Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are using space-based observations to study global ecosystems. Photo: Peter DaSilva/QUANTA Magazine
Seven years ago, when David Schimel was asked to design an ambitious data project called the National Ecological Observatory Network, it was little more than a National Science Foundation grant. There was no formal organization, no employees, no detailed science plan. Emboldened by advances in remote sensing, data storage and computing power, NEON sought answers to the biggest question in ecology: How do global climate change, land use and biodiversity influence natural and managed ecosystems and the biosphere as a whole?