Nine LTER Sites Experience Mid-term Reviews

Network News Fall 2003, Vol. 16 No. 2
Network News

Nine LTER Sites had their mid-term reviews this year, including Cedar Creek, Florida, Georgia Coastal, Harvard Forest, Jornada, Santa Barbara, Sevilleta and Virginia Coast.

Getting concentrated and comprehensive presentations from so many sites provides a unique perspective, says Henry Gholz, program officer for LTER, Directorate for Environmental Biology. "The contrast among the LTER sites, in terms of their scientific focus and especially their management paradigms, is very high" says Henry. "Although it is a lot of trouble and time commitment for the sites to prepare for these reviews, the overwhelming (but not unanimous) feedback I receive indicates that these reviews are extremely valuable to the sites."

Kristin Vanderbilt, information manager at the Sevilleta LTER site, found herself on both sides of the review experience this year. "I would say that it was a valuable experience," Kristin says. "It caused us to reassess where we are with respect achieving our information management goals." As a reviewer, Kristin voices the opinion that more time is necessary for the process. "It’s not possible for a thorough review of a site’s information management system to be done based on a general talk given by the IM to the whole review committee."

As lead principal investigator of a relatively new LTER site, Dan Childers (Florida Coastal Everglades ‘FCE’) had a good experience. The experience was an excellent one for the FCE group. It will prove very helpful as we begin our renewal proposal preparations."

From the Virginia Coast LTER site, John Porter has participated many reviews, from both sides. "Apart from the value of getting ‘outside’ opinions, [the review] motivates introspection. With the day-to-day focus on ecological data and analysis, it’s important for us to periodically step back and look at what we are doing in both a past and future context."

The review process also helps investigators put their research in context with the site research, Porter says. "With the wide array of activities at our site, it is not possible for a researcher to be fully in touch with all the LTER activities," Porter says. "The review provided an opportunity for the exchange of information among our group that went well beyond what we are able to accomplish at our annual ‘all-hands meeting.’"

During her time with the LTER Network, Sonia Ortega had the unique opportunity to visit the sites and observe many of the reviews. "I think having some reviewers who are not at LTER sites has a very positive effect on the site reviews because they bring a different perspective," Sonia says.

While it made for a travel-heavy year for Henry and others on the review teams, the visits painted a bright picture of LTER. It is clear that LTER overall is contributing "in major ways" to the progress of ecological science, Henry says, "as well as to the progress of the evolution of information management strategies and protocols that are having impacts way beyond LTER."