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KYLER BURTON/WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

MAY 11 · 4-8 PM Forecasting nature by Travis Metcalfe

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MAY 11 · 4-8 PM www.artwalklongmont.org

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MAY 9, 2019

n 1973, science fiction writer Arthur C. NEW DATA FROM Boulder’s NEON project Clarke suggested that any sufficiently will allow researchers to advanced technology is indistinguishable from watch climate change magic. Accurate predictions of the weather play out in real time. several days into the future might seem routine now, but hundreds of years ago it would have appeared miraculous. Imagine if scientists had the capability to forecast other aspects of nature: What regions will be most at risk for wildfires this summer? How bad will the mosquitoes be at your favorite campground? When and where will autumn leaves burst into color? This year, a network of ecological observatories headquartered in Boulder is ramping up to provide exactly the types of data needed to make nature forecasting possible. The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) will soon complete the construction of 81 scientific observing stations, sampling the full range of regional climates and environments across the continent. About half of the sites are at fixed locations, divided equally between land and water, while the other half can be relocated periodically over the expected 30-year time frame of operations. The project was initiated more than 20 years ago by then-Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Rita Colwell, and like many top-down initiatives it has struggled to build a constituency. “In the late 1990s, the ecological community began discussing and considering what a large-scale ecological network might look like,” says Sharon Collinge, former scientific director of NEON and a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado. “Many people who were involved at the time identified Boulder as a central hub of environmental science research.” Collinge grew up in rural Kansas, where her parents both came from I

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