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

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

The Southern Appalachians: The Perfect Place for Research

EPA research studying ground level ozone at Great Smoky Mountains NP.

EPA researcher studying ground level ozone at Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Research Permits:

National Park Service

All research conducted on land administered by the National Park Service must be approved through the Research Permit and Reporting System. All applications must be made on-line and are made for individual parks. Research that involves multiple parks must involve multiple permit applications made to each of the parks involved, though you may cut and paste your information. NPS reviewers are charged with protecting the natural and cultural resources of their parks, protecting visitor experience, insuring that information returns to the park for its use, and following a number of federal regulations, so applications must be as clear as possible regarding methodology, project justification, and eventual disposition of the data, reports, and specimens (see attached guidelines for key points to address in your applications). Principle investigators for research permits are expected to submit annual progress reports online for the duration of their permits. Researchers who fail to submit these reports may not be granted renewed or new permits until they have complied with this requirement. NPS parks in our area include:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina and Virginia)
  • Obed Wild and Scenic River (Tennessee)
  • Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (Tennessee and Kentucky)
  • Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (North Carolina)
  • Cumberland Gap National Historic Site (Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky)
  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail (many states)
  • Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

For renewing a permit for an existing study, Click on the hot link for "Submit applications for research permits" on the Research Permit and Reporting System web page. Click on "Continue Application Process." Enter your last name at the prompt. Select your name from any list that is presented. Your permit should be listed, along with a hot link for a renewal.

National Forests:

For scientific research, the researcher needs to apply for a special use permit at the appropriate ranger district within each forest. In the case of research across multiple districts and/or forests (for instance across both the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests), the permit may be handled in the Supervisor's Office in Asheville and may require the signature of the Forest Supervisor. A special use permit in wilderness areas requires the Forest Supervisor's signature. If the permit involves the removal of plant parts (voucher specimens, seeds, leaves, etc) the permit will need to be processed as a botanical product. The Forests request copies of any publication, thesis, or report that results from data from the National Forests.

National Forests in our area include:

  • Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, NC
  • Cherokee National Forest, TN
  • Daniel Boone National Forest, KY
  • George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, VA

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians:

For those wishing to conduct scientific research on tribal land, all permitting decisions are made on a case by case basis by the Department of Natural Resource and Construction or the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Management, as appropriate to the proposal. Please provide a short summary of your proposed research that addresses all relevant points on the attached guidance PDF to Mr. Michael LaVoie to begin the process. You are also encouraged to send your proposal to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Resource Coordinator if you see a connection between your work and the resources of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. For more information on some of the research interests and opportunities on tribal lands, please see the second attached PDF.

  • Kentucky-As of 2009, the state of Kentucky requires a "Scientific Wildlife Collecting Permit" (1-year; $250 fee) for "the taking and subsequent possession or release of protected wildlife specimens for the purposes of conducting scientific investigations or evaluations for which compensation is received." For "the taking and subsequent possession or release of protected wildlife by an individual or nonprofit organization for use in the bona fide instruction of students or for a university-related research project," an "Educational Wildlife Collecting Permit" (1-year; $25 fee) may suffice. Each requires an annual report of data and activities.

  • North Carolina-As of 2007, anyone wishing to conduct flora and fauna research in North Carolina must obtain a Wildlife Collection License. This license is required whether collection of specimens will take place or not. Examples of "non-collecting" activities requiring a license include any capture and release activity such as mist netting for bats or birds, mark-recapture studies (e.g., pit tagging, ear tagging, toe clipping, radio telemetry), and observational surveys or studies (i.e., presence/absence) in which animals may be handled by a licensee such as consultants, students, or other researchers. To apply for the Wildlife Collection License access the following link at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission web site: "License/Permits/Registration/Titling;" then access the link for: "See other wildlife licenses, permits and special hunts." Scroll down to the "Wildlife Collection License" to access the proper form. An additional specific form is required to conduct research on state game lands. Project proposals should be submitted with the application. Application reviews can take several weeks. NCWRC will contact you if further information is needed. Any research taking place on game lands owned by the state will require additional information be submitted. Any questions regarding the application process should be directed to the Special Permits Coordinator at: (919) 707-0061.

  • Tennessee-As of 2007, anyone wishing to collect biological or geological materials, or air or water samples, or install research equipment on State Park or Designated State Natural Area land must obtain a scientific research and collecting permit from the Tennessee Division of Natural Areas. Any reliable person wishing to take, capture and transport in Tennessee, wild birds, and nests and eggs thereof, and wild animals and fish, when taken and used for purely scientific purposes requires a permit from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.

  • Virginia-As of 2007, a permit is required (2-years; $40 fee) for the collection, or capture and release, of non-listed wildlife for scientific or educational purposes. There is an additional permit (1-year; $20 fee) required for any activities related to federal- or state- endangered or threatened species. Each requires an annual report of data and activities.

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