Speakers & Leaders Information

Wildflower Pilgrimage Outdoor Trip Leaders

Michael Baranski - Mike is a retired botanist/ecologist at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC, where he taught field botany, plant taxonomy, forest ecology and many other subjects.  He taught Southern Appalachian Flora at the Highlands Biological Station for several years.  His special interests are in woody plants and natural areas’ studies.  He has conducted research in the GSMNP and has brought classes of students there on field trips for many years.  He is a Past-President of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society, the Association of Southeastern Biologists, and the North Carolina Academy of Science.  He is an avid hiker and has been leading Pilgrimage walks since 1976. 

A. Leon Bates – Leon is retired as an urban forester/horticulturist (Florence, AL) and former senior botanist for TVA, Leon and his wife now reside in Polk County, TN.  He is an avid hiker with the Cherokee Hiking Club, leading nature walks and presenting programs for local conservation groups.  For 15 years, Leon has led wildflower, tree/shrub, and invasive plant hikes at the Pilgrimage.

Tiffany Beachy - Tiffany is the Citizen Science Coordinator at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.  Tiffany earned her BS from Virginia Tech and MS from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, both degrees in Wildlife Science. Her MS research was a study of the Cerulean Warblers.  She has also participated in avian research in Tennessee, Canada, Mexico, Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Venezuela, and Missouri. Being outside is one of her many passions. She has been leading bird walks for the Wildflower Pilgrimage since 2011

Warren Bielenberg – Warren has been an avid birder for over 50 years.  He has led numerous bird walks and coordinated Christmas Bird Counts in Wisconsin, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Nebraska.  He retired from the National Park Service in 2001 after working 34 years in a number of NPS areas.  While never working in the Smokies, he has been volunteering in the park, primarily in Cades Cove, since 2005.  He is also a member of the Great Smoky Mountains Association Board of Directors and the Southeast Region Advisory Council of the National Parks Conservation Association.

A. Faye Borthick – Faye is a professor of accountancy at Georgia State University.  Her interests have led her to explore biodynamic native plant gardening.  She also facilitates native plant rescues for the Georgia Native Plant Society.  Faye has led wildflower hikes since 2009.  View her garden at http://bellsouthpwp2.net/b/o/borthick/gardens/#spring2010  .

P.E. (Ed) Bostick – Ed received his Ph.D. in Botany from UNC and is a retired professor of botany with Kennesaw State University in Marietta, GA.  He is interested in edible and medicinal plants, plant geography, endemism, rare plants, and botany-geology relationships.  Ed has been a regular Pilgrimage leader since 1978 on wildflower walks.

Keith Bowman – Keith began leading hikes for the Pilgrimage in 2002 as a University of Tennessee student.  He received his Ph.D. from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forest in Syracuse, NY, studying bryophytes of northern white cedar swamps in New York State.  He leads moss and fern walks.

John Byrd   - John has been with the Anderson County school system for over 40 years, where he taught biology among other things, and began his love for anything associated with herpetology.  John is director of the Clinch River Environmental Studies Organization (CRESO) which allows students to do field research on snakes, turtles, salamanders, goldenrod gall flies, etc.  He is currently active in ACSW (Anderson County Schoolyard Wetlands), creating wetlands at Anderson County elementary schools to introduce students to the natural world in their own backyards.  John was honored in 2010 with the Partner for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) Conservation Hero Award.  He has been leading the salamander walks at the Pilgrimage for the past 20+ years.

Jack Carman – Jack is an amateur photographer and wildflower enthusiast, Jack is the author of Wildflowers of Tennessee field guide.  He retired from his day job as an aerospace engineer in 2005.  Jack has participated in the Pilgrimage since 1985 leading photography workshops.

Stelios Chatzimanolis - Stelios is an associate professor of Biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His main research focus is the biodiversity and evolutionary history of rove beetles. He has described more than 100 species of rove beetles from Central and South America as new to science. He has recently embarked on a beetle inventory in the Tennessee Valley and thousands of specimens are added every year to the UTC Insect collection. He is also interested in describing fossil beetles from various formations around the world.

Edward E.C. Clebsch – Ed is Professor Emeritus of botany and ecology from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  He received his undergraduate degrees from UT and his Ph.D. in botany from Duke.  Currently, he works part-time for the Foothills Land Conservancy.  The longest Pilgrimage volunteer, Ed has been part of this annual event since 1953.  He leads wildflower and bird hikes.

Richard Clements – Richard is a professor of biology and environmental science at Chattanooga State Community College and served on the board of the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council for 10 years.  He is interested in the flora of the Southern Appalachians and interior cedar glade habitats.  Richard has led wildflower hikes at the Pilgrimage since 1987 and developed the walk on exotic pest plants. 

