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Whats new with NEON

March 2020: What’s New With NEON?

Posted by Battelle Insider on Mar 2, 2020

Data collected under the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is fueling not only scientific studies, but also a paradigm shift in the ways that big data can contribute to ecological research as a whole. In the latest NEON Spotlight, scientists share their opinions on how NEON can meet new challenges facing the ecological community, and we see that groundbreaking studies are continuing to utilize NEON data sources.

This Month’s Spotlight

The latest news from the NEON project includes: 

  • Jennifer K. Balch and R. Chelsea Nagy from CU-Boulder and Benjamin S. Halpern from UC-Santa Barbara identified two opportunities for the NEON community to help revolutionize ecology: building open data skills and analytics and linking to the larger constellation of environmental datasets. The authors encourage the ecological community to embrace new data skills, data-driven inquiry and analytical approaches, and coordinated large-team science, with NEON acting as a catalyst for these methods.

  • Dr. Andrea Clemensen, a USDA scientist at the Northern Great Plains Research Lab in North Dakota, shared findings on harnessing plants’ chemicals to improve crop nutrition and soil health, as part of a research project that collaborates with NEON. Clemensen’s research explores how plants’ secondary metabolites may influence the soil microbiome and subsequent crops. While not directly part of NEON, the Northern Great Plains Research Project works with NEON and the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network, demonstrating the potential for large-scale research projects to connect through data and research efforts. 

  • Using NEON data, a team of scientists from the University of Florida extended a new deep learning approach to determine whether information from one forest can be used for tree detection in other forests. Published in Ecological Informatics, research by Ben G. Weinstein, Sergio Marconi, Stephanie A. Bohlman, Alina Zare and Ethan P. White found that this deep learning approach works well for overstory tree detection, with the best performance in open oak woodlands. 

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by Battelle, NEON is a continental-scale ecological observatory facility dedicated to providing high-quality, consistently generated data that is free and available to all users. By enabling scientists, researchers and students to address critical questions and understand ecosystem changes over time, the NEON project allows the ecological community to tackle questions and problems at a scale that wasn’t possible before. 

You can read about the latest research in the NEON Spotlight every month at Inside Battelle, and also on our social media channels. For more information about NEON, visit



Photo: battelle employee using a virtual workboard