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C H A P T E R F O U R Elect offleATafionalEcological Observatory ATefwork on fle Scientific Comm?~nifv. Ed?vcafion. and Public Outreach an, This chapter discusses the potential role of NEON in advancing environmental science, in interdisciplinary training of graduate and ?~nder~rad?~ate students, To in education of precollege students, and in informing the public about environmental issues. THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY Ecology has been evolving from a science dominated by obser- vation to one that combines experimentation with observation to generate models, all in the last 30 years. The resulting advances in our understanding of ecological processes now need to be extended to regional and continental scales to allow the accumulated knowledge to be applied to the nation's most pressing environmental problems. As a first step in extending the spatial scope of environmental research, the scientific community has set up such collaborative or integrative pro- grams as Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes in Terrestrial Herbaceous Ecosystems and DIVERSITAS but those pro- grams provide little, if any, financial support and no research infrastructure. Centers and programs such as the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the Global Climate Observing System and Global Terrestrial Observing System have been established to facilitate access to environ- 67
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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES mental data over a large geographic range and thus foster empirical studies on extended spatial scales. However, the data were collected from fragmented research and monitoring programs designed for disci- plinary research and regulatory monitoring of specific environments. The next step in expanding the spatial scope of environmental research requires concerted experimental and observational efforts on large spatial and temporal scales. Such studies would require advanced technologies and standardization of equipment and data analysis. NEON would Provide the necessary infrastructure to facilitate such an endeavor. The committee identified three examples that highlight the value of an integrated, collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to ecological research: . Long-Term Ecological Research (LTERJ. For 20 years, the National Science Foundation has supported a set of research projects dedicated to the execution of long-term observations and experiments that require commitments of resources beyond the timeframe of the project funding cycle of 3-5 years. LTER sites were established through a competitive process, and each site has a program of scientific inquiry that reflects the unique aspects. By establishing a core set of processes that are studied at each site and by developing a network coordinating office, the member sites and the participating scientists can potentially collaborate in cross-site projects. Periodic "all-scientist" meetings provide a forum for presentation of results and development of new collaborative thrusts. Thus, LTER has demonstrated the need for. feasibility of, and potential power of a NEON-like, nationwide network of sites dedicated to research focused on major environmental challenges. . AmeriFlu~c. The development of the eddy covariance technique for measuring net atmosphere-biosphere exchanges of energy, carbon dioxide, and other materials has revolutionized the field of ecosystem studies in the same way as the implementation of watershed-level experimentation in the 1960s. The value of the method for measuring carbon exchange and its key role in estimating terrestrial regional and global carbon budgets have motivated expansion. Although the resulting 68
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Effect of the National Ecological Observatory Network on the Scientific Community, Education, and Public Outreach distribution and location of towers have not yet been optimized for continental-scale research, the investigators associated with the sites have joined in a network caned AmeriFlux to share information on techniques, compare datasets, and advance the understanding of carbon dynamics in ecosystems. An organization of AmeriFlux investigators that hosts annual meetings has evolved. It has a central scientific office for the dissemination of publications and testing of methods and modeling approaches. The existence of the network has hastened the development and application of an important new technology. . Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERTJ. NSF's new IGERT program is relevant to NEON not because of its role in the organization of research efforts, but because of its interdisciplinary team approach designed to foster integrated education across standard disciplines, often at field-station locations. The success of several IGERT projects suggests that advances in graduate training can occur when it is carried out in the framework of large, coordinated research projects. Students in NEON would have similar opportunities. Although none of those programs offers the large-scale infrastructure and unified national focus that the committee believes should be central goals of NEON, they demonstrate that ecology is ready to use fully the opportunities offered by NEON. NEON would build on those successes and provide a comprehensive examination of basic science, environ- mental processes and problems, and their effect on biology on a national scale. NEON would enable intellectual and scientific development that is difficult or impossible with the infrastructures available today. NEON would provide large-scale equipment and infrastructures that are beyond the facilities and budgets of single institutions or even a consortium of universities. Scientists working at NEON observatories could identify areas where the latest technologies are needed. NEON observatories could serve as a platform for testing and implementing new technologies for experimentation and observation. Moreover, NEON scientists could work with researchers of the Center for Embedded Network Sensing (CENS; ) an NSF science and 69