Rebecca A. Cook – Rebecca is an associate professor of biology at University of Memphis in Jackson, TN, Rebecca’s interests include plant ecology, population ecology, and the conservation of rare plants.  Rebecca has led plant hikes at the Pilgrimage since 1991. 

Maxwell Cox — Max is a graduate student in Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee, and has been participating as a co-leader of the Bear and Boar hikes for the past five years.  Max worked as a seasonal technician in the GSMNP where he assisted with wild boar management.  He has been coming to the wildflower pilgrimage for over 20 years.

Patricia B. Cox – Pat works for Tennessee Valley Authority as the botanical specialist centered on conservation issues with rare plant species and communities and the impacts of nonnative invasive species.  She has a Ph.D. in Botany from LSU.  Pat’s involvements include the park’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), Discover Life in America board, president of Association of Southeastern Biologists, Southern Appalachian Botanical Society, and Pilgrimage organizer.  Since 1992, she has lead hikes on ferns, wildflowers, and new this year, invasive species. 

Todd Crabtree – Todd serves as state botanist in Tennessee, monitoring and conducting searches for rare plants across the state as part of the Natural Heritage Program.  He is vice-president of the Tennessee Native Plant Society and indulges in a robust interest in photography.  Todd’s first year with the Pilgrimage was 2010.  He leads wildflower hikes.

W. Michael Dennis – Mike is an environmental consultant working on wetlands, threatened and endangered species, habitat management plans, and permitting throughout the eastern United States.  His ties to the Wildflower Pilgrimage go back to 1975 when he was a graduate student in the Botany Department at the University of Tennessee from which he received his Ph.D.  He has led walks on the Kanati Fork/Thomas Divide Trail and tree/shrub identification.

Wanda DeWaard - Wanda has been sharing Earth Kinship© and environmental awareness with people of all ages in community groups, schools, colleges, camps, nature centers and teacher conferences all over the United States as well as abroad since 1974.  In the past, Wanda has been Program Director at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute, Executive Director for the American Camp Association Heart of the South Section and participated in citizen science 20 years before it was so named.  Currently, Wanda works as a freelance outdoor educator in the Great Smoky Mountains area through her small business, Earth Kin.  Anything and everything in the natural world brings out her enthusiasm and contagious sense of fun. E-mail. Wanda has participated in the Pilgrimage since 2000:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Liz Domingue - Liz is a naturalist, guide, and nature photographer, and owner of Just Get Outdoors.  Her studies of wildlife, plants and the natural world have taken her throughout the United States and abroad. She has been a Wildflower Pilgrimage leader since 2002 .Web site: http://www.justgetoutdoors.com  E-mail:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Paul C. Durr – Paul is a wetland scientist with a strong interest in grasses and other grass-like plants.  He has taught several classes in wetland plant identification for the US Army Corps of Engineers and TVA.  He is also a former dendrology instructor at the University of Tennessee, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries. He has participated in the Pilgrimage since 1997, leading hikes on wildflowers and trees/shrubs.   

Maurice Edwards – Maurice first attended GSMWP in 1962 as a pilgrim and Vanderbilt University grad student of Botany. A decade later, an UTChattanooga faculty member with a Ph.D. in Cellular Plant Physiology from Syracuse University, he became a trip leader. Always interested in Art, he also was asked in 2001 to lead the Wildflower Sketching hike, which he continues and is pleased to see has grown. Selected as Wildflower Artist of 2013, his artwork was featured on the brochure cover, T-shirts, and at Arrowmont School of Arts & crafts. Over more than a half century as pilgrim and leader, Maurice still enjoys learning and reuniting annually with friends and fellow GSMWP pilgrims.

Murray Evans – Murray, Professor Emeritus from the University of Tennessee, specialized in the taxonomy of ferns and flowering plants.  He wrote the fern sections for major regional floras (Radford 1968 and Wofford 1989) and the Ferns and Fern Allies of the Smokies guide.  Since 1965, Murray has led fern and wildflower walks at the Pilgrimage.  Each year he and his wife, Dee Montie, travel from Vermont to experience spring in the Southern Appalachians.

Troy Evans - Troy is a Park Ecologist for the Park’s Vegetation Management crew
where he serves as crew leader for hemlock woolly adelgid control work.  Troy earned his B.S. in Biology at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC, and a
M.S. in Biology at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY.  His interests are forest ecology, invasive exotic insects and plants, and biodiversity within the Park.

