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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Another Green Light for NEON, and a Heftier Price Tag
23 July 2009 8:41 am
The National Science Foundation this week inched closer to approving what may be the world's largest environmental monitoring facility. The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) also has a new, tentative price tag: $384 million. That's nearly four times what NSF officials estimated it would cost when they conceived of the network 10 years ago.
NEON bills itself as "a continental-scale ecological observation platform for understanding and forecasting the impacts of climate change, land use change, and invasive species on ecology." It will be used to monitor 20 ecologically different regions of the country with stationary, mobile, and relocatible sensors, supplemented by data from planes and computer networks. "The idea is to be able to track events that we expect will be happening continually, like smoke from wildfires or the progress of an invasive species," explains Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia, Athens. Covich headed the external NSF panel that endorsed the project this week after visiting NEON's prototype site outside Boulder, Colorado, and reviewing more than 3000 pages of documents. "What they've done already is pretty impressive."
NSF has spent $45 million on the project since former NSF director Rita Colwell hatched the idea in 1999 as a $100 million initiative, but numerous redesigns have slowed its progress. This week's nod takes it one step closer to being a line item in NSF's construction budget. NSF's oversight body, the National Science Board, has already given its preliminary approval, but NSF Director Arden Bement pulled it from his lineup last year after deciding that project officials needed to come up with firmer cost numbers and a more solid long-range management plan.
Elizabeth Blood, the NSF program director who oversees the project, says the new price tag is not necessarily final but that it reflects "the current cost … based on a very rigorous design process." The number also doesn't include the 30-year lifetime cost of operating the observatories once construction, estimated to take 5 years, is finished. NSF hopes to complete a final design review later this year and seek board approval in the spring of 2010.