This month, we highlight how the latest contributions of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) are moving ecological research forward. NEON continues to create headlines for the strides made by its researchers in expanding our understanding our environment – and the human impact on it – including wildfires, climate change and water quality.
This Month’s Spotlight
The latest news from NEON includes:
- New research through two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants are helping scientists develop forecasts of future water quality at NEON sites. Virginia Tech associate professors Cayelan Carey and Quinn Thomas are using one grant to expand an undergraduate training program in macrosystems ecology and ecological forecasting. The program will use NEON data to explore how the predictability of ecological dynamics varies within ecosystems and across different spatial scales.
- Baylor University researchers analyzed the composition of 42 NEON soil samples to better predict how soils in various ecosystems store carbon. William C. Hockaday, an associate professor of geosciences, and visiting scientist, Chenglong Ye, tested the samples using a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, allowing them to analyze the chemical structure and composition of natural organic molecules in the soil. Understanding these patterns will allow scientists to predict how the soil in various ecosystems stores carbon, offering a clearer picture of how soil carbon may impact climate change.
- NEON data scientist, Nathan Mietkiewicz, and Jennifer Balch, Director of University of Colorado’s Earth Lab, published research showing that 97% of wildfires that threaten homes in the U.S. are started by humans. Development in wildland-urban areas increased 145% between 1990 and 2015, and the impact of climate change is also exacerbating the issue. But the fact that humans cause the vast majority of wildfires that threaten homes also means it is possible to prevent these wildfires from occurring.
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 was not 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 NEONscience.org.