The NEON Observatory collects periphyton, phytoplankton, and macroalgae samples as part of three different data products. Samples are collected by field personnel and shipped to expert taxonomists for identification and enumeration. Algae are an important component to the aquatic ecosystem, often serving as the base of the food web and a key primary producer. The algal community is sensitive to environmental and chemical changes and can be used as an indicator of ecosystem health and bioassessment.
Taxonomic identification of algae is difficult. Organisms are typically microscopic, and nomenclature has been changing in recent years. Taxonomic consistency between individual taxonomists, as well as taxonomy labs, is crucial to data quality over the time span of the NEON program. The Algal Taxonomy Technical Working Group seeks to assemble a group of algal taxonomists with broad spatial representation both for soft algae and diatoms.
The Group will be called upon to plan the best way to 1) develop a method for consistent taxonomic identification for NEON contractors, across labs and over time, 2) develop taxonomic comparison or harmonization across NEON Domains, and 3) facilitate and support data quality. The Group may also be called upon to evaluate how best to allocate limited resources while maintaining the best possible science and data product delivery.