Latest Innovations with NEON: Woods to Water Project, Fire Activity in Western U.S. Forests and NEON Field Protocols

alt= infographic for the May 2024 Battelle NEON Spotlight Blog

Since 2016, Battelle has had the privilege of managing and operating the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in partnership with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

Originally conceived at the turn of the millennium and designed to collect measurements for three decades, NEON is a U.S.-wide network of 81 field sites that offers the global scientific community access to rich, continent-scale datasets that are driving ecological research.

This month’s Spotlight is an important one for the NEON team, and since May marked the annual recognition of Teacher Appreciation Month, we wanted to do a look back and highlight the importance of teachers. Educators play a critical role in training the next generation of experts across a myriad of fields, including those in the ecological research community. Beyond conducting research of their own, ecological professors and teachers consistently inspire new generations of passionate researchers to enter the field. 

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Month, we are highlighting three examples of how NEON data are being used either in the classroom itself, or by ecological educators to drive the future of research in the field.

The latest news from NEON includes: 

  1. University of Alabama Partners with NEON to Empower the Next Generation of Ecologists
    A University of Alabama research team led by Dr. Carla Atkinson has been awarded about $3 million in funding for the Woods to Water (W2W) project, which helps early career scientists comprehend important linkages between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The W2W program will leverage training with NEON, to help them tackle climate change issues. The training will take place at the Ozarks that has three pairs of terrestrial and aquatic NEON field sites, and in the Southeast, which has two NEON sites.  Both have a longleaf pine ecosystem. The projects lead investigator, Dr. Christina Staudhammer states, “Partnering with NEON and a private research foundation, we are giving opportunities for participants to gain experience in a wide range of field techniques and scientific management.”

  2. NEON Forest Sites To Be Used in Land Use and Fire Project by University of Wyoming Professor
  3. Computing Assistant Professor Di Yang from the University of Wyoming was awarded a grant from the NASA Early Career investigator program for a three-year project that involves evaluating long-term impacts of land use on western U.S. forests. The goal of the project is to examine the interactions between land use historically, addressing knowledge gaps about the impacts of human-driven landscape changes like logging, agriculture, and development on wildfire patterns. NEON forest sites will be used from this project as well as remote-sensing data from the NEON Airborne Observation Platform. NEON will allow Yang and her team to successfully scale results across spatially distributed forest areas.


  4. NEON Field Protocols Used to Teach New Scientists
    An internship and fellowship program with the Carolina Wildlands Foundation is providing opportunities for students from local colleges and universities to gain fieldwork experience in unique ecosystems. The foundation manages the land and educational programs at the Southern 8ths station, a 1600-acre conservation area on the border of North and South Carolina. In addition to land conservation, the foundation is committed to expanding educational opportunities in ecology; over the last two years, 47 students have completed internships or fellowships through Carolina Wildlands. The primary field protocols now used by Carolina Wildlands are adapted from protocols of the NEON Program. NEON staff helped identify appropriate protocols for the foundation, including Plant Phenology, Surface Water Chemistry, Aquatic Macroinvertebrates, Stream Discharge, Ground Beetle Sampling, and Benthic Macroinvertebrates. The team hopes to implement more NEON protocols in the future and also expand partnerships.

Sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation 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.

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)

Uncover the ecological secrets hidden across diverse ecosystems.

June 11, 2024
Battelle Insider
Estimated Read Time
3 Mins


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