This month, we highlight the variety of ways NEON data is pushing the boundaries of current ecological research. October’s collection of scientific advances includes a study on airborne microbes’ impact on global health, research on how urbanization is affecting mammals, and a new project exploring the interaction between climate, bedrock, and vegetation.
This Month’s Spotlight
The latest news from NEON includes:
- Colorado State University researchers were awarded $12.5 million through an NSF grant to explore the fundamental properties of microbes that live in the air. Using NEON data, the research team – which includes agricultural biologists, microbiologists, atmospheric scientists, and sociologists – will use a holistic approach to study the impact microbial communities have on global health. “This project supports a unique interdisciplinary research and training program for the next generation of biological scientists and has potentially transformational implications for understanding weather patterns, disease spread, microbial ecology, the environment and health of humans and animals,” said Dr. Sue VandeWoude, principal investigator for the project, director of the One Health Institute and a University Distinguished Professor at CSU.
- A new study published in Communications Biology found that urbanization is making mammals bigger. A biological principal called ‘Bergmann’s Rule’ suggests animals in warmer climates tend to be smaller than the same species in cooler climates. Counter to this principal, researchers from the Florida Museum of Natural History found this unexpected pattern after analyzing data from over 100 species collected over 80 years. Using data collected by NEON and other databases, Maggie Hantak and her team were able to analyze nearly 140,500 measurements of body length and mass from North American mammals. "In theory, animals in cities should be getting smaller because of these heat island effects, but we didn't find evidence for this happening in mammals," said study lead author Hantak, a Florida Museum postdoctoral researcher. "This paper is a good argument for why we can't assume Bergmann's Rule or climate alone is important in determining the size of animals."
- Kansas State professor Jesse Nippert was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to study water and carbon fluxes. The $412,000 NSF grant will fund research exploring how the interaction of plant roots and bedrock has changed water carbon movement between land and the atmosphere. Funded over the next five years, the project will leverage the NEON database and other repositories to understand how the land surface will interact with climate in the future. Nippert and his team will differentiate how landscape bedrock and vegetation control water and carbon storage and movement, which locations are most likely to change, and how below-ground properties influence climate conditions now and in the future.
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.