EcoTrends update

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

The EcoTrends project has been busy for the past several months reaching out to the scientific, technical, and education communities, supporting new science initiatives, and completing the products envisioned at the outset of the project.

In late April and early May, 2009, five science-driven working groups, each led or co-led by different people from across the network, formed to explore cross-site trends in disturbance (Deb Peters, JRN), state change (Brandon Bestelmeyer, JRN), primary productivity and species richness (Scott Collins, SEV, and Alan Knapp, ), biogeochemistry (Peter Groffman, HBR and Charles Driscoll, HBR), and animal populations (Michael Willig, LUQ, Paul Stapp, SGS, and Robert Waide, LNO), using data available in EcoTrends.

All of the groups met again in September at the 2009 ASM in Estes Park, CO, picking up more scientists and polishing ideas for papers (at least one per group). Researchers were able to access a lot of data very quickly, but also found gaps where they knew that data existed, but were not yet incorporated into EcoTrends. They also provided valuable feedback on better ways to allow users to explore, visualize, and download the data from the website for future synthesis projects.

In October of 2008 (Washington, DC) and August of 2009 (Albuquerque, NM), EcoTrends participated in two faculty development workshops hosted by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), entitled, "Using Continental-scale Data to Teach Undergraduate Ecology." The all-day workshops were designed for faculty from minority-serving undergraduate institutions to explore how existing continental-scale data from services like EcoTrends could be used in classroom exercises to address four key ecological challenges (biodiversity, biogeochemistry, climate change, and ecohydrology); discover and discuss educational needs and obstacles to teaching about continental-scale ecology; and generate recommendations to inform the development of NEON's physical and cyber infrastructure from the point of view of education. Each workshop involved one to two webinars and one to two days of meeting.

In total, approximately 30 faculty members from across the United States participated. They explored the EcoTrends website, developed outlines of several potential classroom assignments, and provided valuable feedback on how best to facilitate educators and students to discover and explore data from the EcoTrends website in the future.

EcoTrends has recently passed a milestone: the website at is freely available to the public after a one-time registration (during which the user is required to agree to abide by the data use policy). The website includes more than 15,000 datasets from 50 sites, aggregated to a monthly or yearly timestep, that can be discovered, viewed, and downloaded. Contributing researchers are taking advantage of the next few months to check their data and make updates or corrections. In addition, the EcoTrends book, "Long-term Trends in Ecological Systems" (edited by Deb Peters, in prep.), is nearly complete and will be submitted to the USDA ARS publications office in November 2009. Publication is expected by Fall 2010, with each site receiving several copies free of charge and copies available for free download from the USDA ARS publications website.

For more information about EcoTrends, please visit or contact project leader Debra Peters ( or coordinator Christine Laney (

Christine Laney is the EcoTrends Project Coordinator