Dana Chadwick, post-doctoral research fellow at Stanford University, shares her experiences with mentorship, both as a mentee and as a source of support for her own students, and describes the importance of research opportunities around the world for building important skill sets.
From the mountains of Maine to the streets of Manhattan, the Northeast (Domain 01) contains something for everyone. The Domain features a variety of natural habitats as well as some of the largest and oldest urban areas in the U.S. The NEON field sites in Massachusetts and New Hampshire provide opportunities to study how these ecosystems are responding to pressures from climate change, invasive species, and human activities.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are found in nearly every ecosystem, quietly helping plants absorb nutrients from the soil. Dr. Bala Chaudhary wants to build a better model of how these vital ecosystem players disperse across the continent. She is using NEON’s Assignable Assets program to examine the role of aerial dispersal in AM fungal movement.
Dr. Zachary Kayler , an assistant professor in the Department of Soil and Water Systems at the University of Idaho, used NEON soil samples to test the ability of a widely-used soil health metric to detect changes from an extreme weather event - Hurricane Maria - in Puerto Rico.
Dr. Monica Papes, assistant professor and Spatial Analysis Lab Director at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, spoke with us about how an encouraging student advisor provided her with opportunities that changed the focus of her research, and how a more diverse department helps her to feel confident about her place in academia.
Can technology fill in the missing pieces when humans can’t get to the field? While there will almost certainly be data gaps for NEON and other large-scale ecological programs this year, automated instrument programs can still provide a lot of ecological insights. In the future, emerging technologies such as drones, smart sensors, and robots could help ecologists collect field data even under challenging circumstances.
The NEON field sites in the Desert Southwest Domain (D14) collect data that can help researchers better understand how the monsoon impacts the ecology of the southwestern deserts and monitor how the monsoon season may be changing over time.
Jeffery Cannon, a Forest Management Scientist at The Jones Center, is using remote sensing data from the NEON program to understand how longleaf pine forests are impacted by and recover from major weather events. He and his colleagues will use the results to develop tools to help forest managers plan restoration and conservation efforts.
From the glaciers of Glacier National Park to the geysers of Yellowstone, the Northern Rockies Domain (D12) is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the U.S. Sprawling across 290,000 km2 (112,000 square miles) of western Montana, Idaho, and northwestern Wyoming, the Domain boasts more than 20 national parks and forests and millions of acres of protected wilderness.
Jennifer Cotton , an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at California State University Northridge, who specializes in paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions of terrestrial ecosystems, shares with us her experiences with mentorship, both as a mentee and as a source of support and inspiration for her students.
The NEON program has now made data from its 47 flux towers available through the AmeriFlux data portal. This will allow researchers to synthesize data from the NEON flux towers with data from other towers across the AmeriFlux network.
Andrew Fricker, used remote sensing data from the NEON Airborne Observation Platform to train a neural net to classify tree species in a Sierra Nevada forest. He and his coauthors describe their approach in Remote Sensing: “A Convolutional Neural Network Classifier Identifies Tree Species in Mixed-Conifer Forest from Hyperspectral Imagery.”
Chris Gough, an associate professor of biology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), is using data from the NEON program to explore relationships between forest structure, biodiversity, and other characteristics and their ability to sequester carbon. His collaborative work with PIs from the University of Connecticut and Purdue University was recently published in Ecology: “High Rates of Primary Production in Structurally Complex Forests."
The Ozarks Complex (Domain 08) takes its name from the Ozark Mountains and Plateau, but this diverse Domain contains more than just mountains. Stretching across the southern U.S. from eastern Oklahoma and Texas to western Georgia, D08 supports a variety of ecosystems ranging from upland hardwood forests to coastal floodplains. The NEON program field sites in Alabama provide a window into watershed dynamics in the southeastern U.S.
Understanding why tick populations are increasing, and why some species are spreading into new geographic areas, is of critical importance to public health. In a recent study, researchers used NEON data to develop a model of tick population dynamics at the Ordway Swisher Biological Station field site.
A team led by NEON scientists David Hulslander and Jessica Bolis has developed a method to map tree mortality with an unprecedented level of detail using hyperspectral remote sensing data from the NEON Airborne Observational Platform and a novel imaging algorithm.
Dr. Angela Strecker talks about her career path into ecology, describes how she’s learned to open up about her own experiences to help students, and talks about the important work she does related to invasive species’ impact on our environment.
The NEON program collects plant phenology data—that is, observations about the timing of biological events—at terrestrial and aquatic field sites across the continent. A partnership with the USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) has now made these data available through the USA-NPN data access and visualization tools.
D20 is the smallest and westernmost of the NEON eco-climatic domains, encompassing all of the islands that form the state of Hawai‘i. The Hawaiian Islands, lying at latitude 20° N, are part of a tropical climate zone that forms a band around the Earth near the equator. Other Pacific islands in this zone include the Marshall Islands, the Mariana Islands, Papua New Guinea, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Earth Day reminds us that the earth and the environment belong to all of us—and everyone can get involved in observing, studying and protecting our ecological treasures. Citizen science projects offer opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and education levels to get involved in ecology and environmental science directly. The data gathered through these programs can complement and support the work being done by individual researchers and large-scale ecology observatories like the NEON program.
Small mammal pathogen testing protocols for the NEON program are about to get an overhaul. The observatory is shifting the focus of Rodent-borne Pathogen Status data product from hantaviruses to tickborne diseases such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The new testing protocols will be piloted at five sites in 2020 in preparation for a planned rollout to all NEON terrestrial field sites in 2021.
The NEON program generates ecological data on an unprecedented scale. Making sense of that data often requires sophisticated analytical techniques and computer programs. But if you’re not a coder, don’t worry—open source coding resources and community-made custom programs make NEON data more accessible to the ecology community. These resources are now being compiled in the NEON Code Resources Library.
In our conversations with female ecologists, we’ve heard themes about how to not only recruit women into STEM fields but also how to retain women in professional roles within scientific and academic institutions. The value of mentors for female students and early-career scientists cannot be overstated, for example.
NEON offers a variety of tools and resources for instructors and faculty moving to online teaching. We realize that these are challenging times for our communities around the globe to delivery high quality education in novel online teaching environments. The data and resources from NEON are naturally suited for teaching ecological concepts and skills in both synchronous and asynchronous learning situations.
We are committed to the safety and health of our employees, partners and communities, and to slowing the spread of COVID-19. With the concurrence of the National Science Foundation (NSF), we are temporarily suspending all activities across NEON that involve in-person or on-site work—including all domains, headquarters and airborne operations—due to the nationwide risks to health and safety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
How does human activity impact the environment? The Mid-Atlantic Domain (Domain 02) is a great place to find out. The eastern seaboard of the U.S. has undergone massive changes and development over the last 250 years. Data from the NEON field sites in Maryland and Virginia provide a window into how land use patterns, invasive species and climate change are impacting eastern habitats and ecosystems.
Interested in planning a ground sampling project in coordination with one of our airborne remote sensing surveys? The 2020 NEON flight schedule is now available. Two aircraft will be deployed June through September to collect data over 20 terrestrial and 11 aquatic sites, covering 9 of the 20 NEON Domains.
Dr. Sydne Record's educational and professional experience provide a fascinating glimpse into women’s paths in academic science, the crucial role of mentors and advocates in a student’s development, and how the field can be more inclusive going forward.