National Park News

  1. Park, Congressional Leaders, and Governor Dedicate Foothills Parkway

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials were joined by Senator Lamar Alexander, Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr, Congressman Phil Roe, Governor Bill Haslam, and NPS Southeast Regional Director Bob Vogel to dedicate the long-awaited section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley, TN before the public opening on Saturday, November 10. The public will be able to experience this new section of roadway for the first time since construction began in 1966, including the 1.65-mile section known as the ‘Missing Link’ which is now connected by a series of nine bridges. 

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  2. The Benefits of Spiders – An Interview with Kefyn Catley

    Spiders tend to get a bad rap, but they are actually critical to the balance of our ecosystems. Kefyn Catley will explain how on Friday, July 20, as part of Discover Life In America’s Science at Sugarlands series, a free public event at Sugarlands Visitor Center at which participants will get to go on a spider hunt.

    Catley, a biology professor at Western Carolina University, teaches and conducts research in the evolutionary biology of spiders. He holds a Ph.D. in arthropod systematics from Cornell, was a research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History, and has taught Spiders of the Southern Appalachians at Highlands Biological Station in North Carolina since 2004.

    FF: It’s not every day you meet someone who has studied spiders on four continents. Why do you find them so fascinating?

    KC: Spiders have an ancient lineage originating some 400 million years ago. They are the largest and most important group of predators on the planet and are considered a mega-diverse taxon with more than 47,000 described species with an estimated total number in the range of 75,000-190,000. Spiders are excellent models for studying ecology, behavior, biochemistry, competition, speciation, sexual selection and biogeography, among other fields. They contribute to research in biological pest control, venom chemistry and the cloning of silk.

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  3. Fireflies and Bioluminescence - An Interview with Will Kuhn

    One of the most exciting and fabulously popular events each year in late May and early-to-mid June is the flashy mating ritual of the synchronous fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains. This year’s peak dates for firefly viewing are June 7-14 and thousands of visitors will be gathering, just as they have for years, near the Elkmont Campground to observe this naturally occurring phenomenon. 

    Why does Photinus carolinus attract not only its mate but also a large human fan club through its rhythmic flashing? We asked Dr. William R. Kuhn, a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Tennessee, to illuminate this topic.

    FF: First of all, how are you involved with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and what makes it exciting for you? 

    WK: I am a member of Discover Life in America's board and have recently become chair of the Science Committee. In addition, I've helped with the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory's sampling effort, including collecting assassin bugs (predatory insects related to stink bugs and cicadas) in the park, as they were considered under-studied here. So far, this work has resulted in a new species record for the park. Every time I work in the Smokies, I think to myself what a privilege it is to be in such a beautiful and diverse place! 

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  4. Pollinator garden dedication marks first of DLIA talk series at Sugarlands

    Pollinator garden dedication marks first of DLIA talk series at Sugarlands

    Discover Life in America dedicated the pollinator garden at Sugarlands Visitor Center on May 18 and kicked off its Science at Sugarlands series, a collection of talks to be held the third Friday of each month through October. A collaboration between DLIA, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Great Smoky Mountains Association, the pollinator garden project used native plants to rehabilitate ten existing overgrown plant beds and to provide much-needed habitat for native pollinators.

    “One goal of the project is to connect the visitors with the natural community and remind them of the important interactions between flora and fauna,” said DLIA Executive Director Todd Witcher. “Signage was developed to interpret the beds and to inform visitors about creating habitat for pollinators in their own backyard.”

    The garden had been a gleam in Witcher’s eye since 2014 when the White House implemented a National Pollinator Health Strategy. “It was recognized that there has been a decline in insect pollinators nationwide, so funding was made available to agencies for projects that address this issue, including research and habitat improvements,” he said.

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  5. Clingmans Dome Road to opens March 31

    Clingmans Dome Road to opens March 31

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced plans to open Clingmans Dome Road this weekend beginning Saturday, March 31.

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