The University of Tennessee’s partnership with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a unique and mutually beneficial relationship. This collaboration supports and enhances public access, appreciation, financial support, preservation and stewardship of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while providing essential educational, research, and service-learning opportunities for UT students and faculty in the country’s largest and most bio-diverse park. In any given year, there are around 100 faculty members and 30 undergraduate and graduate students involved in researching, teaching, and learning in the park. The Wildflower Pilgrimage, which began in 1951, is one annual event that has allowed for engaged learning in the park, as has water quality sampling research, which began in 1991.
Community partners include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Trout Unlimited, Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont, All Taxa Biodiversity Index group, and Friends of the Smokies. University of Tennessee, Knoxville partners include the College of Arts and Sciences, UT Conferences & Continuing Education, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, UT AgResearch, Archaeology Research Lab, and the College of Engineering.
Impact on UT
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park partnership helps protect and preserve the park’s natural, cultural, and historical resources for present and future generations of students and faculty. The Park’s Twin Creeks Science Center plays a key role in NIMBioS research. The park is an essential resource for the university’s ongoing research on the hemlock woolly adelgid, and is a vitally important site for engineering research on biogeochemical processes associated with acidic deposition in low-buffered streams, and biological research on the impacts on aquatic biota. Undergraduate and graduate students also conduct hands-on research in the park every year.
A partnership with the park helps preserve and protect the park for its twenty million annual visitors. About 1,000 of those visitors come to the park every year specifically to participate either in the Wildflower Pilgrimage or the Smoky Mountain Field School. UT provides both of these programs with registration infrastructure, and UT faculty from multiple colleges and departments serve as the program’s teaching staff. The park leaders of water quality assessment use UT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s site-based educational research.
Related Story: Unplugging and Reconnecting with Nature: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and UT >>
Links and Contacts:
Smoky Mountain Field School
Great Outdoors Adventure Travel
SMFS Non-Credit Classes
Daily Times News on Smokies Partners
NIMBios Biodiversity measurements
Blog: TN Environmental Educators
Blog: NIMBios Visits Smoky Mts.
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