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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES technology center to develop sensing systems for large-scare monitoring and data collection. The use of standardized equipment and data analysis would facilitate data-sharing and comparative studies. With a network of infrastructure and an integrated database, NEON could unite scien- tists across the nation who have common interests and would facilitate interdisciplinary research by linking genome-sequence, functional, ecological, climatic, geographic, and temporal data. NEON would change how environmental and evolutionary biologists conduct their work by . . Promoting interdisciplinary research. Making large-scale hypothesis-testing possible. Allowing comparative ecosystem analysis. Enabling multiscale research on and monitoring of the propaga- tion of variability across local, regional, and continental scales. EDUCATION As stated in Chapter 2, the National Science Board (NSB) has recommended that NSF provide the leadership needed to address the pressing environmental-science education challenges facing the United States. The Belgrade Charter. adopted bv a UN conference in 1976. , 1 ~ provides a widely accepted international goal for such an endeavor. The goal of environmental education is to develop a wo rid population that is aware of and concerned about the environment and its associated problems. Moreover, the population should have the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations, and commitment to work individually and collec- tively toward solutions of current problems and prevention of new ones (UNESCO-UNEP 1976). After the Belgrade Charter in 1976, the Tbilisi Declaration the world's first intergovernment conference on environmental education- established three broad objectives that still provide the foundation for the achievement of the above-stated goal (UNESCO 1978~: 70
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Effect of the National Ecological Observatory Network on the Scientific Community, Education, and Public Outreach . To foster clear awareness of and concern about economic, social, political, and ecological interdependence in urban and rural areas. . To provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment, and skids needed to protect and improve the environment. . To create new patterns of behavior of individuals, groups, and society as a whole toward the environment. The established goal and accepted objectives apply to all citizens to different decrees. The level of knowledge and skill required of a scientist a is different from that required of an accountant, a teacher, an elementary school student, or a parent. Yet each citizen is entitled to access and training that provide the requisite skills, knowledge. and understandings O. O necessary for informed decision-making, whether those decisions be in the laboratory, classroom, home, or university. NEON would provide a vehicle for such an inclusive education to be fostered and developed. We suggest some ways in which NEON could address diverse educa- tional needs. Undergraduate and Graduate Education The in] pittance of NEON observatories for the training of under- graduate and graduate students in interdisciplinary, problem-oriented research was stressed by the participants in the first workshop held to provide advice on NEON's formation and roles (NSF 2000a). They sought programs that would attract graduate students and faculty to courses on research technique and use and on integration of datasets and that would encourage the dissemination of methods, materials, and information into undergraduate and graduate curricula. They could be programs or courses held in the summer, in the academic year, or even over several years (NRC 2001~. Much graduate training is currently centered in relatively narrow, weD-defined disciplines. Yet the ecologists and biologists of tomorrow require intensive training and broad knowledge. NEON sites would 71
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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES have graduate students working together who have different early train- O O ing in climate, hydrology, biogeochemistry, biodiversity, systematics, spatial analysis, and information technology. Such integration of hands- on experiential learning across normaDv disparate fields is now possible ~ 1 1 only on a small scale and only at a few major research universities. NEON would make those opportunities broadly available. For example, the Biological Collections Institutions envision NEON having a substantial effect on the next generation of taxonomists, system- atists, and collection managers. Suggestions include training for the next generation of taxonomists and for parataxonomists, joint teaching opportu- nities in systematics and colony" courses, in situ programs for collecting methods and collection management, and development of needed on-line identification tools to hasten field and laboratory identification (NSF 2002b). The links across the science, technology, and mathematics disciplines are becoming deeper and more extensive. Yet as we point out in Chap- ter 2, a National Research Council report (2003a) noted that under- graduate biology education has "changed relatively little during the past two decades" and that "the ways in which most future biologists are educated are geared to the biology of the past, rather than to the biology of the present or future." Such programs as the nationwide Research Experiences for Undergraduates and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program aimed at minority students begin to address the need, but the latter program exists at few universities, and both touch the lives of few students. NEON has the potential to engage undergraduates in interdisciplinary research on a broad scale. Laboratories provide the ideal opportunity for undergraduate stu- dents to experience interdisciplinary research and confront real-world scientific investigations and problems. In re-examining undergraduate curricula in light of current research needs, NEON observatories would lead the way, presenting examples of current research that exemplify how science consists of unanswered questions and providing extended research- based opportunities for students to ask questions, make observations, analyze data, experience teamwork, work with mentors, and obtain a real-world view of the life of an interdisciplinary researcher (NRC 2003a). 72
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Effect of the National Ecological Observatory Network on the Scientific Community, Education, and Public Outreach Precollege Education The National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teacher's Association, and others recommend inquiry as the technique, method, or process by which the goals of learning can be addressed. Inquiry is a way of learning that involves making observations; asking questions; examining informa- tion to determine what is already known; using tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data; suggesting answers, explanations and predictions; and finally communicating results (NRC 1996~. A NEON site is an ideal environment and location for students to engage in environmental- science inquiry and to gather, interpret, and analyze data alongside scientists who are engaged in the same authentic activities. Starting inquiry-based experiences at the beginning of a student's K-12 education is important for long-term success. In 1997, the National Research Council released Introducing the National Science Education Standards, Booklet which emphasizes inquiry-based processes for K-12 students. The standards define what all students should know and be able to do detail the teaching and professional-develooment strategies necessary to deliver this high-quality science content, and provide guidelines for assessing the degree to which the standards have been achieved (NRC 1997~. The standards provide a roadmap for science literacy, and each state has developed its own set of statewide science standards based on the national goals. Several standards-based, inquiry-driven educational projects now under way provide models for the NEON sites. For example, the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program provides opportunities for students to conduct valuable scientific work, analyze the results and use advanced technologies. Students also have the opportunity to communicate with others nationally and internationally. The work of the students, teachers, and scientists as they study the global environment is coordinated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in partnership with Colorado State University under a cooperative agreement awarded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 73
