International Networks Gaining Momentum

Network News Spring 1998, Vol. 11 No. 1

Christine French -- International Programs  

This has been an exciting year for international expansion of the LTER network model, bringing with it increased opportunities for US LTER scientists and students to engage in rewarding international collaborations. Korea joined the Asian networks, and Poland has been approved for an LTER Network. The Australian LTER effort is back on line, and five national networks in Latin America have appeared and are moving on a fast track toward a regional network. U.S. Network Office staff have begun or continued interactions to assist parties interested in national network development in Portugal, Morocco, South Africa, and the Ukraine, as well as Latin America. The European Science Foundation (ESF) is exploring the possible interest of European research groups in forming a regional network in Western Europe.

One or more of the Network Office staff as well as representatives of several sites participated in workshops and meetings all over the world to discuss and encourage LTER developments.

These included regional meetings in Brazil, and Japan, and national meetings in Canada, Chile, Mexico, Poland, Bolivia, South Africa, and Venezuela. James Brunt and others organized a planning workshop of Latin American data managers held at the Sevilleta field station in December 1997. The U.S. LTER Network was also represented at a number of international meetings held by GCTE and GTOS. Jim Gosz made an invited presentation on LTER at the February 1998 meeting of the Life and Environmental Science Committee of the ESF.

In November 1996, ILTER held a multi-site meeting hosted by both the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and by the Organization for Tropical Studies at its La Selva field station in Costa Rica. The momentum from that meeting carried forward to various national and regional developments within Latin America.

The Taiwanese LTER Network hosted the annual ILTER Network meeting in November 1997. Participants from 18 countries accepted the proposal by Jim Gosz, ILTER Network chair, that the ILTER Network participate in GTOS (see article, facing page). Nancy Grimm, lead PI of the new Central Arizona - Phoenix LTER site made a presentation on urban LTER to the ILTER audience, at the request of some of the Asian representatives from heavily urban regions.

Considering the explosive growth of national and regional ILTER networks since the inaugural discussions at the 1993 All Scientists meeting, ILTER members agreed to produce a new book describing the status of the ILTER community.

Developments in Latin America are particularly noteworthy. In the past year, formal national networks have been designed and established by scientists in Brazil, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela, with the encouragement and funding of national sponsors. Mexican scientists have held planning meetings and nationwide consultations to develop a network structure and process that suits their national interests. Preliminary discussions at the 1996 ILTER meeting in Panama led to a regional meeting in Brazil in 1997 attended by scientists from six countries who produced a number of recommendations for the formation of a Latin American network. Plans and needs for this regional network will be discussed further at the next Latin American meeting, to be hosted by Venezuela in June 1998. A major theme of the meeting will be information management capabilities, infrastructure and standards for the Latin American region, based on planning documents prepared at a working group meeting hosted by the U.S.

Network Office and attended by Eda Melendez of the Luquillo LTER site. Several data managers from the U.S. LTER network will participate in the meeting in Venezuela.

A promising new ILTER activity involving students began in 1997 (see article page 18). With encouragement and funding from NSF's International Programs Division, the Network Office arranged visits to several U.S. LTER sites by a group of Asian graduate students and young researchers. A reciprocal visit by U.S. students to Asian sites has been organized for June 1998. It is hoped that graduate student visits can be arranged to other parts of the world to introduce U.S. students to more sites, people and opportunities for future international research collaborations.

U.S. LTER involvement in most of the above activities was greatly facilitated by NSF's generosity in both funding the associated costs, and augmenting the staff of the Network Office for this purpose. NSF has assigned Christine French to work at the Network Office specifically to develop and implement a variety of international activities (

A highlight of the coming year is the 1998 ILTER meeting to be held in conjunction with INTECOL, for which the U.S. LTER Network has organized a day and a half symposium (see The establishment of LTER networks in so many countries expands opportunities for cross-site studies and other cooperative ecological research, enhancing the outlook for valuable scientific contributions that long term research can make.