NEON Construction on Track for 90% Completion by End of Year

Flux tower construction

Flux tower construction

December 2017

One by one, the NEON field sites are coming to life. As of the end of November, 80% of the sites have been transitioned from Construction Phase to Initial Operations. By the end of 2017, nearly 90% of the sites are scheduled to be up and running.

To bring the remaining six field sites online, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has extended Battelle’s Construction Cooperative Agreement, originally set to end in March of 2018, to November 2018. Battelle’s Initial Operations Cooperative Agreement was extended through October 31, 2020, with an option to extend through October 31, 2021.

The network of field sites, where ecological observations are made and a broad range of sensor data is collected, are the heart of the NEON project. When Battelle took over as lead contractor overseeing construction in June of 2016, only 20% of the planned field sites were operational. Over the last 15 months, Battelle has transitioned the majority of the sites to Initial Operations. At the same time, the number of data products the sites are producing has tripled. The completed sites are now producing valuable data that will be available for the scientific community to leverage for critical ecological research.

The six sites that are not scheduled for completion in 2017 include two field sites in Yellowstone National Park, two field sites in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, one site in Hawaii and one in Washington State. The NSF contract extension (which does not require additional funding) will allow the construction team to work through permitting issues at these sites. All sites are expected to be producing data by summer of 2018.

Rick Farnsworth, the Senior Program Manager for the NEON construction project, addressed members of the House and Senate Appropriation Committees on November 8, 2017. The NEON construction and budget update was well received by the committee members.

When construction is complete, NEON will consist of 81 terrestrial and aquatic field sites across the United States, each producing nearly 200 data products generated by automated sensors, field observations, and airborne remote sensing surveys. The breadth and depth of data across the United States will provide an unprecedented view into how ecosystems are adapting to changes in climate, land use and the introduction of invasive species. Dr. Farnsworth says, “This is transformative science that has never been done before, and the data will be free to anyone who wants to use it. This is the most egalitarian scientific project that has ever been conceived.”

In addition to Dr. Farnsworth, the team is led by Tom Gulbransen, Project Manager for Data Products and Cyber Infrastructure; Larry Davidson, Project Manager for Engineering; Ellie Baptiste-Carpenter, Project Manager for the Initial Operations Phase; Verna Tomanik, Lead Financial Analyst; and Kathy Kirby, Deputy Program Manager in charge of risk management and permitting.

To explore the full NEON Data Product Catalog and browse available data, visit the NEON Data Portal.