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Keynote Address

"Has anybody seen Jerry Melillo? When you're dealing with the White House, this is one of the things you might expect." [Some misunderstanding lead us to believe that Jerry would be speaking in the morning. He actually spoke in the late afternoon, and an outline of his talk appears at the bottom of this page. Meanwhile, Jim Gosz filled in for Jerry, and encouraged Diane Wi ckland of NASA, and Bruce Hayden of LTER (and now NSF) to offer some contribution to Jerry's theme.]

Jim Gosz: Has anybody seen Jerry Mellilo?

I am now speaking as Jerry Melillo. This national network really came from several different roots, and clearly there is a need for integrating these efforts within the U.S. and certainly within the ecological community many of these problems are ecologic al problems. The "framework document" has been published in a couple of different places. It's a hierarchical approach and the strategy is to have a multi layer approach. At the highest level there is continuous coverage via remote sensing so we can devel op a way of viewing the trends and status of resources, such as timber and water. In the middle we have perhaps several thousand places where variables are monitored for biologicial indices for understanding trends and patterns through time/space. Then th ere is the research component--research intensive sites, like forest service research stations and agricultural research stations, LTER sites, etc. where there is a great deal of intensive research going on, looking at long term patterns which can then be used to develop strategies and identify need for national or even global monitoring. This research is also is the basis for understanding the satellite imagery. You then develop an entire network with information and research moving in all directions wit h a minimum amount. of resources, both human and money. Ultimately to come up with a national evaluation or "Environmental Report Card." A mid-Atlantic pilot project was constructed to test this, and it has been in service for two years now. There have been a couple of workshops as well. The key individuals and organizations have determined that it's a good plan, and everyone is interested in moving forward. Jerry would have talked a bit about how to proceed. Now we will hear from Diane Wickland from NASA, which will be heavily involved in one of the layers, namely the spatial coverage layer.

Diane Wickland: I guess many of us from Washington D.C. who haven't been intimately involved in the planning of this national monitoring idea have different views on it. One of the initial drivers on this project was a committee on environment and natural resources, whic h looked across all the eco-science that was being conducted by the U.S. government, in all different agencies, and tried to asses the research and identify gaps, redundancies, and common issues that could be enhanced by working together. It was decided t hat the U.S. has an enormous effort in monitoring, but often the monitoring was toward a single assessment, toward one variable. The question was formulated--if there was some integration and planning, more of these basic measurements could play together, not only to enhance basic science and understanding of global change, but also to begin to conduct a national assessment of what is the state of our environment. In other words: What is the state of natural resources that we care about? I think of it as a convergence of thinking in the U.S.--and internationally--for the need for more integrated and coordinated activity. Some of you are familiar with the GTOS project, as well as the climate and oceanic observation systems, but that is at the highest level of intergovernmental monitoring work. We have identified the need for better ground truth. We have initiated a plan for a whole series of monitoring satellites and we are at the stage where that new data stream is very near to flowing. T he U.S. contribution will be launched next June. We have been getting ready for dealing with this new character and quality of satellite data, and part of it is validation. You need in-situ data and ways of evaluating this data. We need some dedicated sit es, not only in the U.S. but globally. And so as we begin to plan we are looking for sites. And we know it is very costly to establish new monitoring sites so we are looking for existing sites that we can use to calibrate and evaluate the new satellite da ta sets. We have been talking about LTER, and the Ameriflux Network, the radiation monitoring sites, and others. So this is NASA's connection, not only to this environmental monitoring project, but what is going on internationally and globally. I am looki ng forward to seeing some exciting results. The challenge is perhaps in implementing the standards and objectives for measurements across many different types of borders. The idea of sharing and integrating data and coming up with something the Vice Presi dent calls the "National Report Card" that talks about the state of our environment and resources that's a big challenge! And from my single perspective from Washington, that is where this project is headed.

Jim Gosz: And now here's Bruce Hayden, the new director of the Division of Environmental Biology at NSF. So in case you haven't heard, Bruce is now a Very Important Person.

