- 4.1.1 Computer technology
Discover Life has the databasing tools, storage space,
and processing capacity to run the proposed network.
Its users can (1) upload images and manage associated data, (2) build and use
identification guides customized by location and time of year,
and (3) map, analyze, search and disseminate specimen records and information about taxa.
Discover Life will provide this capacity and associated technical support to the network
at no cost to the NSF. Two consecutive 5-year cooperative agreements with NBII
make this possible (see Annie Simpson's letter of cooperation).
Over 100 museums, herbaria, universities and other organizations have contributed to Discover Life.
Together their databases provide information on over 1.2 million species.
Through its relationships with GBIF, the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), and other
contributors, the site integrates data from nearly 10,000 original sources. These include over 150
large specimen-level datasets, including several NSF Planetary Biodiversity Inventory (PBI)
and Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET) projects, 500 identification guides and checklists,
and 300 photographic albums, which together contain 225,000 images.
In August, 2010, it served 24.7 million pages and images to 316,000 IP addresses.
Since 1998, it has served a total of 720 million pages and images.
- 4.1.2 Workflow
This is geared to large-scale data collection and management,
while maintaining rigid quality control in all the following steps:
- 184.108.40.206 Data Collection
We will provide research projects with new means to collect verifiable
observations on specimens, accurately documenting time, location,
and species information with digital photography, GPS units,
and cell phones. In addition to recording specimen-level events rapidly,
this technology greatly enhances our ability to record and track
plant-pollinator, predator-prey, and other species interactions.
We will use on-line videos to explain all aspects of data collection,
uploading, and management.
- 220.127.116.11 Species Identification
By integrating technology and human expertise, the network will determine
large numbers of specimens rapidly and accurately without overwhelming taxonomists.
Our hierarchical identification procedures include customized local online guides,
automated flagging of unusual events, and oversight by taxonomists.
Certain species cannot be identified from photographs and require physical specimens.
We will generally not identify such species but instead, for efficiency,
focus on ones for which we can ensure high-quality, standardized determinations from photographs.
We will continue to accept specimen data on all species.
Pickering is building guides to moths as part of the cooperative agreement with NBII.
We request funds to build identification guides to target species of lichens (Beeching),
slime molds and mushrooms (Stephenson), plants (Zerega), and other taxa (see letters of collaboration).
- 18.104.22.168 Data Integration
Discover Life assigns unique, permanent record identifiers to each observation.
It will use these identifiers to integrate our specimen-level and species-interaction data with
historical information from the literature, collections, and other reliable sources.
It use automated programs, taxonomic authority lists, geographic gazetteers, human feedback and other means to
to detect and correct errors. It will integrate the biological data with information
from satellite, aerial photographs, weather stations, and NEON's air quality and other physical monitoring.
- 22.214.171.124 Data Analysis
We will make the data that we collect readily available to researchers
using Discover Life's automated programs that index and tabulate records
and build summary files of them each night. We will put data into
standard formats that can be easily imported into spreadsheets, databases
and analysis software. Thus, we will provide the data to the research community
in a timely fashion so they can be modeled and used to answer questions at
different scales of analyses.
- 126.96.36.199 Dissemination
Our goal in building capacity is not to write traditional publications per se,
but to provide researchers, land managers, policy makers and the general public
with up-to-date, high-quality biological data. We assert that these data should
be made readily and rapidly available in a manner similar to the way in which
weather data are currently collected and distributed, as a public service.
Using search tools and other web programs, we will freely disseminate
the data as HTML pages, text files and in other formats, as we collect and
analyze them in real time. Participants will take photographs, identify specimens,
integrate, analyze and disseminate data to the world, as a cooperative endeavor
and public service. Photographers will retain ownership and copyright to their
images but will allow Discover Life to make them available to the world for
- 4.1.3 Data collection teams
We propose to employ undergraduate teams, who will work at field stations, and
high school teams, who will collect data in their county throughout the year.
Our outreach programs will collect supplemental data through the web by working with schools and the general public.
In summer 2010, we evaluated our methods with eight students.
Their experience level ranged from a high school sophomore with no prior natural history experience
to an individual with a masters degree in plant taxonomy.
In total, they took over 10,000 photographs, databased where and when they took them,
and identified nearly 700 plant, insect, and lichen species.
We have designed our teams based on the relative productivity of these individuals.
