NEON Design Process Energized

Network News Fall 2004, Vol. 17 No. 2

NEON Design Process Energized

The scientific community’s work to create a National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) began in mid-September 2004. With a two-year, $6 million cooperative agreement between the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the National Science Foundation now in place, the NEON Design Consortium and Project Office will be set up to develop a blueprint for the network and a plan for its implementation. NEON will be the first national ecological observation system designed to address “grand challenge” scientific questions at regional and continental scales and to enable ecological forecasting.

At NEON facilities distributed across the country, scientists from many disciplines will work in teams to improve scientific understanding of several challenging issues, such as the ecological implications of climate change; the relationships among biodiversity, species composition and ecosystem function; the impacts of land use and habitat alteration; the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases; the causes and consequences of invasive species; the ecological implications of biogeochemical cycles; and the effects of hydrological alterations on ecological patterns and processes (i.e., hydroecology). NEON will transform the way ecological research is conducted by bringing ecologists and engineers together with social, computer and earth scientists to investigate ecological phenomena across large geographical areas and long periods of time (i.e., up to decades), and by creating new collaborative environments across multiple scientific disciplines. The network will also develop and provide unique educational opportunities for students and the general public.

A 10-member Senior Management Team will lead the consortium’s suite of committees comprising more than 150 scientists, educators and engineers in the development of the NEON blueprint and implementation plan. Bruce Hayden, a former director of the Virginia Coast Reserve LTER and Senior Scientist at AIBS, and William Michener, an Associate Director of the LTER Network Office and Senior Scientist at AIBS, will direct the NEON Project Office at AIBS headquarters in Washington, DC.  Jeffrey Goldman, AIBS Science Director, will serve as the project manager and will direct day-to-day staff operations. 

The NEON design process depends on the engagement of the broad stakeholder community via a series of large meetings that will take place in January, March and June of 2005. Many LTER scientists and educators will contribute to the design process and opportunities will abound for scientists and educators to contribute ideas and feedback in various ways and to participate in the peer review of NEON design documents. Please visit the NEON web site ( and get involved.

William K. Michener
LTER Network Office and the American Institute of Biological Sciences