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The Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) began in 1980 with six research projects and fewer than 100 affiliated scientists located across the United States (Hobbie et al., 2003). In 2013, there are 25 LTER sites that encompass a broad range of biomes and land-uses; nearly 2,000 scientists and students now work at LTER sites (Michener & Waide, 2008). Research at LTER sites has always focused on five LTER core areas (primary productivity, population dynamics, movement of organic matter, movement of inorganic matter, and causes and effects of disturbance) hand as contributed to scientific syntheses and development of new conceptual frameworks in ecosystem science (e.g., Hobbie, 2003; Waide & Thomas, 2013). Interactions with LTER sites and LTER science has broadened the undergraduate and graduate educational experiences of many ecologists. As a result, they are less inclined to view other ecosystems only through the lens of their own research site.

LTER locations

Since the establishment of the LTER sites, there has been a consistent vision of knitting the sites together into an intellectual network (Callahan 1984). The LTER Network Office (LNO), which was established in 1983, has continually fostered this network and facilitated scientific advances and development of the community of LTER researchers (Collins, 2012; Waide & Thomas, 2013). LNO supports the triennial All-Scientists Meeting (ASM); annual LTER Science Council meeting; and more frequent meetings of the LTER Executive Board. In addition, the LNO supports a number of focused synthesis activities, including small workshops and training sessions, many of which are initiated by graduate students and post-docs who otherwise may have few opportunities to lead such activities.

Perhaps most importantly, a major emphasis of LNO has been to advance data coordination and establish network-wide database standards. These actions have served to support the synthesis goals of the LTER scientists and have enhanced the availability and utility of LTER datasets for the broader ecological, earth science, and resource management communities. LNO's work in this area also has contributed to the broader landscape of cyberinfrastructure for ecological research.

LTER people


Collins, S. L. (2012)., LongTerm Ecological Research Program
Pages 1-4 in A. H. El-Shaarawi and W. W. Piegorsch (eds.), Encyclopedia of Environmetrics. Wiley.

Hobbie, J. E. (2003). Scientific accomplishments of the Long Term Ecological Research Program: An introduction.
BioScience 53(1), 17-20.

Hobbie, J. E., S. R. Carpenter, N. B. Grimm, J. R. Gosz, & T. R. Seastedt. (2003). The US Long Term Ecological Research Program.
BioScience 53(1), 21-32.

Michener, W. K. & R. B. Waide. (2008). The evolution of collaboration in the ecology: Lessons from the U.S. Long-Term Ecological Research Program.
Pages 297-309 in G. M. Olson, A. Zimmerman, & N. Bos (eds.), Scientific Collaboration on the Internet. MIT Press.

Waide, R. B., & M. O. (2013). Long-Term Ecological Research Network.
pages 233-268 in Orcutt, J. (ed.), Earth System Monitoring Selected Entries from the Encyclopedia of Sustainability Science and Technology. Springer.

Callahan, J. T. 1984. Long-term ecological research. BioScience 34: 363-367.

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