To be outdoors in the Tennessee Valley in nearly any season is to be surrounded by a riot of color, sound and movement. There is life, everywhere, even in the fallow months—for this is one of the most biologically diverse regions of the United States, if not the entire world.
From wildflowers and trees to birds and bees and everything in between, there is much flora and fauna to observe in our region of plenty, and TVA public lands are great places to go and do it.
Indeed, in partnership with Discover Life in America, TVA has hosted six BioBlitz events in which the public was invited to participate along with scientists and specialists in daylong biological inventories at locations along its water resources, including Norris, Tellico, Melton Hill, Nickajack, Watts Barr and Foster Falls.
“The BioBlitzes were a great way for us to get a realistic catalog of what’s on our lands to help us better manage and protect them,” said Tiffany Foster, partnership and educational outreach specialist for TVA Natural Resources. “At the same time, they engaged the public in citizen science and ecology in a really fun way.”
During the BioBlitzes, participants collected and documented as many different plant and animal species as possible using rudimentary collection equipment (such as simple nets) and one high-tech device: a smart phone equipped with the iNaturalist app, which allows one to snap a picture of any organism and upload it for identification.
The results are in, and they are stunning in breadth and depth, yielding a surprisingly beautiful bounty. See photos of the species encountered at the links below:
And yet, the BioBlitzes aren’t over; nor will they ever be, Ms. Foster said. “You can still download the iNaturalist app and go out on the trail at any time and take a picture of a leaf or bug or fish and upload it,” she says. “The very active iNaturalist community will review your picture and identify it, and within a half-hour or so you’ll have an answer, and—in many cases—scientific grade data.”
If it’s a new species to one of the areas that’s been BioBlitzed, it will be added to the compendium; in that way, you can contribute to the wealth of data on each of TVA’s properties. Conversely, you can review the store of information that’s already been found, and set off on a treasure hunt to find each species, as one East Tennessee middle school recently did.
Either way, you can relish the connection to nature—and count yourself in as a partner in TVA’s stewardship mission. “Our lives depend on biodiversity, and part of TVA’s mission is to connect people with their public lands,” said Bucky Edmondson, TVA director of Natural Resources. “This gives people a chance to be a part of something bigger, learn about the area they live in and hopefully grow a passion for protecting these resources for future generations.”