Ryan Trenkamp

     Ah, Tennessee. Growing up next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for most of my life meant that many days were spent in the shadow of the mountains, searching for salamanders and chasing down birds. Little did I know that those same streams and forests would become my workplace, as I'm now a photography and videography intern with Discover Life in America.
     And what an internship it's been so far! These first six weeks have been slam packed with so many wonderful and sciencey happenings that one post can't possibly do it justice. A few days after arriving in the park we had a bioblitz at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, a brief event where people collect specimens and make as many observations as they can about the plants and animals living in a given area - essentially a "snapshot" of the biodiversity of an area. The day ended with 150 species observed, photographed, and released, ranging from beetles to spiders to millipedes.
     Shortly after, DLIA's synchronous firefly fundraiser event ran for three consecutive nights on the park's border. This is separate from the firefly event in Elkmont that draws hundreds and hundreds of people every night. Put simply, it was amazing. From about 9:30pm to 11:30pm these flashing beetles really put on a show, with the males signaling from the trees in hopes of attracting the females' attention on the ground below.
     One of the highlights has been going out multiple times to net and tag bats around the park with a research team from UTK. While I'm not allowed to handle the bats myself, being able to get so close and photograph these marvelous creatures is a dream come true. Once the nets are set up, often over a stream, they then get checked every fifteen minutes to see whether any bats have flown into it, where they patiently/panickingly wait to be extricated and later measured, swabbed, and tagged in some way.
     Most recently I served as the main cataloging photographer for all of the specimens collected at the Melton Hill Dam bioblitz, where about 130 species were documented.
     All in all, I'm beyond blessed to be able to walk out my front door and be on a trail, run around with a camera and know that I'm actually working, poke around creeks for salamanders like always, and work with amazing people in amazing places.
To view a video of some of my experiences, click HERE.

Until the next trail ... Ryan out.

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