Susan Farmer – Susan is an assistant professor of biology at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, GA. She received her masters and PhD degrees from the University of Tennessee in plant taxonomy with special interests in the genus Trillium and monocot systematics. For nearly 40 years, she has been photographing the spring flora. Susan began leading wildflower hikes at the Pilgrimage in 1994

Chris Fleming – Chris is an environmental consultant for BDY Environmental LLC in Nashville, TN. He received his MS degree in botany with a focus on floristics of the Southeastern United States from the University of Tennessee under the direction of Dr. B.E. Wofford. Chris’ interests include floristics, rare plants, invasive plants, and photography.  He joined the Pilgrimage in 2001 and leads plant (wildflowers, trees and shrubs) hikes.

Sunny Fleming – Sunny is a biologist with Tennessee’s Division of Natural Areas. She recieved a degree in ecology with a focus on botany from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Her interests include floristics, insular ecosystems and the recovery of endangered plant species. She was born and raised in Tennessee and resides in Nashville with her husband Chris Fleming. She has been attending the Wildflower Pilgrimage since 2009 and began officially leading hikes in 2014.

Wilson Francis – Wilson currently an assistant professor of biology at Hazard Community and Technical College in Kentucky. Wilson formerly served as a naturalist with Kentucky State Parks.  He has volunteered with the Pilgrimage since 2005 and leads wildflower and forest ecology hikes.
Brad Free - Brad has been an interpretive park ranger for Great Smoky Mountains National Park for ten years. After several years of blacksmithing, farming, and other living history work at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, he currently works at Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Emily L. Gillespie - Emily is a plant taxonomist and assistant professor of biology at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She began attending the Pilgrimage as a graduate student in 2001. She specializes in the evolutionary history of plan form, genetics, and biogeography in Northern hemisphere plants, particularly in the rhododendron and blueberry family. She also likes grasses and sedges, and enjoys taking beginning botanists on wildflower field trips.

Robin Goddard - Robin is retired after 32 years of teaching. Honors include Tennessee Environmental Teacher of the Year and Who’s Who in American Teachers.  She is a VIP costumed interpreter at Little Greenbrier School; portrays Ann Davis, Mother of the Park, in many programs; teaches at Tremont; and was a 75th Anniversary Ambassador for the Park. She also works with the National Parks Community Outreach programs and the Jr. Ranger Program. She has been a VIP since 1969 and received the top President’s Volunteer Call to Service Award from President Barack Obama.

Yolande McCurdy Gottfried – Yolande is a volunteer botanist with the Sewanee Herbarium at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN.  She began volunteering with the Pilgrimage in 1996 leading wildflower hikes.  Yolande plays dulcimer with her husband in local music jams.

Doris Gove – Doris is a semi-retired biologist and writer.  She has written six natural history books for children and three hiking guides, The Smokies Yukky Book, and Great Smoky Mountains Trivia.  She is also a contributor of trail descriptions to the Hiking Trails of the Smokies guidebook.  Doris has been leading all-day wildflower and natural history hikes at the Pilgrimage since 1982. 

Pum (Kunsiri) Grubbs – Pum is an assistant professor of Biology at Winthrop University where she studies plant molecular systematics, economic botany and plant diversity. Pum has lead wildflower and fern hikes since 2012.

Ila Hatter – Ila is renowned for her extensive knowledge of plants and their folklore. She wrote Roadside Rambles, a wild foods cookbook, produced the DVD Mountain Kitchen and a video series Wild Edibles and Medicinals of Appalachia, and edited the ethnobotany book Plants of the Cherokee.  Ila hosted “Folkways” and “Our State” programs for UNC-TV (PBS), and has appeared on CNN, TurnerSouth, RFDTV, and A&E networks. Her web site, http://www.wildcrafting.com features plant photos, videos, and other information. Ila has been leading edible and medicinal plant walks at the Pilgrimage since 1987.

Roger L. Hedge – Roger is an ecologist with the Indiana Natural Heritage Program, working with rare species, natural areas inventory and management, and environmental review.  He began his career as an interpretive naturalist with Indiana State Parks.  He has been leading wildflower walks at the Pilgrimage since 2008.  Field botany and birding are his main interests.

Don Hendershot - Don is a naturalist and a freelance writer. His column “The Naturalist’s Corner” has appeared in the Smoky Mountain News since 1999 and is online at http://www.thenaturalist’scorner.com He is. a regular contributor to Smoky Mountain Living Magazine and has written for numerous other publications including Our State and Louisiana Road Trips. Don holds a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation from Louisiana Tech and has been contracted with the USDA Forest Service to do bird surveys across Western North Carolina since 2004. 