- 188.8.131.52 Undergraduate teams
As we phase in study sites, we will employ from 42 to over 100 undergraduates annually.
At each participating field station, we propose a team of two students with
support equivalent to REU awards, working with a faculty mentor and local expert naturalists.
We will make every effort to recruit from underserved communities, including from the individuals in
our high school teams who go to college. We will encourage students to return year-after-year
and gain experience comparing multiple field sites. If some become graduate students, we will
support their continued participation. We hope this mentoring and jobs
over five years will convince more students to choose STEM careers.
Students will be trained by their mentors and, after the first year's cohort,
by experienced peers who have worked with the network for a summer or longer.
We will supplement training with online videos and remote technical and taxonomic support.
At temperate sites the undergraduates will work for 9 weeks between May and September.
We will staff our tropical sites (Hawaii, Puerto Rico, South Florida, Costa Rica, Panama)
year-round with our more experienced undergraduates, in assignments of 4-6 months.
We will employ local expert naturalists to work with the team periodically
to acquaint them with their site's natural history.
The students will spend half their time on an independent project and the other half
inventorying and monitoring the site as a team.
They will photograph insects, plants, and mushrooms; mark and measure lichens,
collect and rear slime molds, and manage data and identify specimens online.
They will study additional taxa as researchers join the network and expand its taxonomic breadth.
The undergraduates will learn general identification skills and,
under the remote supervision of our taxonomists,
each will become an expert at identifying a genus or family.
Thus, they will collect data for a number of projects, including their own,
and provide identification support for other people across the network.
- 184.108.40.206 High school teams
To monitor biodiversity for entire field seasons, we will employ high school
teams of a teacher and three students.
In year-1 we propose 9 teams in Georgia. By year-3 we propose
to add one high school team in each of the other 36 eastern states, for a total of 45 teams.
We will write a supplemental proposal in year-3 to fund high school teams
in western states and increase their density across all regions starting in year-4.
We are partnered with the Young Scholars Program at the University of Georgia.
This program's mission is to recruit minorities to STEM.
They will recruit minority and other under-served students into our high-school teams.
In year-1 Young Scholars will recruit in Georgia and surrounding states.
By year-3 they will recruit throughout the eastern United States.
See letter of collabortion from their Associate Dean and Director, Dr. Ronald Walcott.
We will also recruit high school teachers at Annual AP Biology exam reading sessions,
where over 400 of the most qualified biology teachers in the country assemble to grade AP exams.
The teachers who join our project will help us recruit students from their county and then oversee a team.
Ideally, once recruited, teachers will work with us for multiple years.
See letter of collaboration from AP Biology teacher Stella Guerrero.
We will recruit young science teachers through the PI's work with the College of Education at the
University of Georgia (see letter of collaboration from Dr. Mike Mueller).
High school teachers will attend a one-week course in their region.
Our staff will cover the objectives of the project, teach skills
in photography, our web tools, research protocols, identification, and natural history.
Teachers will then train their students, oversee their work using our web tools, and
supervise their science fair projects.
Students in the high school teams will collect data at sites in their county.
In the fall, they will be focused on collecting data on arthropods
associated with goldenrod and lichens. In the spring, they will collect data
on plant and mushroom phenology.
In addition, the teams will monitor moths at lights nightly at their homes for an hour just before
dawn for 6 to 10 months, depending on their latitude and elevation.
In year-1 they will bracket sampling to assure
getting the earliest and latest flying species. After year-1
we will determine each site's moth sampling dates based on their past results,
that year's local temperatures, and our phenology models.
- 220.127.116.11 Outreach programs
We will augment the data collected by these teams with data submitted by the general public and assembled
through a growing consortium of websites and outreach programs associated with our network.
These include Discover Life, Great Sunflower Project, Mushroom Observer, Encyclopedia of Life,
Floral Report Card / Project Bud Burst, Pollinator Live, and Lost Ladybug Project
(see letters of collaboration).
- 4.1.4 Field sites
Ultimately, we envision building a dense network of study sites across the continent.
We propose to start with 95 sites that are both stratified and clustered regionally.
Together they will enable us to make statistically meaningful comparisons across time and
space to address large-scale ecological questions. They will provide the data that we need
to design a network with enough replication across sites to yield strong conclusive results.
We propose to staff teams at 41 temperate field stations and other institutional sites,
such at the Los Angeles County Museum. These sites are likely to sustain for decades, and hence,
could support long-term ecological research beyond the scope of our 5-year proposal.
