Project Director

Shaw, Joey

Department Examiner

Chapman, Elise; Chatzimanolis, Stylianos


Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Today’s rate of biodiversity loss in the face of climate change and human disturbance urges scientists to quickly capture as much biodiversity data as possible. Citizen science is a tool with great potential for aiding scientists in the collection of this information. The citizen science platform iNaturalist simultaneously enables mass data collection and establishes a digital database accessible to scientists anywhere, anytime. The standardization of floras has been a focus of botanists, including Palmer (1995), who listed a complete set of the requirements that all botanists are urged to follow to maximize both data point cohesiveness and broader data quality. The focus of this paper is the evaluation of an iNaturalist project’s ability to meet Palmer’s standards and the preliminary collection of biodiversity data of the Charles B. Henson Cave Preserve in Dade County, Georgia. The goals of this study were to: (1) assess the ability of an iNaturalist project to meet Palmer’s standards for conducting a flora, (2) conduct a digital flora of the Charles B. Henson Cave Preserve, and (3) evaluate the ability of an iflora of this nature to capture meaningful biodiversity data. Between April and October 2021, fourteen site visits were conducted, resulting in 469 total observations. Of these, 156 were identified to species using iNaturalist’s identification tool, and 168 are research grade. The observations identified to species consist of 17 pteridophytes, four gymnosperms, 118 dicots, and 20 monocots. Of these species, 14 were determined to have state ranks of S1, S2, or S3 and/or global ranks of G1, G2, G3. Using the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau species area curve (Huskins and Shaw, 2010), the expected number of species for the CBHCP was determined to be 580 species, indicating a need for further documentation. Each of Palmer’s standards may be met using an iNaturalist project to varying degrees of success.


First and foremost, I would like to thank my thesis director, Dr. Joey Shaw for offering his steadfast support and guidance to me as I worked to complete this project. I am truly grateful for his willingness to prepare me with the tools necessary to succeed not only at this project but also in the broader academic realm. I would also like to thank my thesis examiners, Dr. Elise Chapman and Dr. Stylianos Chatzimanolis, for their time and attention, as well as their guidance and encouragement, as they thoughtfully reviewed this project. A huge thanks to the UTC Honors College for providing me with countless opportunities to enrich my learning experience as I pursued my Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. Conducting my departmental honors thesis has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. I am also grateful to the Southeastern Cave Conservancy Inc. and their affiliates who provided me with an opportunity to explore the beautiful Charles B. Hensons Cave Preserve lands. A special thanks to SCCi Land Manager Aidan Campbell who took the time to give me a tour of the site and shared with me countless resources that have considerably aided the completion of this project. I am exceedingly appreciative of those of my peers who offered their assistance and/or company during trips to the site and of those who offered support of the moral variety: Katie Jamieson, Lexi Alan, Garrett Billings, Olivia Masterson, Jakob Lewis, and Emily Shields. I am eternally grateful to my family, including my mom, dad, and brother, for endlessly cheering me on and for believing in me at every point of this journey.


B. S.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Science.




Ecological surveys--Citizen participation


Georgia--Dade County


flora; iNaturalist; digital flora; flora standards; charles b henson cave preserve; georgia; citizen science


Environmental Studies

Document Type



i, 40 leaves