Frances Hensley - Frances earned a B.S. degree from the University of Arkansas and taught school in Arkansas and Iowa. She is a member of Daughters of the American Colonists, Daughters of the American Revolution, Ossoili, and Blue Star Mothers. She has been a VIP since 1998. Her specialties include bird and wildflower identification with related studies in Europe, Brazil, Mexico and Canada.

Fred Holtzclaw – Fred is a high school biology teacher currently working for the Webb School in Knoxville.  He and his wife Theresa are avid hikers (2,500 miles in the Alps!) with interests in plants, birds, and using nature as a classroom.  Fred has volunteered with the Pilgrimage since 1978 leading wildflower and bird hikes.

Dennis Horn – Dennis is an engineer, naturalist, amateur botanist, and wildflower photographer. Charter member and director of the Tennessee Native Plant Society, he is co-editor of their field guide Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians.  Dennis serves on the Scientific Advisory Committee for Rare Plants in Tennessee and received a Certificate of Merit from the state for his conservation efforts.  Since 1982, he has led wildflower and tree/shrub hikes at the Pilgrimage. 

Bob Howdeshell - Bob is an amateur wildlife photographer living in Maryville, Tennessee. He enjoys photographing all wildlife but has a fondness for the difficulty of bird photography. His images have won international, national and local competitions and have been featured in The Great Backyard Bird Count, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Alaska Magazine, the Knoxville News Sentinel, Wild Turkey Federation, Florida Birding Trail and others. He currently has two of his bird images featured in the Audobon online “Guide to North American Birds.” Bob led his first Wildflower Pilgrimage bird photography program in 2015.

Brittney Hughes - Brittney is park naturalist for DeSoto State Park in Fort Payne, AL, and has led wildflower and medicinal plant hikes there and at Little River Canyon National Preserve. She is an amateur photographer and wildflower enthusiast with interests in medicinal and edible plants, ethnobotany, rare and endangered plants, and gardening with native plants. Brittney loves mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and camping. She is a recent addition to the Pilgrimage leader lineup.

Margie Hunter – Margie is the author of Gardening with the Native Plants of Tennessee: The Spirit of Place.  She began leading wildflower hikes in 2005.  A graduate of Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont’s Southern Appalachian Naturalist Certificate Program, she is actively studying the natural history of Tennessee, particularly the flora.  Margie is hiking all the trails in the park and blogging about the experience at http://hikinginthesmokies.wordpress.com  .

Robert W. Hutson – Robert is an amateur photographer and wildflower enthusiast and co-author of Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers with Carlos C. Campbell, William F. Hutson, and Aaron J. Sharp.  He has been with the Pilgrimage since 2005 and leads wildflower photography sessions.  Robert has been hiking and photographing in the Smokies for over 50 years.

Kristine Johnson - Kristine is Supervisory Forester in the Park, where her duties include forest insect and disease management, exotic plant control, ecological restoration and integrated pest management. Prior to the Smokies, she worked as a Ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway and at Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP, and as a bio science tech for the US Forest Service in Asheville, NC. She has a M. S. degree in forestry from the University of Tennessee, is a past president and current board member of the TN Exotic Pest Plant Council, and has been a Wildflower Pilgrimage leader since 1989.

Larry Klotz – Larry recently retired as a professor of biology at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and volunteers as curator of their herbarium and greenhouse.  He performs contract botanical field surveys for the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, National Park Service, and private entities.  With the exception of three years, Larry has volunteered at the Pilgrimage since 1982, leading wildflower and tree/shrub hikes.

Karen LaMere – Karen works as a naturalist/park manager for the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association.  She is Ho-Chunk, a Winnebago Native American and serves as director for the Council for the Interpretation of Native Peoples and is a board member of the National Association for Interpretation.  Karen has led Native American programs and hikes at the Pilgrimage since 2002. 

Jackie Leach - Jackie is a longtime volunteer in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For the past five years. Jackie has been a dedicated volunteer at Sugarlands Visitor Center. His work includes: staffing the information desk and leading interpretive walks to Cataract Falls, Grotto Falls, and Andrews Bald. Jackie led his first history walk for the Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage in 2015.

Ed Lickey – Ed teaches field botany and mycology as an assistant professor of biology at Bridgewater College in Virginia.  He has been leading backcountry and mushroom hikes at the Pilgrimage since 1997.

Brian P. Looney  – Brian is a current PhD candidate in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He studies the evolution, biogeography and ecology of mushroom-forming fungi. He is an active member of the North American Mycological Association with a passion for collection vouchering and photography for studies on biodiversity. He has led an edible fungi walk for the Pilgrimage since 2013.