They include two stations in each of the 18 temperate NEON domains,
a cluster of 6 field stations in the Northeastern domain, and 3 in the Appalachians,
for a total of 41 temperate sites.
We will also staff 9 tropical field stations: Hawaii (2), southern Florida, Puerto Rico,
Costa Rica (4), and Panama. In addition, we propose to have 45 high school teams in the
37 states east of the Rocky Mountains, one per state, with the exception of Georgia,
where we will have a cluster of 9 counties (3 Appalachian, 3 Piedmont, and 3 Coastal Plain).
At temperate field stations, undergraduate teams will collect data
and build customized local identification guides during the summer.
At the tropical ones, they will do the same year-round.
At the county sites in the eastern United States, the high school
teams will collect data throughout the growing season.
We have recruited 23 biological field stations and other sites that wish to join the network,
representing 11 NEON domains. In year-1 we will staff these and the 9 Georgian counties.
By year-3 we propose to have all 95 sites staffed. Thus, by the end of the project we will have 3-5
years data per site, allowing us to analyze across year differences.
Participating field stations -- Contacts
(* indicates letter of collaboration included)
- Arizona -- Merriam-Powell Research Station -- Amy Whipple*, Amy.Whipple@nau.edu
- Arizona -- Southwest Research Station -- Dawn Wilson*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- California -- Los Angeles County Museum -- Brian Brown*, BBrown@nhm.org
- Colorado -- Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory --Ian Billick*, email@example.com
- Florida -- Archbold Biological Station -- Hilary Swain*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Indiana -- IU Research and Teaching Preserve -- Keith Clay*, email@example.com
- Iowa -- Iowa Lakeside Laboratory -- Peter van der Linden*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Maine -- Shoals Marine Lab -- Willy Bemis*, email@example.com
- Massachusetts -- Worcester, Harvard Forest --David Foster, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Massachusetts -- Nantucket Field Station --Sarah Oktay*, email@example.com
- Michigan -- W.K. Kellogg Biological Station -- Tom Getty*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Michigan -- University of Michigan Biological Station -- Knute Nadelhaffer*, email@example.com
- Montana -- Yellowstone Ecological Research Center -- Bob Crabtree*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- New York -- Adirondack Ecological Center -- Stacy McNulty*, email@example.com
- New York -- The Huyck Preserve -- Chad Jemison*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- New York -- Black Rock Forest -- Bill Schuster*, email@example.com
- North Carolina -- Highlands Biological Biological Station -- Jim Costa*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- North Carolina -- Turnipseed Tract, Wake County -- Chris Snow*, email@example.com
- North Carolina -- Balsam Mountain Preserve -- Michael Skinner*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Oregon -- H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest -- Mark Schulze*, email@example.com
- Virginia -- Mountain Lake Biological Station -- Edmund Brodie*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Puerto Rico -- El Verde Field Station -- Nick Brokaw*, email@example.com
- Costa Rica -- La Selva Biological Station -- Deedra McClearn*, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Costa Rica -- UGA Costa Rica at San Luis de Monteverde -- Quint Newcomer*, email@example.com
- 4.1.5 Organizational structure and governance
- 18.104.22.168 Polistes Foundation
The Polistes Foundation (www.discoverlife.org/polistes) is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization based in Massachussetts.
It is the legal and fiduciary umbrella of Discover Life, works virtually, and has very low overhead costs.
Weick and Talmadge will administer this proposal through Polistes.
As a new, efficient way of managing research, Polistes will charge no indirect costs to the NSF on this proposal.
All our costs are specified as direct ones.
- 22.214.171.124 Executive Committee126.96.36.199 Organization of Biological Field Stations, OBFS
Within the legal framework of the 501-c-3, the five PI's will serve as the network's Executive Committee.
To minimize travel, they will coordinate our activities via regular Skype conference calls and other electronic means.
They will attend professional meetings to seek advice from the larger scientific community
and coordinate our activities with their members. These meetings will include
Botany (Nyree), Ecology (LeBuhn), Entomology (Pickering), Mycology (Stephenson), OBFS (Nagy), and NSTA (Lowe).
Through our co-PI Eric Nagy, a past President and board member of OBFS, we are working closely
with OBFS to recruit field stations and mentors.
