A 30-year plan to study America's ecology is about to begin
National Ecological Observatory Network
Introduction to Ecology
Ecoregions of the Continental United States
The Art of Seeing Things
Ambitious projects are the hallmark of a great society, and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is one such undertaking. The focus of NEON is a grand plan to study America's ecology over the next 30 years by establishing field research sites at 60 different locations across the United States. The project is under the direction of Dr. David Schimel, and he and his colleagues are working on setting up 15,000 sensors to collect over 500 types of data, including temperature, air pressure, wind speed and direction, and humidity. Perhaps the most important aspect of this vast project is that these sensors will take the same measurements in the same way in every place. The NEON researchers have divided the United States into 20 different "domains," each of which is dominated by a certain type of ecosystem. The sensors in each of the locations will indicate how efficiently different ecosystems use nutrients and water and so on. One of the first projects began last week when two NEON researchers began to look at the impact of the High Park fire in Colorado. The project certainly falls within the realm of "big data," as when NEON is fully operational it will generate 200 terabytes of data a year.
The first link will take interested parties to an article from last week's Economist about the NEON project. The second link will whisk users away to the NEON homepage. Here visitors can learn about the projects long-term plans, along with more about the research agenda. The third link will take users to course materials from the University of Idaho that provide an introduction to the field of ecology. The fourth link leads to an interactive map of the ecoregions of the United States as articulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The fifth link leads to a collection of resources on ecology for college instructors, including a searchable ecology bibliography. Finally, the last link leads to a beautiful essay titled "The Art of Seeing Things" by the naturalist John Burroughs.