Friends of the Smokies is one of the partners that funded the construction of a research facility at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Park bursts with beauty and natural wonders. Visitors can see beautiful vistas and trees and critters and there's a lot more here.
"We know about 18,000 different species in the Park. But there's an estimate of about 70,000 species that live here," Park spokesperson Molly Schroer said.
She is familiar with the biodiverity of the park. Researchers have collected samples over the years.
"We have plants, we have animals, lichens, slimes, moths, amphibians, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, you know the creep crawly spiders and things," she said.
Thanks in part to the Friends of the Smokies, the collected specimens moved to a new home in 2007.
"Our natural history collection was originally housed down in the basement of our Visitors Center. It was a damp environment. We couldn't control the climate. It was limited space. And that's not how you want to have a collection like this. You've got to be able to protect it and preserve it," she said.
Twin Creeks Science and Education Center is a state of the art facility is one location for biodiversity inventory research.
Kari Atkinson takes care of the collection stored at Twin Creeks including this rare passenger pigeon preserved with taxidermy, one of many mammals stored that way at Twin Creeks.
She pulled a large sliding drawer out of a cabinet. "We have our baby bear who was born in April of 1960 and killed four months later," she said.
Those animals look good but most researchers use the study skins and skull specimens stored and cataloged here. Other specimens are preserved in jars and organized in cabinets. While others are collected and stored with pins in drawers.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park issues about 200 research permits every year.
"They may be collecting specimens or just taking date samples and this facility is a place where they can do some of their research. They can look at our specimens. We have labs they can use. We have research areas they can use," Schroer said. "You don't know what's out there so we have researchers who come here who try to find these new species to see what we don't know about the world and what all these biodiverse species can tell us."
It's a science center tucked into the beautiful Smoky Mountains.