Dr. E.O. Wilson To Help Celebrate Search For Life At Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It was back in 1998 that a dedicated search for all forms of life in Great Smoky Mountains National Park began. Now, as the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory moves into its 15th year, the project is being celebrated with a gathering headlined by Dr. E.O. Wilson.

The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Conference scheduled for March 22-24 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is expected to bring together experts and volunteers from around the world to the Glenstone Lodge for Discovery Life in America's 15th annual celebration of citizen science titled “The Roots of Biodiversity with Dr. E.O. Wilson.”

The conference is dedicated to a first of its kind project to discover every living species in the Smokies and is headlined by Dr. Wilson – the world-renowned naturalist and author who spent a year studying at the University of Tennessee in the 1950s. Dr. Wilson has been called one of the most important biological theorists since Darwin by The New York Times and one of the Top 25 Most Influential Americans by Time Magazine. He will address participants, including a public participation option, during a keynote address and reception at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 23, at the Glenstone Lodge. The public will also have a chance to hear him speak at a special reception and fundraiser for DLIA at the Knoxville Museum of Art at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, March 24.

“Dr. Wilson has been at the forefront of the global effort to save wildlife and species around the world and it is truly an honor to have him speak at our conference,” said Todd Witcher, executive director of DLIA. “He is a vocal supporter of efforts such as ATBI to document and protect species, and I hope his visit will help spur a renewed effort to save the Smokies spectacular wealth of biodiversity.”

The main focus of the three-day conference is to highlight the research, conservation and educational efforts being made to understand, manage and restore the estimated 60,000 – 80,000 species in the Smoky Mountains, considered to be one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. At the heart of this effort is the DLIA-organized All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), a unique ecological undertaking to find and document every species of life in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, from ferns and fungi to birds and beetles.

The effort began in 1998 and is serving as a model for efforts to document the diversity of life throughout the nation—at other national parks, state parks, and in other preserves, large and small. To date more than 900 species have been identified that are new to science and more than 7,000 species have been identified that are new records for the Smokies.

In addition to scientific presentations, the conference will feature field trips in the Smokies, nature hikes, photography workshops, fund-raising auctions and book signings. The conference is open to scientists, researchers, educators, media and interested members of the public. Highlights include:

* An opening reception at Twin Creeks Science Center hosted by Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce

* Presentations from the “Encyclopedia of Life” and the National Park Service

* Silent and live auctions to raise funds to help support the Smokies’ATBI

* ATBI science talks

* Workshops on: Fungi of the Southeastern US, Citizen Scientists in Parks, Schoolyard ATBI, Beetles of the Smokies, nature photography.

* Scientific poster sessions

* Field trips entitled “Spring Wildflowers of the Smokies, Animal Tracking, GPS for Dummies and Basic Field Botany”

* Updates from ATBI’s across the globe

For additional information, and registration details, check out this site.