Report from the 2012 Science Council Meeting

Network News Spring 2012, Vol. 25 No. 2
Network News

The 2012 LTER Science Council meeting was held from May 15-17 at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. The first full day of activities included the Executive Board (EB) meeting. The minutes of that meeting have yet to be approved by the EB, but will be distributed as soon as they are approved.

Much of the EB meeting focused on the planned Network Office site visit that took place at the end of May 2012 in Albuquerque, NM. The EB also had a very informative discussion with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) LTER Program Directors Saran Twombly and Matt Kane. 

Although the Science Council meeting officially started with a mixer on the evening of the 15th as various participants arrived, the official schedule started with a plenary sessions on the morning of the 16th, a field trip that afternoon, and the Lead PI meeting after dinner that night.

The two days of plenary talks, which were mostly focused on the theme of sustainability, kicked off with a welcome from Scott Collins (SEV/ chair of the EB and SC), followed by an overview of the plenary’s science program by the organizers, Karen McGlathery (VCR) and Evelyn Gaiser (FCE). The first day of presentations included Terry Chapin’s (BNZ) “Potential roles of the LTER Network in fostering local-to-global stewardship,” which was channeled by Scott Collins (SEV); Chuck Redman’s (CAP) “Incorporating the long-term perspective into sustainability science”;  Steward Pickett’s (BES) “Understanding and facilitating sustainability in urban ecosystems”; and Hannah Gosnell’s (AND) “Sustainability in rural systems.”

The second day of plenary presentations featured talks by Phil Robertson (KBS) and Russ Schmitt (MCR), who reprised their outstanding talks from the 2012 LTER Mini-symposium,“Agricultural sustainability and nitrous oxide markets,” and “Managing for resilience in benthic marine environments.” Rene Price’s (FCE) rounded out the morning with her presentation, “Sustainability of coastal resources: sea-level rise and coastal forests.”

As usual, the highlight of the Science Council meeting was the field trip to the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. The trip had four organized stops in a variety of habitats to highlight various aspects of the Andrews LTER program. Stops included a visit to the Blue River Reservoir; a highly instrumented watershed; a stunningly surreal old growth forest; and a secondary forest where bird songs, and therefore bird populations, are monitored via automated sound recordings. The weather was perfect, with clear sunny, skies and temperatures hovering in the high 70s. The odd sight of local scientists seeking cover in the shade while their desert counterparts “shivered” in the sunlight provided an interesting contrast of local adaptation and thermoregulation. One of the many highlights of the field trip was an inspiring poetry reading, part of the increasingly popular arts and humanities (“Reflections”) program at the Andrews.

The field trip was followed by a poster session and dinner. Thereafter, the lead PIs retreated to a meeting organized and facilitated by Nick Brokaw (LUQ) to discuss, primarily from their personal experiences, wide ranging topics such as the LTER 30-year review (move on), what to do if put on probation (get off),  budget allocation strategies (spend wisely), and time demands on information managers (add more hours to the day).

However, most of the morning and afternoon sessions were consumed by breakout groups working on the following topics:

  1. Water sustainability
  2. Sustainability of urban systems
  3. Coastal sustainability
  4. Sustainability of inland systems
  5. Sustainability theory and resilience
  6. Sustainability of rural ecosystems

Outcomes of these working groups include planned manuscripts, research proposals, and sessions at the upcoming All Scientists Meeting in September 2012.

The final evening was reserved for the Science Council Business meeting, minutes of which have already been circulated to the LTER Site Exec listserv. Highlights of this meeting included a very engaging dialogue between participants and the NSF Program Directors, reports from various LTER committees, and planning for the 2013 Mini-symposium and Science Council meeting. The theme chosen for the 2013 Minisymposium and Science Council meetings was “Globalization of LTER Research.” The Minisymposium will be held at NSF, and the 2013 SC meeting will be hosted by Jornada LTER in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We look forward to watching the HJ Andrews participants look for shade during the field trip…..

The 2012 Science Council was deemed by one and all to be a rousing success. Special thanks go to the local hosts of the 2012 SC meeting (especially Julia Jones) for all their hard work and careful planning. The caterers were spectacular, so everyone ate very well, the weather was ideal, the science was fascinating, and the location was inspiring.