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National Park Service Centennial Celebration

This August marks the one hundredth birthday of the National Park Service, and people all over the United States are celebrating the centennial! Scientists in the Field author Mary Kay Carson showed her excitement by discussing the importance of the NPS and her book, Park Scientists, in an interview with “The Book Club” on 91.7 with Mark Perzel .

Mary Kay talks about the SITF series, and what makes this book different: instead of profiling one scientist, Park Scientists highlights research happening in Yellowstone, Saguaro, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. Mary Kay mentions that she and photographer Tom Uhlman “wanted three very different parks,” and points out that despite their variety—Yellowstone is the oldest national park and predates the NPS, while Great Smoky Mountains claims the title of most visited park, and Saguaro is an example of an urban park—they are all sites of unique scientific research. “National Parks are a bit like living laboratories,” she continues, “they’re places that scientists like to do research, because they know that they’re going to be there and…the variables are going to be fewer.”

As Mary Kay mentions in her interview, “with the Great Smoky Mountains, we did a project with salamanders, and there…are salamander species that live only in the park.” The plethora of Salamanders in the Great Smoky Mountains is no secret—in a recent interview for Here & Now’s series celebrating the centennial, Dana Soehn, a management assistant at Great Smoky Mountains, talked about the park and declared, “we’re known as the salamander capital of the world.” As the “largest natural area east of the Mississippi,” Dana explains that the park doesn’t only have the “highest density of black bears anywhere in the nation”—it also serves as a home to “over 30 different species of lungless salamanders,” despite being “located within a day’s drive of more than half the US population.”

You can join in on the National Park Service’s centennial celebration by watching CBS Sunday Morning’s On the Trail with Conor Knighton. Conor is visiting every single National Park this year, and you can even follow his Instagram account to see where he’s headed next. Or, you can discover tons of opportunities to celebrate with the National Park Service here!

Want to learn even more about the species and research happening in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after listening to Mary Kay and Dana’s interviews? No problem! With August just around the corner, be sure to check out Park Scientists while you celebrate one hundred years of our remarkable National Parks.

by Harriet Low

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