Smoky Mountain News | Outdoors
Bastion of biodiversity
Life in the richest place on earth
By Becky Johnson • Staff writer
When Jim Lowe strikes out on his twice-monthly foray to check insect traps in the Smokies, he never knows just what is in store.
Lowe runs various and sundry traps — tiny cups sunk in the ground, large mesh nets draped from poles and funnels dangling in the tree canopy. As a volunteer for the All Taxa Biological Inventory, Lowe ambushes moths, spiders, millipedes, bees, flies, beetles and the whole array of insects in the name of science.
During his collection rounds, he often wonders, “Is this a new species?” It is usually months, or even years, until he knows the answer, after taxonomists get their hands on the specimens and cull through them.
But to Lowe, the ATBI is more than the thrill of the hunt, more than a laundry list of new species or bragging rights as the most diverse park.
“We are asking the fundamental question: what do each of these things do? What is their role in the ecosystem?” said Lowe, who lives outside Robbinsville. “The Smokies is a most extraordinary place. There is so much diversity.”