Blount County resident, DiAnne Wilson recently became the first East Tennessean to graduate from the Southern Appalachian Naturalist Certification Program. She is only the second student to complete her certification through this program, which began in February of 2008 through a partnership between the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and the University of Tennessee.
The naturalist training program consists of eight core courses that give an overview in Southern Appalachian ecology and interpretative techniques. Topics covered include Naturalist skills and Interpretative Training, Birds of the Smokies, Aquatic Natural History, Reptiles and Amphibians, Flora and Fauna, Mammals and Southern Appalachian Ecology.
All classes are taught at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, and field work is conducted within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Ken Voorhis has been the Director of GSMIT for 25 years. DiAnne Wilson expresses high praise for Voorhis, all of the instructors and staff at Tremont.
“Not only are the teachers some of the best in the nation, but I believe every person employed by Tremont truly has a heart for the Smokies and East Tennessee.”
DiAnne received her certification in November of 2009 after completing a course on Mammals of the Great Smoky Mountains.
“This course was particularly fascinating to me as we learned about the variety of mammal species that have lived in the Smokies throughout time, how native populations have been and continue to be affected by various threats of disease, predators and currently by the massive population of European Wild Boar, invaders that are destroying the habitat for so many native mammals,” said Wilson.
During the Mammals course, Jarod Lauftenburg, a “bear cowboy” from the UT, explained his research on the historic distribution of black bears, including methods used to capture and tag bears in the Smokies to monitor their population and behavior.
Some of the field work for this class included a trip to Cades Cove with professional tracker Wanda DeWaard, where the class discovered a deer skull and signs of bear and beaver activity.
“The Southern Appalachian Naturalist Certification Program is truly a unique opportunity to learn more about the incredible diversity of our Great Smoky Mountains. East Tennesseans are so blessed to live here. I would strongly encourage anyone who loves nature to take some of the courses offered at Tremont, whether or not you wish to become a certified naturalist. You will grow in your appreciation of the magnificent treasure that we are favored to look upon everyday,” said Wilson.
DiAnne Wilson is a flight attendant for USAirways and lives in Walland with her husband, Greg, who is the band director at Christian Academy of Knoxville and music director at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church.