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Brown Bag Green Book Gets Diverse - Todd Witcher discusses biodiversity and ecological discovery

The popular Brown Bag Green Book lunch and learn series sponsored by Knox County Public Library and the City of Knoxville continues as Todd Witcher, Executive Director of Discover Life in America, discusses ecological discovery on Wednesday, November 17, at 12 p.m. in the East Tennessee History Center, 601 South Gay St.

Witcher has a particular interest in the book he will be discussing—Rob Dunn's book Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, From Nanobacteria to New Monkeys—it's about what he does. Witcher's organization, Discover Life in America, is cataloging the biodiversity of the Great Smoky Mountains.

"Humans think that everything is known about nature and the environment which is a commonly held idea in society today," Witcher says. "Dunn's book puts this idea to rest over and over again with great stories about new discoveries and yet-to-happen discoveries. And brings the reader to the realization that thousands of species will be lost before even being discovered, because of humans."

In Every Living Thing, Dunn reminds readers how tough and exhilarating it is to study the natural world, and why it matters. A thousand years ago people thought they knew almost everything, a hundred years ago, too. But even today, the author argues, discovery is still occurring. More is unknown than known, whether about the human body or the bottom of the sea. In a series of vivid portraits of scientists as interesting as the mysteries they chase, Dunn introduces the reader to breakthroughs that have changed the world and others that might still.

"I love Robb Dunn's description of what he calls the Apostles," Witcher says. "He does a great job of characterizing famous scientists through history, including Dan Janzen, whose creation of an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory is taking place right here in our own back yard, Great Smoky Mountains National Park."

Witcher is an eighth generation Tennessean. Before DLIA, he worked as an educator for Ijams Nature Center for 16 years. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee in Biology, a Masters in Business from Lincoln Memorial University, and a Masters in Education from the University of Tennessee.

The public is invited to join the conversation. The next program in the series will be in January; details will be announced soon.

Published November 15, 2010

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