adults, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that as of 2015, about 18.5 percent of U.S. adults experience mental illness within a given year.

For Brown, mental health challenges have been a big part of her life story, but they haven’t stopped her. With renewed self-confidence, and a desire to share her new outlook on life, Brown entered the Miss Alabama USA competition at the last minute … and won.

“It was a whirlwind coming back into it … (but) I was 100 percent Hannah and didn’t have a care in the world, and that’s why I think I won,” Brown said.

Competing in the national Miss USA Pageant is a dream come true for Brown. “It is a huge responsibility to do this, and represent the state of Alabama and everything I stand for.”

Brown leaves this week for the competition rehearsals and festivities in Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana. To wish her luck before the competition, visit her Instagram or Twitter pages.

To watch, and cheer, for “Alabama Hannah” Brown, tune into FOX on May 21, when the Miss USA Competition airs live from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Central time. To learn more about the competition and this year’s contestants, visit or follow @Miss USA on social media.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)