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News Release 13-068

NSF Webcast for Earth Day: An EKG for the Earth With NEON

Reporters are invited to a live webcast on April 18 at 3:00 p.m. EDT about the National Ecological Observatory Network, which will help revolutionize environmental research and education

showing the Earth and the signal of an EKG

NEON will be a revolutionary nationwide ecological sensing instrument.

April 16, 2013

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Earth Day invariably begs the question: What is the current and future state of our Earth's ecology?

Answers to this question have traditionally been woefully 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 U.S.

NEON will be to ecological health what an EKG is to heart health. Like an EKG generates snapshots of heart health by measuring heart activity at strategic locations on a patient's body, NEON will generate snapshots of ecosystem health by measuring ecological activity at strategic locations throughout the U.S. Resulting ecological data will enable scientists to generate the first apples-to-apples comparisons of ecosystem health throughout large regions of the U.S. and the entire country over multiple decades.

Some of NEON's data collection and educational operations have already begun, and others will begin incrementally until NEON becomes fully functional in 2017. All of NEON's data, synthesized data products and associated educational materials will be made freely available on the Internet. These materials will thereby provide grist for groundbreaking analyses and educational activities by researchers, students, decision-makers, educators and the public.

NEON's recent accomplishments include an ongoing, precedent-setting study, conducted with Colorado State University, of the ecological impacts of the huge High Park Wildfire of Colorado in 2012. 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.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NEON will be fully operational for some 30 years. More information about NEON is provided in the short video attached to this release.

What: Participate in a webcast on NEON to learn more about what NEON is, how it has already advanced ecological research and educations, and the locations of its geographically dispersed components.

Also learn about:

  • The revolutionary influence that NEON will have on ecological research.
  • The types of data and educational resources that NEON will produce--and when.
  • Unparalleled research opportunities that NEON will create for any interested researchers and students.
  • Educational/outreach materials that NEON will disseminate and activities that NEON will facilitate for educators, students, decision-makers and the public.
  • How NEON will increase participation in the sciences by underrepresented groups, minority-serving institutions, community colleges and other resource-limited sectors.
  • Career opportunities that will be created by NEON for researchers, students and others.
  • Impending milestones in NEON's development.

When: The webcast will be held on April 18, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. EDT, and will be archived on NSF's website.

Who: Questions will be answered during the webcast by:

  • Elizabeth Blood, National Science Foundation program director responsible for overseeing NEON
  • Dave Tazik, NEON's director of biology and project scientist
  • Tom Kampe, NEON's assistant director for remote sensing

How: Reporters may participate via teleconference or Internet. Contact Lily Whiteman at for required passcodes.


Principal Investigators
Lily Whiteman,, (703) 292-8310, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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