Bruce Hayden: I participated in the Framework Workshops for the last several years and I was involved in the activity of the Mid-Atlantic project so will start there. Part of that discussion was about the metadata domains, in which leaders of the project were going out to all the institutions that were collecting data in one form or another and saying "tell me what you have," and then putting into a Web-based information delivery system, so that anyone in the region who wants to know anything about the project, chemist ry, population data, etc. can find it. It's a tremendously large project but quite worthwhile. Not only a lot of work for the computer person, but also for the person who is collecting the data. At the VCR LTER for example, much of our data is already on- line but much of it is all over the place, collected by so many different scientists and grad students etc. So building such a system to make the data and metadata available is an enormous project. So for the mid-Atlantic pilot project, one part of it was to build a protocol for the network where people are agreeing to let everyone else to know what they are doing. To do this we everyone at LTER, OBFS all the different organizations -- will play a key role and are going to have to get together, becaus e we are the owners of many, many data sets that will have to be available to anyone who needs it. As you know, the data managers from LTER and other networks have been working together to develop a system for sharing data. It may not be next year or the year after but you can be sure that eventually a system will have to work because you can't have a network--an integrated, national network of people collecting and analyzing and publishing data -- without having an efficient system. So that's step one. E veryone has to get involved or you won't be a player or contributor to this system. Also I would like to talk about the organizations that actually run the field stations and the permanent and semi-permanent facilities that are out there for collecting data. One of the things that will be critical will be going across all levels of organ ization, all biological levels, and that's a real challenge. And exactly how we achieve that melding of all the various disciplines to work together is something that is really important and is integral to this meeting here today. We must find ways to do that at the data level, and at the investigator level. It has to become a routine otherwise we can't build a system like this. We must find a way to institutionalize the work of all ecologists working together otherwise we are not going to have a national system working together. NSF will probably play a role because NSF funds these data collection organizations so we will have to be involved in this.

Questions from the group
Question: Will NGO's be involved?
Answer: Yes, effort with regional workshops is to involve as many organizations as possible.
Question: Where is leadership coming from? The Whitehouse? Jerry Millelo?
Answer: The "Framework" was initiated with Bob Watson, Jerry's predecessor, and Jerry has now inherited the project and so it is coming from the Administration. The top levels of the agencies are very supportive of it. When metal hits the road will be the test, especially when appropriations and reappropriations become necessary, it will be put to the test. They are as far as designing a strategy and now they are thinking of ways to implement the strategy. They are not as far as "what do you measure."

Jerry Melillo: In a workshop last September more than 700 scientists met to considered how to improve environmental monitoring, much of which is already mandated by law. The meeting developed three action items:

  1. To produce a "Report Card" on the health of the Nation's ecosystems
  2. To develop regional pilot studies using environmental monitoring data
  3. To decide how and for what purpose the existing intensive research sites would be used in such a project

The "Report Card" will involve the participation of many stakeholders. The initial focus of the program will be on the status and trends of the goods and services that ecosystems provide. The catalysis is outside the Government at the Heinz Center, wh ere various stakeholders are brought together to resolve environmental issues. Half of the funding will be from Government, while the Heinz Center will provide the other half.
At this time we are mainly working on a draft of the "Report Card," assembl ing an oversight committee and a steering committee. A sample of the Draft Report Card is due to the Administration in the year 2000. Here is a look at what we have in mind:

Example for "National Environmental Report Card"
Forests Croplands Coastal/Marine Habitats ? Other ?
Extent of Coverage - - - -
Productivity - - --
Ecosystem Condition - - --
Recreation and Aesthetics - - - -
Ecosystem Services - - - -

The idea here is not to use "letter grades" but to develop some kind of interpretive narrative. For instance, when evaluating "Recreation and Aesthetics" the British commonly use an idex for "Number of bathing days at Brighton Beach" or something to that effect.

The second action item from that meeting was to develop regional pilot studies. The first was selected in the mid-Atlantic region and was given the task of carefully cataloging all the exisitng environmental information, and of formulating new questions t hat must be asked, to help push forward the project. The overall goal of the project is to better integrate and to improvethe gound-based and space-based monitoring activities and related research in the United States.

The task at hand for our existing intensive research sites is to concentrate on long-term projects, make use of the existing infrastructure, develop more science questions that will improve monitoring efforts and ultimately develop a larger concept for a sustainable future.

How to get involved: Fred Wagner (Andrews Experimental Forest LTER) is organizing a workshop for the Rocky Mountain and Great Basin Region. Also a climate change workshop will be held in Washington, D.C. sometime around Veterans Day. Be on the look-out fo r calls for open meetings.

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