A 30-year project to collect environmental data from Yellowstone National Park has been approved.
The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) was conceived as a project to "enable understanding and forecasting of the impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species on continental-scale ecology."
To enable data collection, an ecological research and monitoring site will be built on Blacktail Deer Plateau in the northern section of the park. The project will consist of a 59-foot tower with monitoring equipment and a satellite communications dish, an instrument hut, electrical power, a precipitation collection system, soil study plots and aquatic monitoring equipment installed in Blacktail Deer Creek.
The project also allows an annual plane flyover to collect data. Three flights no longer than four hours each will occur over a span of about three days.
The site in Yellowstone, one of 81 other land and water study sites scattered across the nation, will produce long-term monitoring data about the impacts of climate change, invasive species, and landscape changes. The information will be made available to scientists, researchers and the public to understand how the ecosystem responds to various types of change and stress.
Construction will begin this year, will be suspended during winter, then resume in July 2018 once the annual bear management closures in the area are lifted. Once activities end, all infrastructure will be removed. All areas will be returned to as natural a condition as possible.
The project is funded through the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction Program. Construction on other facilities began in 2012.
Although sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the NEON project is operated by Battelle which, somewhat ironically, was founded by a donation from the heir to an Ohio steel magnate's fortune. The company was founded in 1929 and since then has worked on a number of military projects including armor for U.S. tanks in World War II, developing nuclear fuel for Navy submarines and creating anti-drone weapons, as well as health care, transportation and medical device research.
More information about the NEON project is available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ynpneon