NEON Continues Partnership with ASU to House a National Ecological Observation Biorepository

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Arizona State University and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) announce the continuation of their collaborative commitment to maintain a national biorepository, a venture that commenced in 2019 and will persist for 30 years.

Following the acquisition of funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), NEON made the decision to designate ASU’s Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center (BioKIC) and the Natural History Collections in Tempe as the repositories for the vast collection of biological samples to be gathered over the next thirty years. These specimens will be obtained from 81 field sites across the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

NSF has just recently disclosed that Battelle will extend its management of the large-scale observatory’s operations and maintenance for the upcoming five years, commencing in November and extending until October 2028.

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“This is a wonderful validation of the buildup and first five years of the NEON Biorepository and our services at ASU. We feel honored and thrilled to continue this project with Battelle, an outstanding lead working with and partnering with us. I look forward to continuing that partnership,” said Nico Franz, Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Ecology, bio-collections director in the School of Life Sciences and founding director of ASU’s BioKIC.

NEON stands as the inaugural continental ecological observation facility, featuring resources spanning the entire nation. Its primary purpose is to gather enduring, publicly accessible ecological data over an extended period.

The center annually receives approximately 100,000 samples, and within the first five years of their collaboration, it has received, processed and stored more than 421,000 samples.

In the coming five years, NEON envisions expanding the capacity of the NEON Biorepository at ASU by adding 5,000 square feet. This additional space will be used to store various NEON environmental, vertebrate, and invertebrate samples, both in liquid and dry preservation methods. It’s worth noting that this expansion is in addition to the cryogenic collections facility with a space of 3,500 square feet, which was completed in 2020.

ASU faculty members Greg Asner, Erin Carr Jordan, and Peter Schlosser are set to become part of the ASU/NEON partnership. They will introduce fresh elements related to online education and remote sensing into the initiative, consequently enhancing its technological capabilities and overall societal influence.

Asner, who serves as the head of the Global Airborne Observatory component, formerly the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, within the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, will take the helm of an airborne laboratory equipped with state-of-the-art Earth imaging and mapping technology, which is currently the most advanced in the civil sector.

Jordan, who serves as the executive director for digital equity and social impact within Enterprise Technology, will play a significant role in spearheading an educational initiative designed to support learners as they advance in their professional journeys.

“We want to leverage the available NEON data and samples because it’s a great space,” Jordan said. “It is designed to help learners grow their skills in a way that helps their careers but also advances the science and research being done.”