The tallgrass prairie once filled the center of the United States from Texas to Minnesota. With its thick, gently-rolling soil the prairie was soon disciplined by homesteaders into neat rows of corn and soybeans and the 9 ft. tall grasses became a thing of the past. Small pockets of native tallgrass prairie can still be found scattered throughout the central United States, but some of the largest intact parcels occur in the Flint Hills of Kansas, including the 8,616-acre Konza Prairie Biological Station. Here is where the Konza Prairie (KNZ) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program has its home and where research focuses on the effects of climate, grazing and fire on the prairie.
Scientists of the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network are always quick to adopt new technologies that make ecological research fast, efficient, and accurate. Such technology ranges from commercially developed wireless sensor networks that stream remotely sensed data to their desktops or labs, to internally developed cutting edge computer programs such as PASTA. Now, a number of LTER researchers are embracing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)—known to many in the US as “drones” and popular as an effective counter-terrorism technology—to assist with ecological research. The following article describes how two pioneering LTER sites use UAVs for peaceful research purposes.
The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network’s recently concluded All Scientists Meeting (ASM) continues to receive praise from participants as one of the best organized ever (see, for example, http://bit.ly/YjTgex and http://bit.ly/SfovEf). The triennial meeting, which this year was held September 10-13, 2012, at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado, brought together over 750 scientists and students. Attendees, including U.S. and international scientists, were treated to four days of vigorous discussions, including seven plenary talks, more than 80 scheduled and impromptu working groups, and more than 400 scientific posters.
Scott Collins, Regent’s Professor of Biology and Loren Potter Chair of Plant Ecology at the University of New Mexico became President of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) on August 10, 2012. Elected by the members of ESA for a one-year term, Collins will chair the ESA Governing Board, the elected governing body of the Society, which provides vision and guidance on ESA initiatives and future direction.
The 2012 LTER All Scientists Meeting (ASM) is rapidly approaching. On the agenda are four full days of gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, with lots of time for working group meetings - seven sessions in total - plenty of ad-hoc meetings, and fun.
There are many predicted effects of climate change: warmer temperatures, increased frequency and duration of droughts, and increased carbon dioxide, to name a few. In coastal systems, the outlook is grimmer with the addition of sea-level rise and increases in severe storms, all of which have significant impacts on geomorphology and ecological processes. Considering the myriad effects and complexity of interaction of these physical drivers the expansion of woody vegetation at the Virginia Coast Reserve (VCR) may offer some hope of ecological stability at such times of uncertainty and change.