Nov. 10 event will look at new National Ecological Observatory

Fall Colors in Colorado MountainsAn upcoming event at The Ohio State University will feature the ambitious new National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), whose contractor, the Battelle Memorial Institute, is based in Columbus.

Gene Kelly, visiting head scientist at NEON’s Boulder, Colorado, headquarters, will present “The National Ecological Observatory Network: Using Ecological Science to Better Understand Our World” to headline the Nov. 10 breakfast program by the Ohio State-based Environmental Professionals Network (EPN).

The NEON project, when complete, will gather vast amounts of data, or “big data,” on how America’s biodiversity and natural resources are changing because of climate change, land-use change and invasive species. It’s funded by $469 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Officials expect completion by late 2017.

Benefits to green world and human well-being

The data, which will be free and open to access, will “support the study of complex ecological processes at large space and time scales,” according to the network’s website.

Findings from the data “will inform decisions from community to national levels,” said EPN’s coordinator, David Hanselmann, a lecturer in Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR). The decisions, he said, “will impact natural resources management and human well-being for generations to come.”

EPN is a statewide professional group organized by SENR. The school is part of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Big data on environment across U.S.

NEON will have 81 U.S. field sites representing 20 ecological climates in locations from Alaska to Puerto Rico. The sites will gather data on water, land cover, nutrients, biodiversity — plants, fish, wildlife and more — and the processes of which they’re part. Four aquatic sites are already running.

Last spring, NSF selected Battelle to take over completing and managing the network following construction delays and cost overruns by the original contractor.

“The Columbus connection to NEON is especially fitting when one remembers that the Ecological Society of America was founded here 100 years ago,” Hanselmann said. The society today is based in Washington D.C. and is the largest organization of professional ecologists — scientists who study how organisms and their environment interact — in the U.S.

Nov. 10 at Ohio State

The Nov. 10 event is from 7:15 to 9:15 a.m. in Ohio State’s Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, Columbus.

Registration for the event, which includes breakfast, is $10 for EPN members and the public and is free for Ohio State students. Details and a link to register online are at go.osu.edu/Nov2016EPN. The deadline to register is noon Nov. 8.

For more information, contact Hanselmann at hanselmann.3@osu.edu or 614-247-1908.

Sponsoring the event is Ohio State’s Office of Research. SENR and two other Ohio State units — the Office of Energy and Environment and the Office of Student Life’s Energy Management and Sustainability program — are sponsoring the free student registrations and breakfasts.

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