August’s NEON Spotlight highlights three new stories demonstrating how scientists are leveraging NEON data in their efforts to expand the capabilities of ecological science. This month, we are spotlighting how NEON plays a role in the first long-term aerosol study in the U.S., how our expert staff provide insights into links between weather and West Nile Virus, and how NEON resources are used for studying global biodiversity. NEON data continue to be instrumental in advancing our comprehension of the natural world, fueling public knowledge, and sharpening our ability to address pressing environmental challenges.
This Month’s Spotlight
The latest news from NEON includes:
- NEON Infrastructure Aids First Long-term Aerosol Study in U.S.
Scientists from a variety of academic institutions have begun leveraging NEON infrastructure for a new NSF-funded multistate project to determine the chemical content and physical properties of airborne particulate matter. The project, named The Atmospheric Science and Chemistry Measurement Network, has created the nation’s first long-term network of monitoring stations on aerosol chemical content and properties. The sensors will allow scientists to accurately assess and predict the impact of aerosols on climate, human health, visibility, and ecosystems in a changing environment. The installation of the air quality sensors at NEON’s Delta Junction site in Alaska was made possible through the NEON Assignable Assets Program which makes certain components of NEON's infrastructure available to members of the community to support their own research or other activities.
- NEON Scientist Discusses Surprising Link Between Weather and West Nile Virus
NEON disease ecologist Sara Paull spoke with The Denver Post on the link between weather and West Nile virus cases. She provided the insight that while higher rain may cause more mosquitos to breed and populations to grow, drought conditions actually cause more cases of West Nile virus. This is because during a drought, birds carrying the virus congregate around sources of water in higher concentrations, making them easier targets for mosquitos, which then transmit the virus to humans.
- Researchers use NEON Data to Enable Global Plant Biodiversity Study
Researchers from the universities of Zurich and Montréal utilized data from NEON to investigate the effectiveness of image spectroscopy in evaluating plant biodiversity in various ecosystems. NEON collected imaging spectrometer data during flight surveys and the data revealed that diversity calculated by spectroscopy in forests with closed canopies was more accurate than open landscapes. However, ultimately the study concluded that plant biodiversity across ecosystems ranging from Arctic tundra to tropical forests can be reliably assessed using image spectrometry. This confirmation will help pave the way for the development of real-time global biodiversity monitoring through satellite imaging in the future.
Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by Battelle, NEON is a continental-scale ecological observatory network dedicated to providing high-quality, consistently generated, standardized data that are free and available to all users. By enabling scientists, researchers, and students to address critical questions and understand ecosystem changes over time, the NEON program allows the ecological community to tackle questions and problems at a scale that was not possible before.