• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

Partner Profile: Discovering Life

Issue 7 > Partner Profile page 1 > page 2
Dr. Andrea Radwell, a water mite researcher, at a DLIA sponsored public workshop.

Dr. Andrea Radwell, a water mite researcher, at a DLIA sponsored public workshop.

Photo copyright Kevin FitzPatrick.

It all started in 1998. That year, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along with Friends of the Smokies, the Great Smoky Mountains Association, many local, regional and nationally well-known scientists, and other interested parties came together with a new, exiting idea: to discover every living thing in the Smoky Mountains. To do this, they created a new non-profit partner: Discover Life in America (DLIA), whose goal was—and is—to bring researchers to the park to search for life in forests, soils, caves, and every other habitat in these mountains. The collective effort to do so is called the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, or ATBI.

Over the past 12 years, Discover Life in America has organized searches for life with public volunteers, university researchers, and amateur specialists. They have funded dozens of research projects and hosted thousands of visitors who worked side by side with scientists sifting through soil for millipedes, wading upriver to collect tardigrades, and crouching in a sun-dappled forest peering at ferns, among other projects. Although their numbers are small, DLIA staff, including Executive Director Todd Witcher, Database Technician Chuck Cooper, and Administrative Assistant/Volunteer Coordinator Heather MacCulloch, organize a massive scientific effort each year. They also host an ever-growing, annual Discover Life in America conference to highlight the results of species discoveries at the Smokies and in protected areas nationwide.

A student volunteer, Dr. Andrea Radwell, and DLIA's Heather MacCulloch crowd around the mesh filter used to catch water mites.

DLIA supports researchers and workshops to discover new species.

Photo copyright Kevin FitzPatrick.

What have scientists in the Smokies discovered? As of January, 2010, through years of work and with the help of thousands of people, we had discovered 6582 species that no one had found before in the park, and 907 species new to science entirely.

What’s it like to search for new species? Join DLIA-supported researcher Dr. Andrea Radwell and her volunteer team in the field (or stream, in this case) as they search for the spectacularly colored, elusive water mite on page 2.

Did You Know?