Hal D. Mahan – Hal is the co-owner of The Compleat Naturalist in Asheville, NC. Hal is also an adjunct professor at UNC (Asheville) and Warren Wilson College.  He was a biology professor in Michigan, served as executive director of natural history museums in Michigan, Ohio, and California, and is founding president of the Roger Tory Peterson Institutes in Jamestown, NY.  Hal has been leading bird hikes for the Pilgrimage since 1994.

Laura Mahan – Laura is owner of The Compleat Naturalist (http://www.compleatnaturalist.com) in Asheville, NC, a business specializing in books, tools, and supplies for naturalists at all levels, and serves on the board of Discover Life in America.  With degrees in botany and biology, she is interested in the description and classification of plant communities.  She enjoys teaching others to recognize plants by family characteristics and is adept at identifying birds by song.  Since 1994, Laura has led bird and beginning wildflower hikes at the Pilgrimage.

Bill Martin – Bill is Professor Emeritus at Eastern Kentucky University where he taught biology.  He also served as director of the state’s Division of Natural Areas.  His interests center around eastern deciduous forests – old growth forests and forest succession, health, and change.  He has been a leader annually since 1981 covering old-growth forests (especially Brushy Mountain), wildflowers, and woody plants..

Morton Massey - Morton is a retired software developer who has lived his entire life in Knoxville Tennessee.  His passion for birds began in his late teens and has led him to all 50 states many times over. In retirement he spends several days a week birding and he leads a monthly birding walk at Seven Islands State Birding Park.

Carol Ann McCormick – Carol Ann is the assistant curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium in Chapel Hill and a co-author of GSMA’s Wildflowers of the Smokies guide. With the exception of 1993, when she was 8 months pregnant with her first child, Rose, Carol Ann has been a Pilgrimage leader of wildflower hikes since 1989.  In an unrelated, but fascinating tidbit, she won the Howell Living History Farm Draft Horse Plowing Contest (Novice Division) in 1990!

Roger McCoy – Roger received an MS in Botany from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and has worked with the Tennessee Natural Heritage Program since 1998.  He searches, monitors, and maps rare plant species and natural communities. A recent addition to the Pilgrimage leader lineup, Roger began helping in 2010 and leads wildflower hikes.

Gary F. McCracken - Gary is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UT Knoxville. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and his PhD from Cornell University, and he joined the UT Knoxville faculty in 1979.  His research concerns the ecology, genetics, behavior and conservation of bats, particularly migratory bats. His recent work has focused on ecosystem services and bat-borne diseases. He’s been engaged with the Pilgrimage as a speaker and started the Bat Walk in about 1999

Arthur “Butch” McDade - Butch is a retired GRSMNP park ranger with over 30 years of NPS service, and the author of Old Smoky Mountain Days, The Natural Arches of the Big South Fork and a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Additionally, he’s written numerous articles for magazines on the cultural and natural history of the Smokies and the southern Appalachian Mountain. He has been a leader for a number of years.

Ed McDowell – Ed is a retired US Air Force aviator and Aerospace Corporation executive.  Interests in gardening and native plants have resulted in leadership positions with Georgia Native Plant Society, Georgia Botanical Society, Georgia Master Gardeners Association, and Cullowhee Native Plants in the Landscape Conference.  A nature photographer and naturalist, Ed has led wildflower and tree/shrub hikes at the Pilgrimage since 2000.

Ken McFarland – Ken is a retired senior lecturer in the Division of Biology he taught General Botany and managed the research greenhouses and gardens at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  He worked with Dr. Aaron J. Sharp on the Mexican Moss Flora project and researched bryophytes in Central and South America and the southern Appalachians.  Ken is chairman of the Pilgrimage organizing committee and has volunteered since 1976, leading moss walks and the Sunday forest ecology hike.

Dee Montie – Dee is a retired attorney and experienced Southern Appalachian hiker.  She is a former president of The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club.  As a botany major in college, she developed a lifelong interest in flowering plants and ferns.  Dee has led wildflower and fern hikes, as well as long-distance trail hikes, since 1985.  Each year Dee and her husband, Murray Evans, travel from Vermont to experience spring in the Southern Appalachians.

Zack Murrell – Zack is a professor of Biology at Appalachian State University where he teaches Plant systematics and curates the ASU herbarium. Zack started leading wildflower walks during the Pilgrimage while he was a student at UT in 1980.

Chris Myers - Chris is a wildlife artist from Sevierville specializing in Tennessee’s native birds and mammals.  Over the years, he has depicted many species in various media including stained glass.  Chris was a contributing illustrator to the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Tennessee by University of Tennessee Press.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Myers-Gallery/702564893092139

Becky Nichols - Originally from Washington state, Becky has worked in the Park for 13 years as an Entomologist.  She has a doctorate in Entomology from the University of Missouri, with emphasis on aquatic insects. Becky works on aquatic insect monitoring, as well as the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, a large project aimed at discovering all life forms in the Smokies.

