LTER Network News enters new era

Network News Fall 2011, Vol. 24 No. 1

Welcome to the new-look network newsletter! It represents an exciting new era in LTER communication, being our first paperless edition of the network newsletter.  The ramifications of this development are that you will no longer have to visit the recycle bin after enjoying its content and more important, there is no limit to the type of media and length of material that can be included in the stories that you submit.

Our primary audience is, of course, the LTER community, but anyone and everyone who is part of the global Internet community —plus anyone they care to share the information with—will have access to the online version of the newsletter through the LTER website. Furthermore, everyone who is associated with the LTER network is invited to share news and information through the newsletter.  We can share our stories of invention, meetings, workshops, research findings, publications, site progress and change, educational materials and curriculum development and thus build stronger communication between sites and people in the LTER network.  We can also build upon each other’s achievements and work united toward our common scientific and educational goals. 

On my very first day as an indentured M.S. candidate many years ago I arrived at my office door to be greeted by a cartoon depicting an excited young researcher rolling a lab cart with a wheel strapped on top into the lab and a clipboard-toting senior scientist pointing to a sign that read “Please refrain from doing science that has already been done.”  Sounds funny, right?  But keeping up with peers’ is only one of the challenges everyone in science faces.  Through publications we can share the absolute and unique findings of scientific research, but what about the developmental steps and collaborations that lead up to that point? 

LTER is a different kind of network of researchers—ecologists with a ”long term” perspective—that can benefit through a collaborative massing of decades of neural networking.  It happens at our All Scientists Meetings; I have witnessed it many times and read the powerful scientific papers that emerge from the collaboration and recognition of similar efforts between individuals across sites.  This new tool—a meaty e-newsletter that can be blasted across the entire network of 26 sites and beyond in an e-moment —gives us the chance to do this as frequently as it is published, which ultimately will once a month.

At a recent meeting to share ideas, discussions, and results of a recent mini- survey of communication within the network (see Marcia Nation’s short summary in this newsletter), we concluded that the success of the newsletter hinges on… YOUR STORIES!  The meeting explored different modes of doing the newsletter, including special themed editions that address different research foci or highlight sites grouped by shared ecosystem characteristics. Even then we will need the materials from you, members of the LTER community, to make this happen.    

LTER scientists have a history of excellent research and are in a critical stewardship position to share the “big picture’’ with each other and with the rest of the world.  Our long-term ecological research and information monitoring is a critical element in determining systematically what is happening to our tiny planet.  LTER researchers are cool-headed big thinkers and participation in this research adventure is our lifetime commitment. I believe people want the information we generate and it is especially valuable to our peers within and without the Network.

So to LTER folks I say, please be proud of what you are doing and don’t be afraid to toot your own horn; type out a short story about your work and any developments in your career and send it along to the newsletter editor (see elsewhere in this issue for contact and submission details).  You can write about upcoming workshops, workshop minutes, publication of an important book or paper, and so on.  We would particularly appreciate hearing from all the working groups at all the sites, be they on education and outreach, climate change, hydrology, primary production, biogeochemistry, consumer, soil, or social and urban ecology.

Even if you don’t have the whole story yet we would still like to hear from you. Send out a brief news item with details of your field or area of specialization, your lab, a meeting you attended, workshop photos and video clips, and so on, that describe what you are doing so that your peers can learn more about and even get a chance to collaborate with you on your work.   

Susan Dailey is a member of the LTER communication sub-committee