“Look at this!” It was a phrase commonly heard at the recent BioBlitz at Lone Oaks Farm. During this three-day event, scientists and conservationists from across the state surveyed the University of Tennessee’s 1200-acre farm, documenting as many different plant and animal species as possible. With each new find, be it a salamander or a sumac, the excitement was evident.
“We assembled some of the top scientists and researchers in their fields to come in and quickly assess the flora and fauna of the farm,” said Ben West, director, Lone Oaks Farm.
“What they found will now be used to inform the design process for the Lone Oaks master plan. Ultimately, we want to create a place where we can showcase working agriculture while at the same time increasing the biodiversity of the land.”
Lone Oaks Farm is being developed by the UT Institute of Agriculture to serve as a 4-H Center as well as a venue for youth development and STEM education and as an outdoor laboratory for sustainable agricultural practices. The university has hired Nelson Byrd Woltz, a Virginia-based landscape architecture firm, to design the layout. Thomas Woltz, principal, says findings from the recent BioBlitz will serve as a baseline for setting ecological goals for the property.
“We want to transform this farm into an experimental landscape looking at the most sustainable implementation of agriculture, but also sustaining wildlife connectivity and biodiversity,” said Mr. Woltz. “The BioBlitz will help us make a master plan of the productive landscape, but we’re redefining that to be both ecologically productive for biodiversity and productive for agriculture.”
BioBlitz participants included scientists, conservationists and students from UTIA, UT Martin, Austin Peay University, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Aquarium. Areas of focus included ichthyology, herpetology, ornithology, botany and forest ecology.
“It was our goal to inventory what is here now, and also perhaps note what should be here that’s not,” said Carol Reese, ornamental horticulture specialist with UT Extension, who served on the botany team. “As we move forward, we want to maintain a good balance of agriculture and wildlife.”
Following three days of fieldwork, teams from each of the focus areas presented their findings to the architects and UT employees, who are working together to create the master plan. The master plan is scheduled to be completed in July, but an initial unveiling will occur on May 22, at 2 p.m. Everyone is invited to join the presentation of the master plan via webinar. To register, go to loneoaksfarm.com/masterplan.
Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.