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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES Another example is the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAPETER) project, which engages students and teachers across the Phoenix metropolitan area in the collection of data on plants, birds, and insects to determine the effects of urbanization on their local ecosystem. Project data are entered into the CAPETER database, thereby vastly expanding its coverage. Since 1999, the program has involved 77 teachers in 59 schools at grades 4-10. Those schools are meeting their inquiry-based standards requirements while CAPETER is receiving data and fulfilling its educational mission. CAPETER also works with the local school district in summer institutes, workshops, and mentoring for teachers (NRC 2003b). NEON could use those programs as examples of K-12 student and teacher education. For students to understand inquiry, teachers need to be weD-versed in inquiry-based methods. However, few teachers have the opportunities to learn science through inquiry or to conduct scientific inquiries them- selves (NRC 2000~. Immersion has emerged as one of the key strategies for the professional learning of teachers. Immersion experiences often occur in laboratories where teachers join scientists to conduct science in a real-world setting. The outcome of such long-term, in-depth learning is a change in teachers' conceptions of the very nature of science and an understanding that science teaching is less a matter of knowledge transfer and more a process by which knowledge is generated. NEON observa- tories could provide a venue for science training of K-12 teachers. The Department of Energy's Teacher Research Associates program is a good example of an 8-week immersion experience for high school teachers (L.oucks-Horsley et al. 1998~. Informal Education Both NSB and the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) panel recommend an increased focus on informal education as an effective tool for increasing environmental literacy (PCAST 1998, NSB 2000~. PCAST states that informal education is very cost-effective and people enjoy learning informally 74
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Effect of the National Ecological Observatory Network on the Scientific Community, Education, and Public Outreach when they have control over the timing and content. Chicago Wilderness is given as an example: over 160 agencies, organizations, institutions, and local governments working together to restore, maintain, and increase the biodiversity of the Chicago region. The consortium is combining and integrating its education and research efforts in the member institu- tions and in coordinated programs for the general public focused on local natural science. Displays, exhibits, weekend programs, volunteer oppor- tunities, training, a magazine, and a Web site are some of the informal coordinated educational efforts targeted to the 8 minion people in the Chicago metropolitan area (PCAST 1998~. Such an informal coordi- nated education program should be central to every NEON observatory. NSB encourages NSF to support many more environmental- education efforts through informal venues museums, aquariums, zoos, a nature centers, television, and other learning modes attractive to the public, such as radio programs and Web sites. Relating such programs to citizens' personal, community, and work lives could be a way to increase the public's ability to deal with complex environmental issues (NSB 2000~. NEON observatories, through their partnerships with other agencies and with their regional and continental focus, could provide an ideal opportunity for the successful implementation of the NSF directive. Informal partners of NEON consortia, especially science and natural- history museums, constitute rich resources for the public's understanding of science and ways to build bridges between scientific research and the public. PUBLIC OUTREACH AND INVOLVEMENT Citizen science has become an important involvement and data- collection strategy in the United States. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has created a vast citizen-science network for collection of bird data; adults and students collect and submit volumes of information on backyard feeders, schoolyard watches, and specific species (such as house finches, pigeons, and birds of prey). The Illinois Department of Natural Resources trains citizen-scientists to collect targeted data on 75
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NEON: ADDRESSING THE NATION'S ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES wetlands, rivers, prairies, forests, and even urban green spaces through its EcoWatch Program. The second NEON workshop suggested that such citizen-science monitoring could be done at NEON observatories. Participants suggested a host of on-site education programs similar to those listed above on informal education to increase citizen involvement and understanding (NSF 2000b). Such a monitoring program would contribute to collection of information and would increase citizens' awareness of research programs. To disseminate and provide access to information synthesized from research observations, NEON could set up a Web site similar to that of Earthscope (http.//www.earthscope.orgi). The Web site would provide not only an overview of NEON programs, but also a summary of key scientific findings written for a lay audience and access to environmental data collected by NEON that could be used in a classroom or for making informed policy decisions. NEON also presents an excellent opportunity to include under- represented communities in its outreach and community-involvement efforts. Members of minority groups, and professionals in journalism, agriculture, forestry, ranching, and business could all be informed by targeted outreach. The American Institute of Biological Sciences white paper on NEON suggests that each NEON observatory have a funded outreach office to promote such public inclusion. The office would interact with broadcast and print media, develop articles for press releases and magazines, promote coverage on radio and television, publish newsletters, and develop a public Web site. Additional public programs have been suggested such as tours, open houses, activity days, and docent and volunteer programs (AlBS 2003~. 76
Representative terms from entire chapter: