Washington DC. 21 September 2004. The scientific community's work to create the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) enters a new phase today. With a two-year, $6 million cooperative agreement between the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the National Science Foundation now in place, the NEON Design Consortium and Project Office is staffed and operational, preparing to develop a blueprint for the network and a plan for its implementation. NEON will be the first national ecological observation system designed to answer scientific questions at regional and continental scales for ecological forecasting. See the NSF press release.
Just as the nation's network of meteorological stations allows scientists to predict changes in the weather, NEON will make it possible for scientists to predict changes in the nation's ecosystems and their consequences, according to Bruce Hayden, professor at the University of Virginia and principal investigator for the project. At NEON facilities across the country, researchers from various disciplines will work together to improve scientific understanding of several "grand challenge" research areas, including the ecological implications of climate change; the relationships between biodiversity, species composition, and ecosystem function; the impacts of land use and habitat alteration; the ecology and evolution of infectious disease; the causes and consequences of invasive species; the ecological implications of biogeochemical cycles; and hydroecology. NEON will transform the way ecological research is conducted by bringing ecologists and engineers together with social, computer, and earth scientists to investigate important ecological phenomena across large geographical areas and long periods of time, and by creating new collaborative environments across multiple scientific disciplines. The network will also provide unique educational opportunities for students and the public alike.
A 10-member Senior Management Team leads the project's suite of committees comprising more than 100 scientists, educators, and engineers in the development of a network blueprint and implementation plan. Hayden, along with William Michener, associate director of the Long Term Ecological Research Network, directs the NEON project office, which is located at AIBS headquarters in Washington DC and internally managed by AIBS Science Office Director, Jeffrey Goldman. The project's success relies on the participation of future NEON users: members of the scientific and educational communities, many of whom are to serve on NEON committees and to review NEON planning documents. See www.neoninc.org for nominating procedures and other information.
Jeffrey Goldman, AIBS Science Office Director
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