Archived Outdoors

Smokies document 77 new-to-park species

Smokies document 77 new-to-park species

Visitors armed only with a free app and love of nature have documented more than 4,000 species in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since 2011, according to the nonprofit Discovering Life in America, including 77 not previously documented in the park by anyone else. 

DLiA, which manages the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory project that aims to catalogue all species residing in the extremely biodiverse park, recently analyzed more than 71,000 records from the app, iNaturalist, to discover the impact these casual observations have made on the project. 

The batch of 77 new discoveries consisted mostly of insects and other arthropods, including 33 wasps, 15 kinds of flies and 10 beetle species. One new record was for a fungus called green beetle hanger, an external parasite of exotic Asian ladybird beetles. Forty different iNaturalist users made the observations, including six DLiA employees, three scientific researchers and a park employee. The remaining 30 people were members of the iNaturalist community who range from casual observers making their first trip to the Smokies to avid naturalists cataloguing their organisms of interest. DLiA expects to find additional new records as it continues its analysis. 

iNaturalist is a free app that does not require any scientific expertise to use. Its artificial intelligence helps users identify organisms from photos, as do other users on the platform, making it a fantastic tool for learning to distinguish the Smokies’ famous variety of wildflowers, trees and other life forms. Learn more at dlia.org.

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