2012 Discover Life in America’s Annual Conference a Huge Success including a visit by Pulitzer Prize-Winning Conservation Biologist E.O. Wilson
The search for life in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was celebrated at a unique gathering in Gatlinburg, March 22-24, hosted by Discover Life in America (DLIA). The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Conference brings experts and volunteers from around the world in celebration of citizen science and the amazing biodiversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This year’s conference was titled “The Roots of Biodiversity with Dr. E.O. Wilson.”
The conference, with over 200 in attendance, was dedicated to a first of its kind project to discover every living species in the Park and was headlined by Wilson – the world renowned naturalist and author who spent a year studying at the University of Tennessee in the 1950s. 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.
“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 helped spur a renewed effort to save the Smokies’ spectacular wealth of biodiversity.” During his keynote address Dr. Wilson acknowledged the “groundbreaking work of Discover Life in America,” and urged citizens to “support not only this project in the Smokies, but all biodiversity research world-wide.”
E. O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard and Todd Witcher, Director of Discover Life in America interview with WUOT's Chrissy Keuper at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
"The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park began in 1998 and is still going strong. To date, biologists have identified over 7000 species in the Park, with more than 900 species that are new to science. Discover Life in America, the non-profit overseeing the inventory, is holding its annual conference in Gatlinburg with keynote speaker E.O. Wilson. Wilson is a naturalist and Harvard professor who began his graduate work at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. WUOT's Chrissy Keuper speaks with Wilson and with Todd Witcher, Director of Discover Life in America. Witcher says the ATBI in the Smokies has become a model for projects just like it all over the world..."
At the request of the park, DLIA has formed Tree Teams of citizen scientists to sample threatened forest types, in order to discover what species of invertebrates may also be lost as these forests continue to decline. DLIA is a pioneer in using comprehensive approaches to biodiversity sampling, but some tree stand types have not had this sampling. The high elevation American beech tree stands are the first forest type to be sampled by DLIA using a newly developed multi-collection method.