Park celebrates tourism week with local communities

Fishery biologist Matt Kulp is using backpack electrofishing techniques to remove non-native trout species from stream segments to allow for brook trout recovery.

Fishery biologist Matt Kulp is using backpack electrofishing techniques to remove non-native trout species from stream segments to allow for brook trout recovery.

The 26th “Employee of the Year” and “Tourist of the Day” ceremony will be held Monday, May 10, 11:30 a.m. on the lawn at Park Headquarters to celebrate National Tourism Week and showcase the long and successful partnership between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its neighboring tourism communities. This year, the event will honor Matt Kulp who is a fisheries biologist in the Resource Management and Science Division. As part of the celebration, a tourist family will be selected to take part in the ceremony to highlight the importance of visitors to the Park and its gateway communities. Jimbo Whaley, singer and songwriter and marketing director at Dixie Stampede, will serve as the Employee of the Year emcee.

Kulp has worked in the Fisheries Branch since 1994. His first experience with the Park came in 1992 when as a graduate student he conducted field research regarding population densities of the southern and northern strain of brook trout.

Kulp was selected as Employee of the Year for his outstanding performance in fisheries management and data analysis of fisheries and water quality research information. He was recognized for his work with the Park’s data stewards. This involvement has led to the development of a systematic database within the Resource Management and Science Division. It was noted that “His leadership and knowledge of statistics and databases resulted in him mentoring others in the division as well as with graduate students who participate in research studies in the Park.” The standardization of this database will overlap and link the applications of various field research projects that are ongoing on the physical, chemical and biological elements of vegetation, air, soils, and water.

The Fisheries Branch has been monitoring fish populations since 1976. “Matt is a great asset to the division and has been instrumental in planning and conducting these long-term studies which give managers an insight into status and trends of these monitored species,” said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson.”

Of the 2,100 miles of water ways that thread their way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 800 miles of streams support fish. The Park is home to nearly 60 species of fish, including three federally-protected fish species, the duskytail darter, smoky madtom, and yellowfin madtom; non-game fish such as shiners, minnows, and suckers; and game fishes--bass and rainbow, brown, and brook trout. The Southern Appalachian brook trout is the only trout species native to the Smokies.

Kulp is responsible for performing analysis on the health of fish in Park streams by collecting information and inputting data on fish populations, distribution, size, weight, and environmental effects on fish from acid deposition, summer droughts, and spring floods. He also conducts water chemistry research and coordinates and plans native fish reintroduction efforts. Through this research, he has authored or co-authored over 15 peer reviewed publications during his tenure.

“Matt has a passion for the environment and his technical aptitude, excellent communication and interpersonal skills have made him a superb natural resource professional. He is extremely willing to share his knowledge with his co workers and the public and does so in such a way as to create a positive experience for all he comes in contact with,” said Steve Moore, Supervisory Fishery Biologist.

Kulp lives in Wears Valley with his wife, Mimi, who works for the City of Pigeon Forge Public Works Department. The Kulps attend the Our Savior Lutheran Church of Gatlinburg where Matt serves on the church council and is very involved in the Friends in Need (FIN) program. The after school program serves the underprivileged of the community through mentoring, crafts and sharing of a meal.

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