Sarah Marie Noble – Sarah Marie is an assistant professor of biology at the University of Mobile and an adjunct professor of chemistry at Spring Hill College.  Her botanical interests are spray zone bryophytes and subaerial algae.  Sarah Marie has lived in many parts of the U.S., from Hawaii and Alaska to Arizona and Alabama. She began leading moss and algae/aquatic organisms walks for the Pilgrimage in 2000.

Tom Patrick – Tom is a botanist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Tom works on the location, conservation, and status of rare plants.  He received a B.S. in forestry and an M.S. in botany in his native New York, then spent several years investigating trilliums, particularly in the Great Smoky Mountains. Wild orchids and inventorying flora in natural areas are also specialties.  Tom has only missed one Pilgrimage since 1975 and leads wildflower and tree/shrub walks including the taxonomy hike into White Oak Sink, a favorite area.

Loy R. (Rick) Phillippe – Rick is collections manager of the vascular plant and mycological collections for the Illinois Natural History Survey, Institute of Natural Resources Sustainability at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  He also works with the park’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory vouchering specimens by watershed.  A native of Illinois, he did his undergraduate work there and received his Ph.D. in botany from the University of Tennessee.  Rick has been with the Pilgrimage since 1975 leading all-day wildflower hikes.

J. Dan Pittillo – Dan is a retired biology professor from Western Carolina University and former curator of their herbarium. He also served many years as director of Highlands Biological Station and the Bartram Trail Society as well as newsletter editor for Southern Appalachian Botanical Society.  Author of numerous professional publications, his interests include regional floras, rare plant distributions, conservation, and land development planning. Dan has led wildflower, fern, and tree/shrub hikes since 2002.

Larry Pounds – Larry is a botanical consultant with a Ph.D. in plant ecology and specializes in rare plants and habitats.  He is on the boards of the Tennessee Native Plant Society and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning. Larry has worked with the Pilgrimage since 2002 leading all-day wildflower hikes. 

Mary Patten Priestley - is curator of the Sewanee Herbarium. A member of the Tennessee Native Plant Society, she has served as the society’s president and assisted in writing and editing the TNPS field guide, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians. She serves on the Scientific Advisory Committee for Rare Plants in Tennessee.  William’s Wildflowers is her first children’s book. In 2012, she wrote Dad’s Railroad, the Mountain Goat, about a short-line railroad that stretched 40 miles across the South Cumberland Plateau for 130 years.

James S. (Jim) Pringle – Jim received his Ph.D. in botany from the University of Tennessee and taught systematic botany and paleobotany at McMaster University and fern systematics at Queen’s University Biological Station, both in Ontario, Canada. He began leading wildflower hikes for the Pilgrimage in 1980 and currently serves as plant taxonomist for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where he leads wildflower and bird walks and plant identification workshops. 

Annette Ranger – Annette is a retired high school teacher and continues to work with school children as an elementary science lab instructor for grades K-5 in Georgia, where she designed a hands-on extension of the science curriculum for each grade level.  She has been a regular Pilgrimage leader since 1986 on natural history and wildflower hikes.  In the mid-seventies, she served as a camp counselor with Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont for two years and met long-time local residents.

Nancy Rennie – Nancy is a retired landscape designer and horticultural consultant with degrees in botany and ornamental horticulture whose work emphasized the use of native plants.  In addition to operating her own landscape design business, she has worked as grounds manager for a community college and coordinator of grounds/garden volunteers for a nature center.  Nancy and husband John lead wildflower and nature walks twice a year for a lodge in the mountains of western North Carolina. She has lead Pilgrimage wildflower hikes since 1967. 

John Rennie – John is Professor Emeritus of forestry and a member of the former graduate program in ecology at the University of Tennessee. He taught and did research related to measurement and sampling of forest resources with emphasis on the field applications. Since retiring, he and wife Nancy have traveled extensively to national parks and other natural areas throughout the U.S.  John first attended the Pilgrimage in 1969 and has regularly led wildflower hikes since 2000.

Janet Rock - Janet has been a botanist for GSMNP since 1989. Although her job mainly focuses on rare plant monitoring and inventories, she has studied the effects of white-tailed deer on Cades Cove vegetation, and the impacts of ramp and ginseng harvesting on park populations. She received her MS in Biology (emphasis in Botany) from Western Carolina University before becoming employed in the Great Smokies.   

