Researchers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park are inviting people to volunteer as Citizen Scientists and join park biologists in collecting scientific data and mapping locations of ash trees at selected sites. There are four upcoming dates to choose from: Saturday, Aug. 28 (at Smokemont Campground in N.C.), Saturday, Sept. 11 (at Oconaluftee in N.C.), Saturday, Sept. 25 (at Deep Creek in N.C.), or Saturday, Oct. 2 (at a location TBD in Tenn.). On each of these dates, the scheduled field activity will run from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Volunteers will learn how to identify ash and other common trees found in the Smoky Mountains, set up a scientific plot, and use a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit. The ash trees are at risk from the invasive, non-native Emerald Ash Borer, which has now been found nearby in Knox County, Tenn. This beetle can travel undetected in firewood and nursery stock from quarantined areas into new locations in the park. The data that is collected will help park staff map the locations of ash trees parkwide to monitor the health of the forest and detect future infestations.
The volunteers should be prepared to hike up to 5 miles on Park trails and in rough terrain off the main paths. It is recommended that participants wear long pants and comfortable closed-toe shoes or boots for hiking, and bring snacks, water, sunscreen, and rain gear. Reservations are necessary and participation for each day is limited to 16 people (children 12 and under must bring an adult).
Contact Ranger Susan Simpson at 865/436-1200, ext. 762 to R.S.V.P. for any (or all) of these days and for exact meeting locations.