Women’s History Month 2024: NEON Enabling Innovative, Women-led Research in Soil Science, N2O Saturation Monitoring and Tree Species Evaluation

alt=Battelle NEON Spotlight March 2024

Since 2016, Battelle has had the privilege of managing and operating the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in partnership with the 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, in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we are spotlighting three news stories involving women in science. As society continues to address the stark gender divide in many STEM disciplines, we hope to inspire the next generation of female ecologists by highlighting some of the most groundbreaking women-led work in the field today. Below, you can read more about Chandelle Macdonald and her role at the University of Wyoming, Kelly Aho and her team’s work evaluating nitrous oxide (N2O) in different bodies of water and Sarah Graves and how NEON data from a competition can help evaluate tree species.

This Month’s Spotlight 
The latest news from NEON includes: 

  1. University of Wyoming Chosen for NEON Soil Sample Analysis
    The Stable Isotope Facility (SIF) at the University of Wyoming was selected to analyze NEON soil samples across the United States. Chandelle Macdonald, laboratory manager of SIF, detailed that the soil samples analyzed will include elemental nitrogen, carbon content, and stable isotope composition data, which are essential in assessing the Earth’s soil from multiple layers. Through NEON, the data collected will be free and openly accessible. The University of Wyoming has been analyzing NEON soils since 2014, and Macdonald describes this recent selection as a testament to the university’s ability to compete at a national level.

  2. NEON Used to Examine N2O Undersaturation in Streams, Rivers, and Lakes
    Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a greenhouse gas that, as it accumulates in Earth’s atmosphere, contributes to ozone depletion and climate change. It’s been discovered that inland waters such as streams, rivers, and lakes can serve as sinks for N2O and potentially offset emissions. Dr. Kelly Aho and her team have monitored N20 undersaturation – when dissolved N2O concentrations are less than the atmospheric equilibrium N2O – in inland water sources via data from NEON sites.  The results suggest that undersaturation is prevalent and widespread, occurring when rates of nitrogen transformation are low. Aho’s team posits the theory that this trend could be due to the lack of human activity in those areas.

  3. Data Science Competition Leverages NEON Data for Cross Site Evaluation of Tree Species
    In 2017, a competition was held to use NEON airborne data to assess tree crowns in a forest. Those competing teams found that using a combination of remote sensing data and standard forest inventory would lead to higher accuracy. Subsequently, a new version of the competition was created using NEON forest sites to evaluate how well remote sensing data and standard forest inventory would test in different forest sites. When classifying ecological data, researchers noted that among the natural forest ecosystems, there tends to be an imbalance in the data due to small numbers of common species and larger numbers of rare species. Overall, researchers found that traditional tree decision methods can predict more common species across sites, but that there needs to be improvement when it comes to classifying rare species.  

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.

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)

Uncover the ecological secrets hidden across diverse ecosystems.

March 12, 2024
Battelle Insider
Estimated Read Time
3 Mins


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