Appreciating place-based ecological science

A common statement from within the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project is that it is organized to be place-based, cross-scale, long-term and comparative, reflecting how the program has adapted ecological theory and practice to the present and future needs of society in the southeastern United States. The USDA Forest Service Coweeta Hydrologic Lab entered into a cooperative effort with the University of Georgia in 1980 on a Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project that is funded through the National Science Foundation. The project has continued to receive funding over the last 30 years; and has expanded in scope from research largely conducted in the Coweeta Basin to research now being conducted in the Little Tennessee River Basin and throughout the region.

The Coweeta LTER was among the first such research sites established within the LTER Network. As of 2012 there are 25 LTER research sites across the United States. In addition to conducting research, the Coweeta LTER project seeks to promote environmental science literacy, engage with decision makers and facilitate the use of cyber infrastructure. The Coweeta LTER Schoolyard program partners with local middle schools and promotes a student- centered approach to science education. The most recent outreach effort includes the Coweeta Listening Project, through which we are seeking to facilitate communication between Coweeta LTER researchers, local residents, environmental organizations and policy makers across the region.

Local residents are also important in facilitating the research. Partnering with local land owners to conduct place-based, ecological science is increasingly important to the success of the Coweeta LTER project’s efforts because the processes of population change, land-use change, and climate change play an important role in the relationship between ecosystem services and broad-scale public land management decisions in the southern Appalachians. One objective of the project is to understand the drivers of local, parcel-level decision-making. These local decisions have broad, regional consequences on ecological patterns and processes. The recent research efforts of the Coweeta LTER program are defined by coordinated research across mountainous and valley landscapes within watersheds of varying sizes by researchers in a variety of disciplines: anthropology, ecology, economics, forestry and geography.

Because doing place-based science is so important, a group from the Coweeta LTER project and the USDA Forest Service Coweeta Hydrologic Lab has organized a series of short presentations for landowners who have been key in helping our efforts. The group will be presenting an overview of the project and preliminary results on how land use affects water quality and water quantity in parcels in Macon County. The presentations will be at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory from 4 to 6 p.m., Oct. 20. If you are not one of the land owners who have been helping, but would like to attend, contact us directly through the email or postal addresses listed below.


This column is produced by members of the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP), a branch of the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research Program. Views expressed here are not representative of the USDA Forest Service or the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab. Please share questions, comments, or suggestions for future topics at or Coweeta Listening Project, UGA, 210 Field St., Room 204, Athens, Georgia 30602.


Original Citation: The Coweeta Listening Project. Franklin Press. Column on "Science, Public Policy, Community." Page B4. Sept 21, 2012.