October 2023 What’s New with NEON?

October’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 data are used to evaluate point-cloud denoising algorithms, study microbes resilience to climate change, and expand knowledge of nitrogen-fixing symbiosis. 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: 

  1. NEON Data Used to Evaluate Point-Cloud Denoising Algorithms Accuracy

    In this study, researchers used NEON airborne data compared with an ICESat-2 simulator’s data to verify the denoising accuracy and adaptability of three algorithms. The first is NASA’s differential regressive and Gaussian adaptive nearest neighbor (DRAGANN) algorithm. The second is Herzfeld’s radical basis function (RBF) algorithm, and the third is the density-based spatial clustering of applications with noise (DBSCAN) algorithm. The results show that the DRAGANN and DBSCAN algorithms are suitable at night for moderate vegetation coverage and are not affected by terrain slopes. However, the DBSCAN algorithm is greatly affected by solar noise photons, but at night, its denoising accuracy is higher than that of the DRAGANN algorithm. The RBF algorithm accuracy is suitable for all day data but decreases with increasing slope and vegetation coverage.


  3. MSU Researchers Add New Plant Research to Existing NEON Data

    Researchers from Mississippi State University received a $1.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct research on nitrogen-fixing symbiosis, which allows plants to convert nitrogen to a usable form, and how this process reacts to environmental stress. This process is important for researchers to understand, especially when studying how agriculture dependent on nitrogen is affected in the face of climate change. Researchers will specifically look at drought pressure in the study, and they predict that plant and bacteria symbiosis will increase when sharing a challenging climate setting.


  5. Study on Microbes and Climate Change Leverages NEON Data

    Over 200 NEON soil samples from across the continent were used by student researchers from the University of Miami to examine prokaryotes and their resilience and adaptability to climate change in a variety of environments. They used environmental factors such as leaf litter, temperature, water, and nutrients to determine whether the prokaryotes were specialists, generalists, or use different strategies on different environmental dimensions. Specialists are limited to specific conditions for survival while generalists can live across a variety of conditions and habitats. The results found that the majority (90 percent) of the microbes were either multidimensional generalists or multidimensional specialists. Specialist microbes are the most susceptible to climate change, while the generalist microbes are likely to be resilient.

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. 

Photo: Neon technicians in the boulder tower

October 06, 2023
Battelle Insider
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