Data Collection

At each field site, NEON collects data to characterize soil, water, organisms and atmosphere based on the site’s terrestrial or aquatic focus. Data are collected at varying space and time scales using three systems (1) Airborne remote sensing surveys (2) Automated instruments and (3) Observational sampling conducted by field scientists. Data collection methods are standardized and well documented to ensure comparability of patterns and processes across NEON sites and through time. Explore NEON's 81 field sites.

Data Collection at Freshwater Aquatic and Terrestrial Sites

Sensors and sampling methods differ between terrestrial and aquatic sites but share an overarching goal of detecting ecological change through time. Where logistically possible, NEON colocates terrestrial and aquatic sites to capture connections across atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. NEON processes these data to derive data products that quantify ecosystem change; these data may be combined with other NEON data or external datasets. All NEON data are open access and free to download from the NEON data portal.

NEON's Data Collection Systems

At terrestrial and some aquatic sites, NEON collects data that characterize plants, land cover and ecosystem structure using the following methods:

  • Airborne Remote Sensing

    A NEON AOP is an array of instruments installed into a light aircraft to collect high resolution remote sensing data at low altitude. Airborne remote sensing surveys are conducted over NEON field sites during peak greenness to collect quantitative information of each field site on land cover and changes to ecological structure and chemistry, including the presence and effects of invasive species across landscapes.

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  • Automated Instruments

    NEON deploys automated instruments to collect meteorological, soilphenologicalsurface water and groundwater data at NEON field sites. Data are collected continuously to capture patterns and cycles across various time periods, ranging from seconds to years. NEON calibrates and quality checks sensors to minimize measurement errors and maximize the quality of collected data. The data collected by automated instrument systems (IS) are standardized but the systems vary slightly by field site type.

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  • Observational Sampling

    NEON field scientists collect a broad variety of observations and samples at terrestrial and aquatic field sites at regular intervals throughout the year. The data and samples collected by NEON’s Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) and Aquatic Observation System (AOS) are standardized but the systems vary slightly by field site type.

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