Frequently Asked Questions

If you have questions, please review the FAQs below, which are divided into the following sections: general, data and infrastructure use, and internship program. If you cannot find an answer to your question, please contact us.


  • What is the NEON project?

    National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a large facility project operated by Battelle and funded by the National Science Foundation. NEON is a continental-scale research platform for discovering and understanding the impacts of climate change, land-use change, and invasive species on ecology. NEON will gather long-term data on ecological responses of the biosphere to changes in land use and climate, and on feedbacks with the geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere.

  • Where is NEON? How were sites chosen?

    The National Ecological Observatory Network includes 81 field sites across 20 ecoclimatic domains that cover the contiguous 48 US states, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Each domain represents a distinct region of vegetation, landforms, climate, and ecosystem performance. Domain boundaries and were determined using a statistical clustering algorithm and data developed by William Hargrove and Forrest Hoffman of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Site locations were chosen for a variety of reasons, including scientific criteria and permitting logistics. NEON is a national observatory, not a collection of regional observatories. Data are collected at field sites and sent to a headquarters location in Boulder, Colorado. Data are processed and then made available via the internet. NEON also has 18 field offices staffed field scientists that manage the observational data collection and instrumentation at field sites.

  • Why are certain types of data collected?

    The measurements being taken (and to be taken) at NEON sites were determined through a lengthy planning process involving extensive input from the scientific community in the early stages of NEON's conception, as well as input from committees of subject matter experts. In 2009, a list of measurements was presented as part of reviews by the NEON Science, Technology, and Education, Advisory Committee (STEAC), a blue-ribbon panel coordinated by the NSF, as well as in the preliminary and final design reviews for NEON. The final selection of measurements was determined by analyzing whether the measurement was essential to provide a NEON data product to address specific science questions. Browse the NEON Data Product Catalog for more information

  • How do I access NEON data?

    NEON data may be downloaded from the NEON Data Portal. Please note that during construction, data availability may be limited and are often of provisional quality.

  • Why should NEON build from the ground up when there is already a huge network of ecological monitoring activities available across the United States?

    The National Science Foundation's goal with building the NEON facility is to enable analyses of ecological processes and patterns at regional to continental scales. This requires that measurements and samples be collected using highly standardized methods and instrumentation so that data can be easily compared among sites and scaled up over larger areas.

  • What happens to research and projects already underway in areas where NEON sites are being constructed?

    Projects currently underway at sites will continue and we do not expect any disruption to occur. 

  • What is the schedule of construction of the NEON Infrastructure?

    NEON began construction in Summer 2012, and constructing the observatory in entirety is expected to take approximately five years. Current construction progress updates can be found HERE.

  • What formal reviews did NEON participate prior to construction?

    The National Ecological Observatory Network passed a successful Preliminary Design Review (PDR) in June 2009 and Final Design Review (FDR) in November 2009 by panels convened by the NSF. 

  • Will there be NEON staff at each domain? Will NEON construct facilities to support them?

    There are 19 field offices that consist of a Field Operations Manager, administrative support, and approximately five technicians whose primary responsibilities are to operate and maintain field site infrastructure. In addition, seasonal staff are contracted to do biological field sampling. NEON does not construct new facilities for field staff; NEON leases existing office and laboratory space.

  • Will NEON be developing new sensors and technologies for ecological observation?

    No - NEON is not created to develop new technologies. At this point, NEON's design incorporates existing technologies (some at the cutting edge) to achieve its science mission.

  • NEON is expected to endure for decades. Will the same technology be applied over the full deployment period?

    We expect all sensors and instrumentation to have finite lifetimes, so as part of NEON planning, routine maintenance and instrument replacements will be scheduled. Replacements offer an opportunity for upgrades to new technology within the constraints of budget and measurement requirements for precision and accuracy. Quality control procedures will be implemented when instruments are replaced to assure data continuity and comparability.

  • Will material from the NEON collections be available to users from the community? Can we do additional analyses on NEON material? How will I gain access?

    Yes, material will be available on an as-available basis, subject to sample preservation requirements. A curated collection of organisms, key body parts of organisms, and substrates, termed the NEON Collection Facility, will be open to researchers for analysis, both now and in the future as new technologies emerge. Some portion of the collection will also allow for future destructive analysis of samples, while preserving some material permanently.

  • What are NEON's Mobile Deployment Platforms?

    Our mobile sensor arrays, called Mobile Deployment Platforms (MDPs), are available on a request basis. Much like requesting an airborne remote sensing survey, this resource is based on availability and the requester is responsible for covering the costs of the deployment. MDPs collect can be configured to collect a variety of meteorological, soil and surface water data for short- to medium-term monitoring projects. Learn more.

  • If I initiate a research project at a NEON site, who owns the data?

    Data generated by NEON will be freely available to all. In the future, we would like to archive and distribute data generated by individual investigators at NEON sites, provided that data and meta-data are produced in accordance with NEON formats. Data collected based on funding from public agencies (including data using NEON facilities) will follow agency/NEON policies for public release. We anticipate priority periods for investigators, depending upon agency policies.

  • What is the difference between NEON and the Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER)? Is NEON just an expansion of the LTER program?

