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Discovery
New NEON Resources Available

Videos, brochure and webcast on the NEON available online

Graphic illustration showing the earth with an EKG-like signal

NEON will be a revolutionary, nationwide ecological sensing instrument.
Credit and Larger Version

June 11, 2013

Reports of mounting ecological problems caused by climate change, invasive species and land-use changes invariably beg the question: What is the current and future state of the Earth's ecology?

Answers to this question have traditionally been inadequate because scientists have lacked a mechanism to systematically measure the long-term health of large ecosystems. But that is now changing as a new, precedent-setting, nationwide, multidisciplinary infrastructure--the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)--is starting to go online across the United States.

What NEON will do

NEON will be to ecological health what an electrocardiogram (EKG) is to heart health. Like an EKG generates snapshots of heart health by measuring heart activity from strategic locations on a patient's body, NEON will generate snapshots of ecosystem health by measuring ecological activity from strategic locations throughout the U.S.

At each NEON location, ecological variables--such as pollution levels, land use, diversity of plant and animal species, health of vegetation, soil conditions, and air temperature and humidity--will be captured through 539 unique measurements, which will be recorded through calibrated instruments. Many of these measurements have never before been collected in tandem to help identify long-term ecological trends.

Because of its standardized design, data produced by NEON will enable the scientific community to generate the first apples-to-apples comparisons of ecosystem health throughout the U.S. over multiple decades.

With a coordinated, linked and integrated structure, NEON will be a single national observatory, rather than a collection of regional observatories. It will be the world's first observatory to listen to the pulse of a continental ecosystem over multiple decades.

The timetable for NEON

Some of NEON's data collection and educational operations have already begun, and others will begin incrementally until NEON becomes fully functional in 2017. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NEON will be fully operational for some 30 years.

During NEON's lifetime, tens of thousands of researchers, students of all levels, educators, resource managers, decision-makers, policy experts, government organizations and members of the public will use its resources.

Recent accomplishments

NEON's recent accomplishments include an ongoing, precedent-setting study of the ecological impacts of the huge High Park Wildfire of Colorado in 2012, which is being jointly conducted with Colorado State University. In addition, NEON's Project BudBurst--a nationwide citizen science group--has, since 2010, been collecting information on plants that may help scientists identify some impacts of climate change.

New NEON resources

More information about NEON is provided in the following multimedia resources:

--  Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation (703) 292-8310 lwhitema@nsf.gov

Investigators
Russ Lea
David Schimel
Anthony Beasley
Larrabee Winter

Related Institutions/Organizations
National Ecological Observatory Network, Inc

Related Awards
#1138160 Construction and Operations of the National Ecological Observatory
#1029808 Cooperative Support Agreement for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) of the National Ecological Observatory

Total Grants
$112,629,319

Related Websites
NEON's webite: http://www.neoninc.org
NSF article about NEON's use by Native Americans: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=127232
Webcast on NEON's Project BudBurst and other citizen science groups: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=124991
NEON's Project Budburst: http://budburst.org
NSF press release on NEON: fundinghttp://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=121207

Graphic illustration showing a patient and the earth and how EKG and NEON work in similar ways.
Like an EKG, NEON will gather data from geographically dispersed, strategically located sensors.
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Map showing location of sensors that will report data for NEON
Data will be collected from 106 U.S. locations and additional sites representing extreme events.
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Graphic illustration showing a NEON location's infrastructure on ground, in the air and water.
Instruments and field crews at each NEON location will collect data from the air, ground and water.
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NEON's Sandra Henderson on the cover of "Frontiers," the journal's most popular issue
NEON's Sandra Henderson edited this issue of "Frontiers," the journal's most popular issue
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Wild fire in Colorado's huge High Park fire
A NEON/Colorado State University study of the impacts of Colorado's huge High Park fire is underway.
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