Predicting life in the Earth system – linking the geosciences and ecology

April 09, 2019 - April 11, 2019

This NSF-sponsored joint NCAR and NEON workshop, Predicting life in the Earth system – linking the geosciences and ecology, is an opportunity to bring together members of the atmospheric science and ecological communities to advance the capability of Earth system prediction to include terrestrial ecosystems and biological resources. The workshop’s overarching theme will focus on convergent research between the geosciences and ecology for ecological forecasting and prediction at subseasonal to seasonal, seasonal to decadal, and centennial timescales. Specific goals are to:

  • bring together atmospheric scientists and ecologists to leverage the expertise, facilitate further engagement, and promote synergies among those research communities to observe, monitor, and model ecosystems and atmosphere-ecosystem interactions in a changing planet;
  • highlight progress and accomplishments in ecological forecasting and prediction and to identify observational, infrastructure (both data services and community models), and computational challenges that limit current capabilities; and
  • identify new initiatives, collaborations, and science questions.

The deliverables of this workshop will be three manuscripts related to the following subtopics:

  • NEON & NCAR observations—e.g. How might the atmospheric and ecological modelling communities exploit NEON data and NSF Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities? What gaps exist and how might they be mitigated?
  • Data infrastructure—e.g. What are best practices and innovations that can be shared to enhance user community accessibility and usability of data products? What are the tools or higher-level data products that can be derived from NCAR and NEON data that can deliver the most benefit to the atmospheric and ecological communities?
  • Environmental forecasts, predictions, and predictability—e.g. What ecological states and processes can we predict/forecast with our current models and observational networks, and on what timescales? What do we (as a society) want and need to predict/forecast? What are the gaps?


Due to the specific nature of this workshop, we envision approximately 45 participants distributed equally among NCAR, NEON, and university scientists.

In an effort to broaden participation, we are accepting a small number of applicants (3-6) via this open application process. Successful applicants will have familiarity with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) or a demonstrable interest in ecological forecasting. Applicants from historically underrepresented groups in STEM and minority serving institutions are strongly encouraged to apply. For more information on applying, please visit the Application page.  


Initial workshop: April 9-11, 2019, held at NCAR in Boulder, CO. 

Working period: Six months to complete working group tasks

Follow-up workshop: October 2019 (Exact dates TBD), held at NCAR in Boulder, CO.

PIs & Steering Committee 


  • Mike SanClements, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)
  • Gordon Bonan, NCAR Terrestrial Sciences Section Head & Senior Scientist

Steering Committee

  • Mike San Clements, NEON; expertise in forest soil science, biogeochemistry of biological and environmental controls on ecosystem exchanges of mass and energy, using tools such as eddy covariance, remote sensing, and ground-based measures of ecosystem physiology to address these topics.
  • Rebecca Morss, NCAR, Deputy Director Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory; expertise in weather forecast systems and risk communication temperate and polar ecosystems
  • Claire Lunch, NEON; expertise in data science, carbon cycle, biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks, and plant- and ecosystem-scale adaptation to novel environments
  • Michael Dietze, Boston University, expertise in ecological forecasting, with interest in the ways that iterative forecasts can improve and accelerate basic environmental science, while at the same time making that science more directly relevant to society
  • Douglas Schuster, NCAR, head of Data Engineering and Curation Section (Computational and Information Systems Laboratory); expertise in data curation, documentation, and management
  • Britt Stephens, NCAR, Earth Observing Laboratory; expertise in measurement technologies and the carbon cycle
  • Andrew Fox, University of Arizona (visiting NCAR); expertise in data assimilation and ecological predictions
  • Abigail Swann, University of Washington; expertise in atmospheric science and biosphere-atmosphere coupling

Workshop materials will be added nearer to the workshop dates. 

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