    NEON is a centrally operated user facility that enables responses to grand challenge questions in the environmental sciences and enables ecological forecasting. In contrast, the LTER program is a collection of individual investigator projects aligned with common themes. Each individual LTER site has its own realization of those themes. NEON and LTER are separate programs that operate separately, although NEON will certainly use the experience and knowledge gained through LTER research.

  • How will my institution benefit from NEON?

    The NEON facility was designed to be a resource for any wishing to use it; regardless of institutional affiliation, scientists, students, educators, and the public will have open and equal access to NEON. Over time, we look forward to providing many different types of data, infrastructure, models, and education programs to engage anyone who wants to learn about and use ecological data.

  • How do I get my students involved in NEON-related research?

    NEON facilities are open to students and researchers at all levels, and they are welcome to access our data for any projects they would like to conduct.  In addition, we offer online data skills tutorialsteaching modules designed for undergraduate classrooms, science videos, links to K-12 educational materials and citizen science projects related to data similar to that collected by NEON, Faculty Mentoring Networks to support faculty using NEON data in their classrooms, and a summer undergraduate research internship program providing hands on experience.

  • How do I find out about job opportunities at NEON?

    Information about job opportunities is posted on our careers page. NEON has opportunities for permanent and term employment as well as visiting scientist opportunities for short term, focused tasks. We also offer summer internships for undergraduate students. 

Data and Infrastructure Use

  • What are the options for funding from NEON for NEON-related research?

    NEON provides data, infrastructure and educational programs, but not funding. Research related to the Observatory may be supported through existing and future funding mechanism at Federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, and through other funding soures.

  • What is the process for obtaining permission to use NEON data and/or physical infrastructure in my research?

    Please see our Information for Researchers page for complete guidance on conducting research involving NEON data and/or infrastructure.

Internship Program

  • What does "real-world work experience" mean?

    Interns at NEON spend the summer working on projects that contribute to the NEON mission. In other words, their projects matter. Interns apply what they've learned in their academic courses to real problems and/or research questions, just as full-time employees do. They use critical thinking skills to answer their own questions and learn to work as part of a team to complete projects. Interns gain experience in time management and efficient communications, crucial skills in today's work place.   

  • What is mentoring and what can it do for me?

    A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. NEON mentors help interns work through the challenges of their projects, provide advice and guidance on careers, and in general help the intern transition from the role of student to professional work colleague. A good mentor helps the intern find his or her own voice. Mentoring relationships often last beyond the short period of the internship. At NEON, we provide multiple mentors to work with interns. Project mentors are focused primarily on guiding the interns with their project, and providing opportunities for them to hone the skills necessary for the tasks. They also help interns understand various career options and recommend paths to take in their career development. Communications mentors help interns with writing assignments, providing feedback and guidance on effective scientific communications. Community mentors help interns navigate life and work in Boulder. When you come to NEON, you'll meet a team of friendly, experienced folks willing to work with you, guide you, and help you grow. 

  • What opportunities will I have to explore various career options?

    One of the goals of the NEON Internship program is to help prepare students for future STEM careers. We offer interns a weekly seminar series focused on career-related issues (e.g., Career Panels, Tips on Resume Writing and Interviewing, The Power of Networking), opportunities to conduct informational interviews with NEON employees, and one-on-one time with mentors discussing career paths. 

  • What is the scientific communication seminar and why is it useful?

    Learning to effectively communicate scientific information, to a variety of audiences, is an important skill and one that can differentiate you from other applicants in today's job market. The scientific communication seminar provides practical training on preparing a scientific or technical paper, as well as guidance on crafting an "elevator speech" aimed at capturing the interest of an uniformed audience in a short time period. The seminar meets weekly, guiding students step-by-step through the process of writing a paper on their summer project and other communication products.

  • Why do NEON Interns participate in activities with other internship and REU programs in the area?

    Boulder is home to several world-class scientific research institutions, each with established REU and Internship programs. As such, students from around the country come here every summer, from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of interests. Many of these students return for a second or third summer, and in the process serve as peer mentors to new interns. To enrich the NEON internship experience, encourage our interns to  engage in shared activities with other summer programs including leadership training, a scientific communications seminar, formal presentation sessions, and social events. Supportive friendships often form, lasting well beyond the summer program and strengthening each intern's experience.  

  • What are tips for preparing a successful application?

    Two of the most important parts of your application are your essays and your letters of recommendations which are the primary way we get ta sense of who you are. Be sure to give sufficient time and attention to both, as these will be important in the selection process. Make sure your essays are well written, and reflect you. Successful applicants from the past recommend writing multiple drafts and getting feedback from trusted readers, including your professors. Be sure you understand and address the requirements for the position you choose, and if you have questions, feel free to contact NEON's internship office. You don't have to have every qualification listed in the position description, but you should be able to address many of them.

  • How to get a great recommendation?

    Your letters of recommendation should come from a supervisor or professor who is familiar with your work. If you feel you do not know a professor well enough, take this opportunity to get to know one or two before asking for a recommendation. This is how professional networking works! Make an appointment to talk with this person about the internship opportunity. Share your essays with her/him, as well as your understanding of NEON and the internship, so that they can write a meaningful letter for you. Most importantly, be sure to give your recommenders plenty of time to complete their letter by the application due date. Follow-up with your recommenders as the deadline approaches, and don't forget to thank them!

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