Gregory J. Schmidt - Greg is an ecological site specialist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA), in Grand Rapids, MI, where he studies the relationship between soil, climate, and vegetation across a multi-state region. He had also served as a botanist for the United States Forest Service for 10 years. He studied plant systematics at the University of Tennessee and received a MS degree in botany. Greg began leading wildflower hikes at the Pilgrimage in 2001.

Floyd Scott – Floyd is a professor of biology and principal investigator in The Center of Excellence for Field Biology at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN.  He serves as director of APSU’s David H. Snyder Museum of Zoology and developed Web sites for state amphibians and reptiles -  www1.apsu.edu/amatlas and www1.apsu.edu/reptatlas.  Floyd has led salamander hikes since 1990.

Joey Shaw - Joey is a full professor of Biology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where he teaches plant systematics and biogeography. Joey has lead backcountry hikes and wildflower walks at the WFP since 1997 while he was a graduate student at University of Tennessee.

Arron Steed - Aaron works as a guide for Asheville-based travel company Ventures Birding Tours, designing and leading bird tours throughout the Carolinas, the USA, and Central America. He has also led numerous bird walks for the Carolina Bird Club, Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, Henderson County Bird Club, and the NC Arboretum, among others. He received his B.S. in General Biology at UNC-Asheville and has worked on numerous avian research projects in Texas, Kansas, Arizona and California, primarily dealing with endangered or threatened species. A North Carolina native, Aaron loves traveling and learning about the birds and ecology of new places, but will always be drawn back to the excellent biodiversity of the Southern Appalachians.

Jay Sturner – Jay is a naturalist and a writer of fiction and poetry. Nature became an important part of his life during childhood, and he began birding at the age of seven. In addition to having worked at a wildlife rehab center. Jay also spent ten years at the Morton Arboretumin Lisle, Illinois, as a botanist and herbarium manager. He moved to Knoxville in 2010 and is currently raising his one-year-old son. When time allows, he enjoys leading bird walks for the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. Jay lead his first birding program for the Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage in 2015. 

Allen Sweetser – Allen is retired from the construction business.  He studied forestry at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  Allen and his wife Susan both grew up in Knoxville, visiting the Smoky Mountains throughout their lives.  Both are lifetime members of the Tennessee Native Plant Society and assist with All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory fern surveys in the park.  They have led wildflower hikes at the Pilgrimage since 1998.  Allen has often led backcountry hikes.

Susan Sweetser – Susan is a retired social worker for the State of Tennessee, helping people with disabilities.  Susan and her husband Allen were both raised in Knoxville and have enjoyed the Smokies all their lives.  Both are lifetime members of the Tennessee Native Plant Society and assist with All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory fern surveys in the park.  They have led wildflower hikes at the Pilgrimage since 1998.

R. Dale Thomas – Dale is a native of Sevier County, obtained his PH.D from the University of Tennessee in 1966 under the direction of A.J. Sharp and has been a leader of the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage for the past 50 years. Upon his graduation from UT, Thomas moved to Northeast Louisiana University (University of LA at Monroe) and began his amazing career where he personally collected 173,300 specimens for the herbarium from 1966 until his retirement in 2003. This makes Thomas the most prolific plant collector of all time, far ahead of the second, the famed botanist Julian Steyermark, with 138,000. His specialty is the Adders’ tongue fern (Ophioglossum), of which he has collected more than everyone else in the world combined. Beginning in 1966, he brought NLU students to the WFP every year and several of his former students are also leaders at the Pilgrimage.

Paul Threadgill – Paul is a professor of biology at Maryville College in Maryville, TN, Paul teaches Introductory Biology, Plant Diversity, Flowering Plants, and Natural History of the Southern Appalachians.  He has interests in seed and seedling ecology, native biennials, and the genus Asarum.  Since 1997, Paul has led wildflower hikes and the Wildflower Identification for Beginners program.

Gary Walker – Gary is a professot of Biology at Appalachian State University where he studies cliff-face ecology. He has been leading ecology walks at the WFP since he was a graduate student of Dr. Ed Clebsch’ at the University of Tennessee in the 1980’s.

J. David Whitehead – David works for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency as wildlife manager for Tellico Lake and South Cherokee Wildlife Management Areas in East Tennessee.  Prior to joining TWRA, he worked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with bears and wild hogs, gaining 30 years experience over his career.  Appropriately, he has been leading Pilgrimage bear and hog walks/talks since 2001.

David H. Webb – David received his Ph.D. from the Botany Department at the University of Tennessee and worked as an aquatic botanist for the Tennessee Valley Authority in Muscle Shoals, AL, until his retirement in 2013. He led walks as a graduate student in the late 1970s and resumed participation in the Wildflower Pilgrimage in 2014. His interest includes the floristic of cedar glades and barrens in northeastern AL and the aquatic and wetland flora of large reservoirs along the Tennessee River.

