National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
Project Description: NEON will be a continental scale research instrument consisting of geographically distributed observatories, networked via state-of-the-art communications. Scientists and engineers will conduct research spanning all levels of biological organization from molecules to whole systems, across scales ranging from seconds to geological time, and from microns to kilometers. Each NEON observatory will include cutting-edge instrumentation, site-based experimental infrastructure, natural history archive facilities and/or computational, analytical and modeling capabilities. In addition, the NEON observatories will be linked via a cutting-edge computational network. The observatories will focus on: deploying field instrumentation; gathering environmental data from field-based arrays; collecting data simultaneously from geographically distributed arrays; integrating data across diverse types of databases; and establishing an informatics infrastructure. The observatories will also be used to optimize the functionality of a networked, multiscale, integrated infrastructure that will comprise a fully realized NEON.
Principal Scientific Goals: Collectively, the network of observatories will allow comprehensive, continental-scale experiments on ecological systems and will represent a virtual laboratory for research to obtain a predictive understanding of the environment. Important ecological questions confronting the U.S. will be addressed using NEON. Examples of research questions that could be addressed by NEON include: Will northern snakehead fish spread across the U.S. and harm sport fish populations? Can the spread of infectious agents like West Nile or Hanta virus be monitored and predicted? Do western wildfires affect water quality in the central or eastern U.S.?
Principal Education Goals: Undergraduates and graduate students will be trained in the conduct of large-scale and long-term ecological research. K-12 students and teachers will also be involved in NEON projects. The research will develop the knowledge to inform policy and to improve the health of U.S. ecosystems.
Partnerships and Connections to Industry: While there are no explicit partnerships planned at this time, potential federal partners have expressed interest in NEON, such as National Parks, National Forests, Marine Sanctuaries and USDA Agricultural Research Sites. Private foundations, such as the Santa Fe Institute, the Turner Foundation, NatureServe, The Nature Conservancy, and other countries have expressed an interest in NEON but no cost-sharing plans have been initiated. NEON-generated information will be employed by natural resource industries, such as forestry and fisheries, to plan programs and design management strategies.
Management and Oversight: Oversight of NEON is provided through the Biological Infrastructure Subactivity in the Biological Sciences Activity. Each observatory will be selected via a merit-review process resulting in a competitively awarded cooperative agreement. One NSF program director will be dedicated to managing the NEON activity. An Integrated Project Advisory Team, including representatives from the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Budget, Finance and Award Management, will be established to assist with management of the project.
Current Project Status: Initial workshops developed the scientific potential, technological needs, and management structure for NEON. Additional workshops focused on computer networking and information technology. In FY 2003, funds were requested to initiate construction of two observatories. Major first-year milestones included competitions for observatories, and starting development of system architecture for the flow, integration and networking of data, communications and materials across NEON.
Major milestones for NEON are listed below.
Funding Profile: In FY 2003, NSF
requested $12.0 million to establish two NEON observatories. In FY 2004,
NSF is requesting $12.0 million to continue construction of the first
two observatories. FY 2006-08 implementation funding will be contingent
upon the outcome of the feasibility study of the NEON project and the
successful review of the prototype NEON sites.
Information pertaining to the data in the table is provided below.
It is estimated that 1,400 field biologists will use NEON annually. A larger number of scientists, students, resource managers and decision makers will make use of NEON data, both directly and indirectly, through the network capabilities and data distribution and sharing technologies via the network and the internet.