Interdisciplinarity is the Key for ’04 Supplement Funding

Network News Fall 2004, Vol. 17 No. 2
NSF News

LTER supplement proposals in FY04 were characterized by the interdisciplinary nature of funding sources within the NSF. LTER's traditional home in DEB (Division of Environmental Biology, Directorate for Biological Sciences) took the lead with continued support for Schoolyard, REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) and equipment purchases at all the sites, along with support from LTER's other two main core programs, the Bio-Oceanography Program in the Geosciences Directorate and the Office of Polar Programs. But record additional support for new and exciting supplements was obtained through critical co-funding agreements with the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), and the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE). Award abstracts can be looked up in NSF's Award Abstracts database at


This year saw seven new Environmental Education (EdEn) supplement awards, six from EHR with matching funds from DEB and Bio-Oce and one funded solely by DEB. Support will expand Schoolyard LTER and REU activities, teacher/educator training and professional development workshops, the development of new educational products, and some international education collaborations. The sites that received awards this year include KNZ, PIE, CWT, HFR, CAP, SGS and SEV. Total environmental education supplements exceeded $380,000; added to the Schoolyard support, this became a record year for support of education in LTER, with almost $750,000 in supplements awarded. An example of a new EdEn initiative is at KNZ, which will expand its current environmental education and Schoolyard programs to reach teachers and students outside of its local area by targeting teachers and students in district USD 475, the 11th largest out of Kansas' 303 districts. USD 475 includes 13 elementary schools (five of which are associated with the Fort Riley army base), two middle schools and a high school. About half of the students are minorities and over half are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. Therefore, the KNZ EdEn initiative has the potential to significantly impact lower-income and minority students in the state.

New Collaborations with the Social Sciences

Social science in LTER received a strong boost this year with support from the Environmental, Social, and Behavioral Sciences (ESBS) program element in SBE, directed by Tom Baerwald. ESBS explicitly looks to promote interdisciplinary research across a broad range of social and behavioral sciences, especially in conjunction with funding from other programs at NSF.  Seven awards were made totaling $350,000 to support new social-ecological research, other types of interdisciplinary collaborations, and capacity building in the social sciences at LTER sites. An example of a new project is from BNZ, where social scientists will work with two interior Alaska Native communities in the upper Yukon River watershed to study Alaska's boreal forests as a coupled social-ecological system that is responding to directional changes in climatic, social and economic forces. They will focus on identifying ecosystem services of greatest importance to society and then use this information to modify long-term monitoring programs to concentrate on the effects of climate and fire on those services most significant to the local communities. Another new project from HBR will develop a spatially explicit dataset that links land-use history, satellite imagery, socioeconomic data and ecological data for the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest and adjacent towns. These data will then be used to develop spatially explicit models of land-cover change. Major emphasis will be placed on identifying sources of spatial and temporal variability as it relates to peoples' accessibility, location of natural amenities, soil quality, and institutional policies influencing settlement and land-use patterns.


NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) joined with BIO/DEB to provide almost $390,000 in supplements to add new or expand existing international collaborations between 15 US LTER sites and international counterparts, focusing on establishing new ILTER linkages. Activities will include workshops and other meetings, undergraduate and graduate student training, data sharing, and collaborative research in a wide range of areas. Topics include natural tropical reforestation, forest C dynamics, lake variability, soil dynamics, environmental justice, extreme events in deserts, climate-vegetation transects, watershed biogeochemistry, grassland dynamics, historical ecology and synthesis, and inter-lake comparisons. Foreign partners will include Argentina, Asia, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Finland, France, Hungary, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden.

Henry Gholz, LTER Program Directo (NSF)r, BIO/DEB and Michelle Kelleher, Science Assistant, BIO/DEB

Brian Kloeppel Coweeta LTER