Nicole Turrill Welch - Nicole is a Professor of Biology at Mississippi University for Women.  She received her Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Tennessee after earning her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biological Sciences from Marshall University.  Nicole studies how fire impacts species composition and soil nutrient dynamics of southern Appalachian deciduous forests.  This is her first year leading walks, and she looks forward to discussing the ecological impacts of the November 2016 fires with participants.

B.E. (Gene) Wofford – Gene is director of the University of Tennessee Herbarium.  He is author of Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Blue Ridge, co-author (with Edward W. Chester) of Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of Tennessee, and co-author (with Ron Jones) of Woody Plants of Kentucky and Tennessee: a complete winter guide to their identification and use. One of the Pilgrimage organizers, he has been involved regularly since 1970, leading wildflower and tree/shrub hikes.  UT’s Herbarium Web site features images, distribution maps, and other data about Tennessee plants at http://tenn.bio.utk.edu/vascular.

Wildflower Pilgrimage Evening Speakers

Wednesday April 12, 2017 5:30 – 7:00 PM at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts
Featured Wildflower Artist Reception for Mary Ruden -  Mary’s work focuses on natural subjects such as orchids and butterflies, and joyful expressions such as music. Her influences come from her Welsh roots and from visiting museums and gardens in Europe. She includes scientific references in her art and sculpture and has spoken to numerous environmental groups on botanical and conservation themes. After teaching Art and Design classes for over eight years, she now installs large outdoor sculptures for public art projects. Her work is on display in two state parks, various government buildings, and at the US Botanic Garden in Washington DC to honor the Centennial anniversary of the National Park Service. She is a member of American Society of Botanical Artists and local art organizations. She showed several botanical illustrations of native plants of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Centennial show at the Visitor Center in Townsend, TN in August 2016. A YouTube video was made of the exhibit and can be seen at https://youtu.be/IARpfV7vjwk  called ‘The Art of Native Plants.’ It includes work of William Bartram, the original “Flower Hunter.” Mary received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Miami in 1982.
Wednesday April 12, 2017 – 7:30 – 8:30 pm -  Mills Conference Center room C & D
Reading Between the Lines – Stories of Writing about the Smokies’ Waterfalls, Churches, and Trails” by Charles Maynard - Charles loves to write, hike, read, write, tell stories, and write. His thirty books (twenty-one for children) are on national parks, American history, and biographies. Charles’ essays in Blue Ridge: Ancient and Majestic received the Reed Environmental Writing Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center. Charles served as the founding Executive Director of Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In 2016 (the Centennial Year of the National Park Service) Charles was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the History of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He has been on the boards of Discover Life in America, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Southeast Advisory Board of NPCA. Charles and his romance novelist wife, Janice Maynard, share passions for family, travel, National Parks, and the written word.

Thursday April 13, 2017 – 7:30 – 8:30 pm - Mills Conference Center room C & D
Natural Sounds and Night Skies: Protecting the acoustic and nocturnal environments of National Parks by Scott McFarland - Scott is a Regional Resource Specialist and Biologist with the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division of the National Park Service. He specializes in photic and acoustic resource management for park units in the Eastern United States and is currently duty stationed in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Scott is originally from Montana and earned his B.S. in Environmental Science from the Oregon Institute of Technology where he also pursued education in multiple engineering disciplines and biology. He got his start with the National Park Service in 2010 at Crater Lake National Park and has since conducted field work at parks throughout the country.

Friday April 14, 2017 – 7:30 – 8:30 pm - Mills Conference Center room C & D
Fire Ecology of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Rob Klein and/or Greg Salansky - Rob is currently an NPS Fire Ecologist based at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a position he has held for 13 years.  Prior to that, he was a Fire Ecologist and Lead Fire Effects Monitor for the NPS in Missouri and Arkansas for 5 years.  His job duties center on long-term monitoring of fire effects on vegetation and fuels at National Parks from the mountains to the coastal plain of the Carolinas.  Rob has a B.S. degree in Biology from Eastern Kentucky University, and an M.S. degree in Plant Pathology from the University of Tennessee.
Greg is currently the Fire Management Officer for the Appalachian-Piedmont Fire Management Zone, and is based at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Prior to that, Greg spent 14 years on the Cherokee National Forest - 10 years as a District Fire Management Officer and 4 years on the Cherokee Hotshots fire crew.  He started his career working for 13 years in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a Park Ranger, Forestry Technician and a Biological Technician.  Greg has a B.S. degree in Wildlife Biology from Tennessee Technological University.