Barbara Benson retires

Network News Fall 2009, Vol. 22 No. 2
Network News

Colleagues pay tribute to a stalwart of LTER Information Management and Science

Barbara J. Benson, information manager and scientist at the North Temperate Lakes (NTL) LTER for 26 years as and former chair of the LTER Network Information Management Committee, has retired. Barbara retired in October 2009, but will continue several aspects of her research and utilize her information management talents as an emeritus member of the Center for Limnology and the NTL LTER team.

Barbara's career exemplifies how important individual contributions can be in shaping the evolution of the LTER program. Former colleagues say that her attention and leadership in information management has helped LTER achieve and maintain leadership in the field.

Starting as a math major, Barbara earned her Ph.D. in Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interests, skills, and persistence led to her being hired to develop and manage NTL's data and information management system, which has significantly helped researchers analyze the rich sets of dynamics seen in the north temperate lakes and their surrounding landscapes.

In addition to developing the excellent information management system at NTL, Barbara provided leadership at the LTER Network level. In 2003, she succeeded Susan Stafford as chair of the Network's Information Management Committee, serving until 2006. She also served on the Network Information System Advisory Committee, most recently as Co-Principal Investigator on the LTER Network Planning Grant, and as a member of the team for cyberinfrastructure (CI) planning.

Those who know and have worked with Barbara appreciate her quiet leadership style, her pleasant assertiveness, and her ability to grasp the big picture in the midst of details.

Barbara is also a practicing ecologist who enjoys working with complex problems. The diversity of her contributions is apparent in the NTL's 2006 Oxford Synthesis volume1, in which she is lead author or coauthor on six of the 15 chapters. At the most recent All Scientists Meeting in Estes Park, CO, in September 2009, Barbara presented a paper on a CI-Team project, and a poster on trends, variability, and extreme events in lake ice.

At NTL, our approach to data and information management has always been to identify and recruit a strong and highly qualified professional scientist as our information manager. Our logic was that an information manager who was also a researcher and publishing scientist would design and implement a system that scientists could use effectively. This model has been healthy for NTL and the LTER Network during our first 25 plus years, and Barbara filled it exceptionally well. These multiple roles placed considerable stresses but also opportunities on Barbara, all of which she took in stride and performed with conscientious grace.

Barbara has been important to LTER. The network and the individual programs, especially NTL, have been enriched and empowered through her unique combination of skills and personal attributes.

Barbara, we hope that your retirement is designed with the same care you have shown to LTER and its research endeavor. We also hope that you save a small part of yourself to continue interacting with LTER and your former colleagues and friends.


Magnuson, J. J., T. K. Kratz, and B. J. Benson (eds.). 2006. Long-term dynamics of lakes in the landscape: long-term ecological research on north temperate lakes. Oxford University Press.