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NEON: National Ecological Observatory Network

The Smithsonian is actively engaged in NEON, the National Ecological Observatory Network, supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Major Research Equipment and Facility Construction portfolio. One of NEON’s main goals is to support research and education that helps forecast the impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species on continental-scale ecology.  

This work is accomplished through a network of field sites equipped with standardized instrumentation and field sampling protocols. The Smithsonian currently hosts two sites: one at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland and one at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, also home to the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC).

In late 2015 and early 2016, NSF announced changes to NEON operations and management. This prompted the Smithsonian and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), another important host of NEON sites, to organize a conference call of other site hosts to discuss the changing status. The call highlighted a need to further discuss the working relationships between NEON’s managers and site hosts, and to provide advice to the incoming NEON management team.

In March 2016, the Smithsonian and USDA hosted nearly 50 participants at SMSC for a two-day workshop. They included representatives of site owners, including federal and state agencies, universities and private entities, NSF, and the new management team. The goals of the workshop were to discuss ways to reinvigorate community engagement with NEON and how NEON, site owners and researchers could develop more effective methods of communication. The workshop also aimed to highlight ways the NEON community could be a leader on infrastructure, programmatic activities, data products, scientific collections, and workforce diversity. All of the proceedings were passed back to NSF and NEON management as they plan and prepare for the next phase of the project.

The workshop report provides a complete summary of the workshop goals, findings, recommendations, and action items.

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