The Evolution of a Network

Network News Spring 1990, Vol. 7 No. 1
Network News

The following article summarizes a talk Dr. Bledsoe gave at the January 1990 MAB/UNESCO meeting in Paris (see page 14).

The LTER program, which began in 1980, now has a total of 17 research sites. These sites have evolved from programs with a primary focus on site-based research, into a network with a primary focus on coordinated activities and multi-site research. While site-specific research still dominates each individual site’s activities, there is increasing interest in intersite research and comparative long-term studies. The LTER Coordinating Committee meets in the fall and spring each year. These meetings have provided a valuable forum for coordination and scientific exchange, and a number of LTER workshops developed from the meetings have led to intersite research projects. The 1989 Decomposition Workshop, for example, led to a major cross-site litterbag study initiated by Mark Harmon, from the Andrews site. Recent workshops on geographic information systems and remote sensing have stimulated interest in these technologies, which are currently being implemented at several LTER sites. Other scientists are often invited to participate in LTER workshops, providing wider opportunities for collaboration and exchange.

As LTER intersite activities increased, the need for coordination and support was recognized. A Network Office was established and is currently based in Seattle, at the University of Washington. The staff includes: Dr. Jerry Franklin, Director and Chair of the Coordinating Committee; Dr. John Vande Castle, Network Manager and remote sensing specialist; Rudolf Nottrott, Data Manager and computer networking expert; Stephanie Martin, Publications Coordinator; and Adrienne Whitener, Program Assistant. Office staff work with personnel across the network, helping to coordinate a variety of activities including: group purchases of equipment; coordination of workshops, meetings and travel; development of publications; and development and maintenance of computer connectivity and data transfer.

The increasing need for rapid communications within the Network has been addressed by the “Connectivity Team--Rudolf Nottrott, James Brunt (Sevilleta LTER), and John Porter (Virginia Coast LTER). This group, formed at NSF’s request, has evaluated the needs of individual sites for computer networking, both on-site and within the LTER Network, with the goal of facilitating extensive scientific interactions among LTER scientists. Their assessments and recommendations for continuing computer acquisitions and software development are described in a report (see page 4).

Recently developed networking systems include the LTER bulletin board and the electronic mail system, which allows scientists to routinely send and receive mail across the Network with minimal effort.

As comparative activity increases, LTER and other scientists need to know what critical long-term data sets are being collected at the sites. A dataset catalog is currently being compiled under the direction of William Michener at North Inlet. Other new activities for LTER include considerations of how human activities interact with ecosystem processes.

A new direction for LTER is the concept of a “network of networks.” At the November 1989 LTER Global Change Workshop representatives from the Network were joined by scientists from other developing networks (see “From the Chair,” page 2). In the future, LTER hopes to be one of many such cooperative ecological networks.