Archived Outdoors

Smokies species project marks milestone

An iNaturalist user snaps a butterfly observation. Lucas Pfeiffer photo An iNaturalist user snaps a butterfly observation. Lucas Pfeiffer photo

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrating a milestone in its Smokies Most Wanted citizen science project, with 100,000 observations now recorded by people using the iNaturalist app.

Led by the park’s nonprofit partner Discover Life in America, Smokies Most Wanted encourages visitors to record species they find in the park through the app. DLiA and the park then use these data points to map species ranges, track exotic species and discover species new to the park. 

“GSMNP currently ranks No. 5 in iNaturalist observations, users and species recorded across the National Park Service system,” said Will Kuhn, DLiA’s director of science and research. “But the Smokies is probably number one in terms of actual documented species.”

In 2011, only four people were using iNaturalist in the Smokies. Now, the area has more than 7,100 users, Kuhn said. 

Of the 100,000 records submitted through iNaturalist, 92 revealed species not previously recorded in the park. Additionally, users have contributed needed location data for key species on the Smokies Most Wanted target list, which includes underdocumented plants, insects, birds and other species. These observations have documented seven species sufficiently to remove them from the list — great blue lobelia, red-spotted purple butterfly, smooth rock tripe lichen, chicken of the woods mushroom, poke milkweed, orange-patched smoky moth and white turtlehead. DLiA intends to replace these seven species with other underdocumented Smokies residents. 

To learn more about the Smokies Most Wanted initiative, visit dlia.org/smokiesmostwanted.

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