Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

A Trail to Discovery – UT Research and the Great Smoky Mountains

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains have a long history of collaboration and research. The Great Smoky Mountains is home to more than 19,000 identified species of living organisms, and researchers believe there may be tens of thousands of unidentified species. Beyond the plants and animals found in the region, the Great Smoky Mountains have been home to humans for an estimated 1,000 to 3,000 years, leading to a rich social history including agricultural practices, music, literature, folk traditions and more.

Current research builds on a century of partnership connecting UT to the Great Smoky Mountains.

The incredible diversity of life and culture within the region have provided amazing opportunities to university faculty and students for more than 100 years, even prior to the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Hand holding a fish in a streamCurrently, the university has dozens of projects working in and around the park. Faculty members and students in an array of departments are leveraging this unique resource to investigate a broad range of topics, from the effects of the Chimney Tops 2 fires on soil microbial communities to food traditions of the region.

Each month, the Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development will highlight a project that leverages the wealth of resources found in the Great Smoky Mountains National park and broader region. These projects cross academic boundaries and address questions relevant to the past, present, and future wellbeing of local and regional communities. The ongoing partnerships between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the university have the potential to impact the lives of those in Tennessee and beyond by developing a rich understanding of the area and its role in the greater physical and cultural landscape of the nation.