A team of INSTAAR, CU-boulder, and other researchers, led by Mark Williams, helped Niwot Ridge be selected as one of 20 core sites for the new National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The team leveraged extensive ongoing research programs on the Ridge that provide a firm foundation for future NEON activities, including the Niwot Ridge LTER project (PI M. Williams), Niwot Ridge Ameriflux project (PI R. Monson), and the Alpine Microbial Observatory (PI S. Schmidt).
NEON is the largest ecological project ever attempted by the National Science Foundation. It will be the first national ecological measurement and observation system designed both to answer regional- to continental-scale scientific questions and to have the interdisciplinary participation necessary to achieve credible ecological forecasting and prediction. As such, NEON will transform the way science is conducted by enabling the integration of research and education, from natural to human systems, and from genomes to the biosphere. Social scientists and educators will join ecologists and physical scientists in NEON planning and design and participate as observatory users, recognizing that we live on landscapes that are, to varying degrees, human-dominated ecosystems.
The NEON Core Sites, including Niwot Ridge, are located in areas of minimal human influence and will form the stable, fixed elements of the NEON design, which also includes relocatable gradient sites and mobile (truck mounted) laboratories. The Core Sites will be in place for 30 or more years, have extensive sampling and instrumentation, and serve as a base for staff operating the site and associated gradient and mobile laboratories.