At its most recent meeting held at the Konza Prairie Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in May 2014, the LTER Science Council elected Peter Groffman, the Principal Investigator of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) LTER, the new Chair of the LTER Science Council. As is customary, Groffman will serve one year as Chair-elect and two years as Chair, replacing Scott Collins (SEV), who has served since his election in 2010.
“This is a critical and exciting time for the LTER Network. The emergence of the ‘observatory era’ in Environmental Science, with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Ocean Observing System (OOS), Critical Zone Observatories (CZO), etc has created an opportunity to highlight the unique and powerful design and performance of the LTER network and to articulate its role in this new era,” Groffman says. “We need to be clear about how the LTER network has been and will continue to be critical to research advances, personnel development, outreach to society, and information management.”
Groffman has been an LTER scientist since graduate school, when he conducted his preliminary thesis research at Coweeta LTER. During his postdoctoral work at Michigan State, he participated in writing the first proposal for the creation of the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) LTER. Groffman has also worked at the Hubbard Brook (HBR) LTER since 1992 and in BES since 1998.
“To me, the LTER network represents everything pure and good in ecosystem science; large collaborative, investigator-driven projects that bring people together to take on the toughest questions in our discipline,” he says. “I am very excited to represent and advocate for the network with funding agencies, scientific societies and the general public.”
The Science Council sets and coordinates the scientific direction and vision of the LTER Network. The Council has the responsibility to provide leadership and planning for cross-site research and education, to develop proposals for the conduct of Network-level science, to interact with existing and emerging networks, to develop products that synthesize Network-level data and information, and to otherwise manage the science affairs of the LTER Network.
The Chair presides at all meetings of the Science Council and the Executive Board and, along with the Executive Board, generally oversees and supervises the governance of the LTER Network. Among other things the Chair facilitates communication with Network sites regarding decisions of the Executive Board, and serves as (or appoints) liaison to the National Science Foundation (NSF), other agencies, associations, networks, the public, and to Network committees.
Groffman’s vision for LTER is to have a strong and evolving partnership with NSF, scientific societies, and the general public, and to make it clear that the LTER network of sites are conducting critically important research that underlies the solutions to key societal challenges, and that LTER is leading the scientific community in the collaborative approaches and data sharing activities that are critical to meeting these challenges.
“Demonstrating the value of scientific research to society is an old topic that has generated new interest as societal concerns about environmental issues have varied wildly over the past few years,” Groffman observes. “As a centerpiece of ecosystem research in the U.S., LTER has a strong role to play in this conversation.”
Groffman served on the LTER Governance Working Group (2005 – 2006) that developed the new governance structure for the network, giving the Science Council more responsibility for science, and making the Executive Board more representative and giving it more decision making power.