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Energy & Environment

NEON Gathers Data on Changing Ecology

A nationwide project gathering enormous amounts of ecological data has a regional hub right here in the Northwoods. It's called NEON: the National Ecological Observatory Network.

The federally-funded NEON project is wrapping up the first of what could be 30 years collecting data on broad-scale ecological systems. 

The Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan region is one of about 20 nationwide where the research is focused. 

Great Lakes Region Field Operations Manager Peter Weishampel says the project is amassing large quantities of data to answer even larger questions. 

“How do continental scale ecological systems respond to large-scale human drivers of change, like climate change, land use change, invasive species. So we’re looking at lots of different variables of potential responses – biodiversity, biogeochemistry, hydrology.”

The plan is for the datasets to become publicly available…to jumpstart other research and inform policies that respond to a changing world. 

“So perhaps we’ll be developing models of ecological forecasting. And those models can be tested and validated against other models, and we can gradually get better about forecasting large-scale environmental changes and their ecological impacts.”

Scientists are gathering plant and soil samples, and collecting specimens like mosquitoes and ticks in hopes of tracking these ecological patterns. will be publicly available.  

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