DLIA Newsletter Summer 2014
Help us make 2014 the best year ever for Discover Life in America!
Discover Life in America

ATBI Quarterly

Just a few tickets remain!


What do Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Malaysian jungles have in common? Haven’t a twinkling of an idea? It’s the presence of synchronous fireflies! During the first weeks of June, an annual lightshow, put on by Mother Nature’s night-lights, illuminate areas of GSMNP. This year the non-profit organization Discover Life in America is holding a number of events for the public to experience this natural wonder and learn more about the mystery behind the synchronous fireflies.
“We know of 19 species of fireflies (actually they're a unique group of beetles) currently inhabiting the Park,” states park curator Adriean Mayor. “There are 12 species that flash and 7 species with no flash.” This flashing phenomenon is caused by a chemical reaction in the fireflies’ lower abdominal organs called bioluminescence.
Now you might be wondering: Why don’t the fireflies in my backyard synchronize? What makes the fireflies in the park so special? All of your questions and more will be answered by attending any of the following events:
On June 6 and 7, starting at 7:30 pm and ending at 11:00 pm, DLIA is holding a fund-raising event at Norton Creek Sanctuary near Gatlinburg, TN.  The Norton Creek Sanctuary is a large, private preserve contiguous with the National Park and is also home to a fantastic firefly display each June.   With exclusive access to the property and a firefly expert on site, you will learn the answers to your questions while enjoying the amazing display first hand. Food (heavy hors d’oeuvres) and drink (beer and wine) will be provided, so come out and enjoy this nighttime picnic with the fireflies. There will be a short walk to the site and be prepared for possible inclement weather. (Reservations required – space is very limited. Call 865.430.4756 for tickets. The cost is $75 per person.)


Celebrate Biodiversity Days in Great Smoky Mountains National Park beginning June 19 - 21, 2014 with walks, seminars, demonstrations, scientist-led field trips, and other fun events both on the Tennessee side and North Carolina side of the Park.  All in celebration of the amazing diversity of GSMNP.  Learn more about the biodiversity of GSMNP and the on-going All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) throughout the website www.dlia.org (see below for schedule of events). Space will be limited; make your reservations early.

What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the variation of species in a given ecosystem, including all types of life forms from plants to animals. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 unique species reside in the Smoky Mountains. 
Why is biodiversity important?
The level of biodiversity in an ecosystem is a measure of its health. Humans are affected by biodiversity in their daily lives, with the ecosystem and its biodiversity providing vital clean air, fertile soil, and water purification. The diversity in ecosystems enrich human life through methods not easily seen, and we need biodiversity to support ourselves and all other life on the planet.
What are biodiversity days?
Biodiversity days are events presented  by Discover Life in America including workshops, presentations, and hikes to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity. 

Schedule of Events:
June 19:  10 am – 3 pm- CENTIPEDES:  BIOLOGY AND IDENTIFICATION– Twin Creeks Science Center-call to register
Centipedes are both fascinating and scary at the same time.  Learn the biology and ecological role of centipedes, be introduced to the four orders and many families and see a demonstration of the identifying characteristics. An overview of the who, what and where of centipedes, followed by a field collecting event and a review of some examples.
June 20:  10 am – 3 pm – FRESHWATER SPONGES OF TENNESSEE– Twin Creeks Science Center-call to register
Little is known of freshwater sponges within Tennessee. They are truly unique benthic invertebrates.  This presentation will include basic life history and habitat information.  Foods, reproduction, symbiotic relationships with algae, and their basic function within an ecosystem  will also be discussed.  These unique creatures also serve as a biological indicator species.  An overview of the who, what and where of freshwater sponges, followed by a field collecting event, and a review of some examples.
June 21:  All Day-FERN FORAY– Survey trail to be determined-call to register
This is the continuation of the Inventory of ferns and associated species along the trails of the Park. The sampling method includes the utilization of 7.5 meter circular plots located approximately every 200 meters along trails. Between-plot sites are made up of observations and field identifications of flora along the trails between the formalized plots. The intent of the project is to inventory the ferns and associated flora over the entire Park utilizing the extensive network of trails, and a dedicated group of volunteer citizen scientists.  Trail to be determined.

Please call to register!
For more information call 865-430-4757 or visit our website at www.dlia.org

Biodiversity Hike and Overnight to LeConte Lodge

Please join us for our annual trek and overnight to Leconte Lodge.
Ever wonder what it would be like to stay overnight at the highest inn in the Eastern United States? How about doing so with a guided hike up one of Mount Le Conte’s most scenic trails? Join Discover Life in America for all this and more on our annual Biodiversity Hike to Mt. Le Conte, August 23  and 24, 2014.
Discover Life in America (DLIA) works with scientists and volunteers from around the world to coordinate the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) for Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). The ATBI is one of the world’s most ambitious efforts to document and understand every living species in GSMNP, and it is through events like our annual hike to Mt. Le Conte that we hope to educate anyone interested in the importance of biodiversity to both this great park and the greater humankind.
The trip begins with a guided hike up Alum Cave Bluff Trail with an experienced guide giving the natural history, local human history, biodiversity lessons and much more along the way. We’ll have a picnic lunch on the way up, an evening sunset program on the ATBI at Clifftops, and a chance to meet some new friends while learning a thing or two. The package includes dinner, lodging and breakfast, and handmade note cards from DLIA . All this for the price of $275 per person, and you will be supporting both DLIA and the Smokies ATBI program.
Reserve a slot now while spots are still open! For reservations or more information, e-mail Todd at todd@dlia.org or call (865) 430-4757. Sleeping arrangements will be shared, so bring or friend or get ready to make a new one!


