For more than a decade ecologists have wanted to create an observatory for understanding complex ecological processes at multiple scalesfrom continental-scale biosphere dynamics to the microorganisms in soil and water. Now they are preparing to build it.
Since 2005, designers of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) have worked with their colleagues in the ecological community to refine the science and cyberinfrastructure plan for such an observatory. In 2007, the community suggested specific locations across the United States for deploying the ecological sensors and cyberinfrastructure that will create the network.
NEON is a continental-scale research platform for discovering and understanding the impacts of climate change, land-use change, and invasive species on ecology. It is the first initiative for the biological sciences to be funded through the National Science Foundations Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction fund, which has previously supported the construction of research vessels, particle accelerators, and large telescope arrays.
Our telescope points everywhere, said Dr. David Schimel, CEO of NEON. The Observatory will consist of distributed sensor networks and experiments, linked by advanced cyberinfrastructure to record and archive ecological data for at least 30 years. Using standardized protocols and an open data policy, NEON will gather essential data for developing the scientific understanding to manage some of the nations most pressing ecological challenges.
The NEON observing strategy is based on a systematic sampling across the largest scales of ecological variability in order to scale up analyses across the United States. Twenty core wildland sites form the stable, fixed elements of Observatory design. NEON partitions the United States (including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico) into 20 ecoclimatic domains using a statistical analysis of ecoclimatic variables and wind vector
Contact: Dan Johnson
National Ecological Observatory Network