We have received enthusiastic support from OBFS members and will use their annual meetings as a central
element in coordinating our activities across sites. At the OBFS meeting in
September, 2010, we plan to recruit a second cohort of stations.
- 188.8.131.52 International Center for Public Health and Environmental Research, PHER
Polistes founded PHER in 2007 (www.discoverlife.org/research).
PHER now has 75 researchers who work together virtually on their mutual goals.
Its members will provide the backbone of scientific expertise in ecology and taxonomy that the network will use.
They will help advise the Executive Committee and mentor students.
As researchers join the network, PHER will invite them to join, thus formally expanding their participation.
- 184.108.40.206 Workshop
To launch the network, brainstorm, seek early feedback and train the first cohort of mentors,
we will host a workshop at Elmira College, New York, in June, 2011. To get broad input, participants will
include an eclectic crowd of theoretical ecologists, field biologists, taxonomists,
statistians, modelers, web developers, government agencies, NGOs, educators, and land managers.
- 4.2.1 How temperature drives the phenology of plants, insects and other taxa
To limit costs, we will confine this study to the eastern United States,
where we already have built partnerships with study sites and have begun building customized guides.
For monitoring, we will select 100 species of plants from at least 10 different families,
including both woody and herbaceous plants.
Similarly, we will select 100 species of moths from at least 10 families.
The high school teams will collect daily data on moths and weekly data on plants.
We will analyze these data with satellite and weather data to understand the effects of temperature
on phenology of individual species, as well as on possible cascading effects within communities.
- 4.2.2 Alpha and beta diversity of NEON domains
Plants will be a primary group because they are important in defining ecosystem types
and are designated as a Fundamental Sentinel Unit (FSU) for NEON.
We will also inventory moths, syrphid flies, mushrooms, lichens, slime molds, and other taxa.
- 4.2.3 Between-year variation in pollinator abundance across sites and disruption of pollination seasonal synchrony
All our teams will photograph pollinators as they inventory and monitor flowering plants.
High school teams will monitor pollinators and other insects on goldenrods in the east.
Outreach and citizen science projects such as Great Sunflower Project
may augment these data by contributing data between sites.
We will then identify syrphid flies, butterflies and some other groups.
We will analyze these specimen-level data with weather data from NEON sites and NCDC stations
to determine how temperature and wetness influence pollinator abundance, diversity and seasonal synchrony.
To determine whether seasonal asynchrony is reducing pollinator services,
we will select species of early-flowering plants
that occur at a minimum of 15 sites and are readily identifiable from photographs.
For these species, we will not only capture image data on flower phenology and regular sampling of their pollinators,
but will also supplement our image data by measuring seed set during the fruiting months.
- 4.2.4 How rainfall affects local and regional fruiting of selected mushroom species
We will monitor transects at all sites for macrofungi.
We will select approximately 100 species that are common across many sites
and readily identifiable from photographs.
We will augment these data with data collected between sites
through outreach with the Mushroom Observer and regional clubs of expert
amateur mycologists in Connecticut, Maine, New York, North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan and other states.
The Mushroom Observer will help identify images of non-target species.
Because mushroom fruiting times are usually brief, herbarium collections can yield fairly accurate
phenology records (Primack et al. 2004; Lavole and Lachance 2006; Kauserud 2008).
Therefore, we will compare our contemporary data with historical collections.
By comparing these phenological data to weather data,
we will be able to better predict the effects of climate change on individual species of fungi.
- 4.2.5 Large-scale factors affecting slime mold biogeography, local diversity, and ecology
Using standard sampling protocols (described in Stephenson and Stempen 1994)
which have been well tested with high schools and other outreach partners,
we will use macro digital photography to collect specimen-level data and will customize
local guides to identify species of myxomycetes.
By analyzing these data with weather data, we will determine whether changing
climate will have an impact on myxomycete phenology.
To understand myxomycete relationships to the flora, we will compare plant checklists at sites with
myxomycete checklists to discern patterns of association with particular vegetation types.
This has never been done except on a very local scale (e.g., Stephenson 1989).
- 4.2.6 Lichen diversity and growth rates as bio-indicators of pollution and drought
We will inventory lichen species at all sites,
identify them, select both sensitive and tolerant species for monitoring, mark selected species, and measure once a year.
These will provide baseline data for a longitudinal study. Eventually, researchers will be able to use these data to
analyze lichen growth rates with weather and pollution data from weather stations and NEON monitoring.