A Big Event in July:  We'll need your help!

Bioblitz: The Fungus Among Us

What is BioBlitz?
Discover Life in America (DLIA), scientists from the Illinois Natural History Survey and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are host to a unique program called the BioBlitz. Designed as part contest, part festival, part educational event, part scientific endeavor, the BioBlitz brings together scientists from across the region in a race against time to see how many species they can count in a 24-hour biological survey of a the fungal diversity in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The public is invited to observe the scientists' activities, to interact with them, and to participate in other activities that are presented by DLIA and a host of invited nature-oriented organizations.
Why Do It?
Public Awareness: BioBlitz is designed to increase the public's awareness of the importance of the variety of life, and the services these various species provide.  We usually hear the word "biodiversity" in regard to rainforests with their vast number of species. Yet the diversity of life in our own backyards is phenomenal. We take for granted clean water, fertile soil, and air to breathe. Yet these are all the result of working ecosystems filled with species that perform these tasks. From our morning shower to our late night snack, we are supported by biodiversity every minute of the day. What better way to address the topic than to invite people to share in our 24-hours of discovery and to experience the vast array of species that we can find in their neighborhood park in just one cycle of the day?
Excite kids about science: The BioBlitz is an excellent tool for exciting children about science. This event generates energy and enthusiasm among scientists and lay people alike. It is rare for biologists from many disciplines to have the opportunity to get together, share their passions with each other and the public, and work toward a single common goal. This event is designed to capitalize on that and to encourage interaction with scientists at the "base camp." The "base camp" is the hub of the BioBlitz. It is a centralized tent equipped with microscopes, computers, and other tools of the trade. This is where identifications take place, species are recorded, discoveries are made, and the tally of species is recorded.
Generate Data: The BioBlitz also generates a list of species found in the park, a first step in successful park management. The BioBlitz has the potential to identify species that should be monitored or controlled. It may identify unique aspects of the park that might otherwise not have been known. This information along with recommendations from the scientists is supplied to the park. Imagine the cost of hiring 168 experts to conduct a survey and make recommendations for park management.
Celebrate with us: The BioBlitz is a celebration of the diversity of life in our backyards. But why celebrate it? We hear again and again about the negative impacts we've had on biodiversity such as the loss of species and the destruction of habitats. It seems rare to accentuate and celebrate something positive. The BioBlitz is a chance to highlight the positive impact that city parks and open spaces, with all their diversity, have on our everyday lives. Join us next year as we celebrate biodiversity formally at the BioBlitz.
The Big Picture
As we gain valuable information about our parks, we can begin to understand the extent to which parks are sustaining the richness of biodiversity.
  • When: Saturday, July 12, 2014
  • What time: 9 am – 9 pm; with 3 scheduled hunts & a public presentations
  • Where: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Twin Creeks Science and Education Center
  • Who: Anyone & everyone, no experience necessary
  • Cost: Free
  • Contact: Todd P. Witcher, Executive Director, Discover Life in America, 865-430-4757

Donate Today

DLIA is funded entirely by donations and grants. Your support today will help keep discovery alive.

931 Species New to Science
7,799 New Species for the Park

DLIA 2014 Interns

We've had some fantastic interns over the years, and this year is no different.  Thanks to the generosity of Kevin Fitzpatrick and the Mary Fitzpatrick Internship we are able to host a Photography and Biology intern each summer.  We are also lucky to have a Duke Stanback Intern each summer thanks to Fred Stanback and his long-term dedication to non-profits and conservation.  Our interns this year are, Vishnudas Cheruvally (Stanback intern from Duke), Emily Stuart (Lincoln Memorial University), Joseph Desisto (University of Connecticut), Megan Hubbard (NC State) represent the Mary Fitzpatrick internships.
Welcome DLIA interns!


Science Advisory Panel
Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic
Dr. Dan Janzen, University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, The Heinz Center
Dr. Ron Pulliam, University of Georgia
Dr. Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden
Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University
Board of Directors
Pat Parr – Chair
Oak Ridge National Lab, Oak Ridge, TN
W. Michael Dennis – Vice Chair
 Breedlove, Dennis and Associates, Inc.,
Winter Park, FL
Dora Nelson – Secretary,
Carolina Day School, Asheville, NC
RB Summitt – Treasurer,
Sevier Co. Bank, Sevierville, TN
Leslee Alexander, LTA Consulting, Nashville, TN
Kristen Austin, The Nature Conservancy, Greenville, SC
Steve Bohleber, Bohleber Law, Evansville, IN
Pat Cox, TVA, Knoxville, TN
Logan Coykendall, Hospitality Management Solutions, Gatlinburg, TN
TW Garrett, Cleveland, TX
Fred Holtzclaw, Clinton, TN
Sara Kuebbing, University of TN, Knoxville, TN
Keith Langdon, Retired NPS, Sevierville, TN
Laurie MacNair, R3 Consulting, Knoxville, TN
Bruce Minkin, Carolina Hand and Sports Medicine, Asheville, NC
Lee Poston, World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC
Moria Robinson, UC Davis, Davis, CA
JJ Rochelle, Pro-2 Serve, Oak Ridge, TN
Charles Smith, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Todd P. Witcher, Executive Director
Chuck Cooper, Database Technician
Heather Hansen, Volunteer Coordinator

Tree Teams Sorting to start in July

On July 17 we will begin our Tree Teams Sorting at Twin Creeks Science and Education Center.  This is our long-term project to determine the arthropods associated with the declining tree species in the Park.  Please call 865-430-4757 to register. To learn more about Tree Teams, visit our website www.dlia.org.



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