News @NEON – CO floods, Soil, Sensors and more

Jay Owen Earth Systems Science

Fall 2013

 In this issue 

  • Colorado flooding
  • Ecologically sensitive construction
  • Seasonal citizen science data 
  • Australian collaboration
  • Aquatic sensors and soil archive
  • EcoSIS collaboration
  • Recent publications by NEON staff
  • Selected job postings

National Weather Service reports


NEON staff, offices and sites in Colorado were spared the worst impacts of the historic flooding that ravaged much of the state earlier this month. Leaky roofs, soggy basements and mandatory evacuations notwithstanding, we are back to work and back on schedule after closing headquarters for three business days.


Ecologically sensitive construction


NEON has to build dozens of sites across the country that satisfy its scientific and operations requirements, and we have to do it on time and under budget. One key requirement for NEON site construction is that construction activities have zero impact on the surrounding ecosystem. A recent article in the Engineering News-Record describes how NEON scientists and construction staff and NEON and Leo Daly engineers negotiate this challenge:


The restrictions on use of automation and machinery reduce construction productivity and drive up cost. But there is no point to beginning a large-scale experiment in a manner that may cause material impact to the outcomes.


But the biggest factor impacting the zero-impact approach is incredulity. A common reaction from contractors, once they review the construction requirements, is “You want us to do what?”


More on zero-impact construction

Leaf color change is a phenological event that is easy for citizen scientists to observe.


Summer has officially turned to fall, and in much of the U.S., the change is hard to miss. Apples swell and ripen, and hillsides don brilliantly colored capes as the trees and shrubs change their leaves. You can turn your observations of seasonal changes into citizen science data by logging a plant observation with NEON’s Project Budburst.


Australian collaboration


NEON and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network in Australia are tackling many similar and shared challenges in areas such as ecosystem informatics, plant and soil sampling protocols, and data assimilation. A recent TERN newsletter summarized the many ways we’re putting our heads together with our Australian counterparts. Stay tuned for a joint TERN-NEON session at the AGU meeting this December. 



We recently posted a list of our aquatic sensors and interim guidelines to request soil samples from our growing archive.


EcoSIS collaboration


A team of researchers led by Phil Townsend at the University of Wisconsin recently received NASA funding to prototype a new public repository for standardized, high-quality spectral measurements of vegetation. The new Ecological Spectral Information System is designed to enhance the accessibility and utility of new and existing spectral vegetation data.


EcoSIS will archive and curate a collection of existing and new spectral vegetation data including species type and leaf properties of measured plants. NEON will contribute field sampling protocols, spectral data collected on the ground and by airborne instruments, and a suite of complementary ecosystem data products from its richly characterized sites. 


More about NEON-EcoSIS collaboration 

Recent publications by NEON staff


The NEON website now lists relevant professional publications authored by NEON staff. Publications from 2013 include: 

  • Lunch, C. K., LaFountain A. M., Thomas S., Frank H. A., Lewis L. A., & Cardon Z. G. (2013).  The xanthophyll cycle and NPQ in diverse desert and aquatic green algae. Photosynthesis Research. 115(2-3), 139 – 151.
  • Wieder, W. R., Cleveland C. C., Taylor P. G., Nemergut D. R., Hinckley E. – L., Philippot L., et al. (2013).  Experimental removal and addition of leaf litter inputs reduces nitrate production and loss in a lowland tropical forest. Biogeochemistry. 113(1-3), 629 – 642.
  • Delgado-Balbuena, J., Arredondo J. T., Loescher H. W., Huber-Sannwald E., Chavez-Aguilar G., Luna-Luna M., et al. (2013).  Differences in plant cover and species composition of semiarid grassland communities of central Mexico and its effects on net ecosystem exchange.Biogeosciences. 10(7), 4673 – 4690.
  • Wallenstein, M. D., Haddix M. L., Ayres E., Steltzer H., Magrini-Bair K. A., & Paul E. A. (2013).  Litter chemistry changes more rapidly when decomposed at home but converges during decomposition-transformation. Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 57, 311 – 319.
  • Wasser, L., Day R., Chasmer L., & Taylor A. (2013).  Influence of Vegetation Structure on Lidar-derived Canopy Height and Fractional Cover in Forested Riparian Buffers During Leaf-Off and Leaf-On Conditions. PLoS ONE. 8(1), e54776.
  • Oberbauer, S. F., Elmendorf S. C., Troxler T. G., Hollister R. D., Rocha A. V., Bret-Harte M. S., et al. (2013).  Phenological response of tundra plants to background climate variation tested using the International Tundra Experiment. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 368(1624), 
  • Campbell, J. L., Rustad L. E., Porter J. H., Taylor J. R., Dereszynski E. W., Shanley J. B., et al. (2013).  Quantity is Nothing without Quality.BioScience. 63(7), 574 – 585.
  • Boardman, C. P., Gauci V., Fox A., Blake S., & Beerling D. J. (2013).  Reduction of the temperature sensitivity of minerotrophic fen methane emissions by simulated glacial atmospheric carbon dioxide starvation. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 118(2), 462 – 470.
  • Hampton, S. E., Strasser C. A., Tewksbury J. J., Gram W. K., Budden A. E., Batcheller A. L., et al. (2013).  Big data and the future of ecology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 11(3), 156 – 162.
  • Utz, R. M., Fitzgerald M. R., Goodman K. J., Parker S. M., Powell H., & Roehm C. L. (2013).  The National Ecological Observatory Network: An Observatory Poised to Expand Spatiotemporal Scales of Inquiry in Aquatic and Fisheries Science. Fisheries. 38, 26-35.