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ORNL’s Evin Carter takes leadership role in preservation of Southern Appalachian biosphere

Evin Carter, a research staff member and wildlife ecologist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been elected Executive Director of the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere or SAMAB. The organization is a cooperative of 11 federal and three state natural resource agencies that focuses on sustainable development and conserving the biodiversity of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Region through strategic landscape planning and partnerships.

Carter serves as wildlife ecologist for the Oak Ridge Reservation and Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park, which are official units of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Region. He conducts research to advance understanding of interactions between organisms and their environment to inform conservation efforts, sustainable development and wildlife management. He takes a regional approach to this work, recognizing that practices in one area affect biodiversity and people far beyond organizational borders.  

ORNL has been an instrumental partner in the SAMAB cooperative for several decades and in the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve system since the 1970s. Neil Giffen, ORNL natural resources manager, serves on the executive committee while Jamie Herold, a plant ecologist, contributes to a collaboration between SAMAB and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians focused on culturally-significant plant species.

SAMAB is a recognized part of the U.S. and International Biosphere Networks. The opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders around the world is a source of enthusiasm for Carter.

“SAMAB provides a framework for regional to international collaboration on research and action related to sustainability and biodiversity conservation,” Carter said. “These networks allow implementation of conservation practices in the only way that’s effective – as integrative whole landscape-based strategies that cross borders and consider diverse stakeholders.”

Carter hopes to increase awareness of biodiversity through his work with SAMAB. The Southern Appalachians host around 10,000 known species, many of which only occur in the region. The Smoky Mountains are the “salamander capital of the world” and the Southern Appalachians are an epicenter for aquatic life and cave-obligate invertebrates. An avid caver, Carter catalogues the wildlife in regional caves and recently discovered a new species of cave snail.

“Evin brings a unique combination of experience in performing both basic and applied research in evolutionary ecology to this new role,” Environmental Sciences Division Director Eric Pierce said. “His efforts will help advance SAMAB and ESD goals to improve our understanding of how biodiversity will respond to changes in climate using our region as a natural laboratory.”

Carter holds a master’s in biology from Purdue University and a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Tennessee. He brings a wealth of experience with various ecosystems across the Midwest, Southeast, Ozarks, and Appalachia to this new position.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit https://energy.gov/science.