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Students working on the UT Gardens...Photo by Jack Parker
Students working on the UT Gardens...Photo by Jack Parker

UT will host the first Rocky Top BioBlitz—a biological survey focused on identifying as many species as possible in a defined area over a short period of time—from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, October 11. The meeting point will be outside Ayres Hall.

The event is a joint initiative of the departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Earth and Planetary Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with Discover Life in America, a nonprofit organization that aims to catalog the more than 100,000 species living in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“We want to encourage people to take notice of the nature around them, even in an urban environment such as the UT campus,” said Kimberly Sheldon, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “Our campus is rich in biodiversity, and we want to take a better look at it.”

During the Rocky Top BioBlitz, participants will walk around campus looking for any kind of life: birds, insects, plants, and even fungi. They will document what they find by taking pictures and uploading them to an app called iNaturalist. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices.

In addition, university experts in ecology, biology, and earth and planetary sciences will be available to help participants identify their findings in a tent outside Ayres Hall, the starting point of the survey.

“The information we gather during this year’s BioBlitz will serve as a biological baseline. We plan to run the BioBlitz every year so we can compare data across years and examine changes in campus biodiversity over time,” said Sheldon.

Students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the general public, are invited to participate. The event is free, open to the public, and no registration is necessary.

For more information and instructions on how to join the survey, visit the iNaturalist project page for the Rocky Top BioBlitz.


Andrea Schneibel (, 865-974-3993)