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Photo: Battelle NEON Spotlight Feb 2021

February 2021: What’s New With NEON?

Posted by Battelle Insider on Feb 2, 2021

This month, we highlight the many ways in which NEON data is benefiting greater ecological research. From fostering the new information necessary for species reclassification, to offering a potential solution to the research replication problem facing ecologists, NEON data is creating the opportunities necessary for advanced ecological discoveries.

This Month’s Spotlight 

The latest news from NEON includes: 

  1. Former NEON scientist Jordan Swenson recently aided in the discovery of a new diatom species. While conducting research for her master’s thesis at the University of Colorado, Swenson investigated freshwater diatoms from Puerto Rican NEON aquatic field sites, leading to a reclassification of diatom taxa in the region and the possible discovery of a new species. “Understanding what is out there and how they are related — getting the taxonomy correct — is fundamentally important to our understanding of the aquatic environment, everything from water quality to evolutionary history," said Swenson. A paper recently published in Phytotaxa details the results of this research, which was enabled by samples from the NEON Biorepository.

  2. The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a proposal for the creation of a research center fueled entirely by open-source biological and environmental data to which NEON would be a significant contributor. According to the proposal, the purpose of the center is to catalyze novel scientific questions in environmental biology using data-intensive approaches; team science and research networks; and training in the accession, management, analysis, visualization, and synthesis of large data sets. The NSF believes the center will serve as a proof of concept for increasing the speed of scientific discovery by using large, publicly available datasets and enabling collaborations between scientists in related disciplines.

  3. A recent article published in Science underscored the replication challenges plaguing ecological research, pointing to traditionally small sample sizes and the high cost of research. However, large scale, publicly available data through networks like NEON are helping to remedy this problem. Access to large data sets like those gathered by NEON scientists allows researchers to see if others are getting similar results and if findings apply beyond a single ecosystem. NEON has been fully operational since 2019, and studies are now drawing on its data, which will continue to benefit the ecological community and efforts at research replication.

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 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 program allows the ecological community to tackle questions and problems at a scale that was not possible before. 
 
You can read about the latest work and research in the NEON Spotlight every month at Inside Battelle, and on our social media channels. For more information about NEON, visit NEONscience.org

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