Network Office Survives Transition

Network News Spring 1998, Vol. 11 No. 1
Top Stories

New Mexico Well Suited to New Office, New Ideas

New Mexico, in addition to being the Land of Enchantment, is also a land of transition. Both of the New Mexican LTER sites focus on the transition between different types of ecosystems, and even within the confines of Greater Albuquerque the change from riverine through high desert to montane habitats provides an impressive amount of variability within only 30 minutes driving time. The Network Office fits right in with this pattern; practically everything, from the home page to the personnel, is in a state of transition. However, El Niño can’t be blamed this time. We’ve brought these changes upon ourselves.

The move from Seattle to Albuquerque has presented a series of challenges for the personnel of NET. The first of these was, of course, finding the people to staff the new office. We have been very fortunate in two ways with regard to staffing. First, John Vande Castle decided to make the move with the Office, which provides us with invaluable institutional memory and experience. As important, we have been able to recruit an excellent group of people to take over the remaining positions, all of whom have been instrumental in maintaining the continuity of services that we offer to the LTER Network during the period of transition (please see pages 11-12). We look forward to completing the staff over the next few months.

NET’s move to Albuquerque has afforded numerous opportunities for improving many of the office facilities. These improvements include new computer file servers and other equipment and the installation of updated software. Some of the acquisitions have resulted in temporary headaches, we look forward to having everything running smoothly in the near future.

A temporary hiatus in our capability to maintain and update network databases has been an unavoidable side effect of the move. We are addressing this problem as quickly as resources permit us. For example, we have initiated an effort through the Data Management Committee to make the LTER Personnel Database current. At the same time, we plan to add improvements to the management of the database to provide more flexibility in creating and using e-mail groups. We have begun a similar effort with the LTER website, only in this case we have mounted a major reconstruction effort. The new website, when complete, will both be more appealing and more functional. Many other similar projects are in queue.

We also inherited a legacy of ongoing projects that have kept us busy, especially in the International LTER arena. We are fortunate during this period to have our efforts bolstered by Chris French, who is on loan to the Network Office from International Programs at NSF. With Chris’ advice and help, we have encouraged fledgling networks in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Israel, and South Africa. Some of the developing international networks have reached the point where interactions with a group of LTER scientists would be both appropriate and rewarding. Brazil, Venezuela, China, Taiwan, Costa Rica, and the Czech Republic are all countries where direct scientist-to-scientist contact should be initiated in the near future. The Network Office stands ready to help any LTER scientist or group of scientists to develop proposals for visits to ILTER countries for the purpose of initiating research collaboration.

ILTER efforts have developed along regional lines. Affinity groups have sprung up among East Asian/Pacific and Latin American countries. A North American Regional LTER Network, comprised of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, is in the formative stage. When this regional network takes shape, it will provide enhanced opportunities for cross-site and regional experiments and syntheses.

One of the recommendations of the 10-year review of the LTER program was the creation of an international network of 100 sites, 50 in the United States and 50 in other countries. Of the 50 in the United States, it was proposed that half would be funded by NSF and half by other agencies. There now exist more than 50 LTER-like sites in the ILTER Network, and 21 in the national network. One of the tasks that I see for the Network Office is to foster interest in the LTER concept among federal agencies that fund ecological research. Recently, I attended a meeting in Bozeman of a group interested in developing an LTER-like program in Yellowstone National Park. There has also been interest in LTER expressed by scientists at several other national parks. With appropriate nurturing, these expressions of interest may develop into research programs that will complement the LTER effort.

In closing, I would like to thank all of you for being so patient during the transition of the Network Office. I believe that we have resolved the most important issues and that all that remains now is a lot of hard work. I would appreciate any suggestions or comments that you might have regarding how to improve our operation.