View from the Chair

Network News Fall 2013, Vol. 26 No. 3

As I write this brief update, three topics are currently on my mind: The government shutdown, site visits, and plans for the future of the LNO.

The government shutdown

Let’s start with the government shutdown and its effects on LTER. At the moment we are cut off from interactions with NSF staff regarding our research programs. Review panels will have to be postponed. Fastlane is now ‘Closedlane’, thus we cannot submit annual reports, requests for supplemental funds, or other proposals. This could delay the processing of annual increments. Given the current irresponsible behavior of Congress, it is unclear how this standoff will affect the NSF budget for the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2013. 

There is a second matter of considerable significance in relation to the shutdown. Ten LTER core sites are located in areas either controlled by the US Government (e.g., Palmer and McMurdo), or on lands managed by federal agencies, such as the US Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. All federal facilities at these sites are closed and most of the federal scientists are furloughed. 

Of further concern, some of these federal agencies have decided to lock the gates and not allow researchers access to their study sites. This decision is directly affecting the Sevilleta and Florida Coastal Everglades LTER sites. 

Speaking personally, Sevilleta LTER scientists are not allowed on the site at a key time when we need to be completing annual measurements in our long-term observational and experimental studies. This closure comes on the heels of an unusually wet summer, which makes this year an important data point in our long-term record, yet we are unable to enter the Sevilleta Wildlife Refuge to do our work. The decision to close all wildlife refuges appears to be a bureaucratic edict from the highest levels of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. 

In addition, one of our long-term experiments received considerable damage during a very bizarre predation event by feral dogs on a Barbary sheep! Yet, we are unable to repair the damage and restore function to our sensor network during the shutdown. So, the dysfunctional behavior of Congress is having many unfortunate and costly impacts on LTER research. 

Site visits

The second topic of interest is site visits, which have been completed at the Kellogg Biological Station, Niwot Ridge, Bonanza Creek, Arctic, California Current Ecosystem, and Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER sites. Based on communication with scientists at these sites, all of the G-Rated site visits have gone well, thus far. So the change in focus away from recommendations for renewal proposals and instead toward waste, fraud and abuse (thank you Matt!), has not had a significant impact on information exchange, presentation formats and interactions between the sober review teams and site scientists. However, the government shutdown may affect the scheduled Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER site visit this October. 

Plans for the future of the LNO

Finally, plans for the LTER Network Office re-competition are moving along rather slowly. An organizing committee (Chair Diane McKnight (McMurdo), Aaron Ellison (Harvard Forest), Christine Goodale (Hubbard Brook), Lindsey Rustad (Hubbard Brook), Margaret Palmer (University of Maryland and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC), and Ann Zimmerman (Consulting) has been established to gather input on potential activities for LNO 2.0. They have established a nice website ( for input and suggestions. Please take a look at the website and offer your ideas. This committee plans to submit their recommendations to NSF sometime in spring 2014. An open session to gather input is planned for the upcoming American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in December.