Why Was The NERC Formed?

Northeastern North America, like all other regions of the world, is beset by multiple environmental problems occurring at scales that range from local to global. Among the most serious problems are:

  • Point-source and non-point-source pollution of surface waters
  • Air pollution from sources both within and outside the region
  • Introduction of exotic species including dangerous pests
  • Fragmentation and loss of natural habitats
  • Increasing urbanization and suburbanization of landscapes
  • The threat of global climate change

Because these problems represent major environmental issues for the Northeast and occur across the region, research can be done most efficiently by a concerted effort of scientists throughout the region. Cooperative research offers the advantages of comparative data collection and analysis, sharing perspectives and results with others involved in similar research, and development of larger-scale, more comprehensive research projects.

Many of these large-scale problems are also long-term problems, and addressing them requires long-term monitoring. Long-term monitoring and shorter-term intensive research are inseparable components of an effective overall research strategy. One of the strengths of ecosystem research in the Northeast is a history of long-term monitoring at several sites distributed throughout the region, and the data from those studies have been used effectively to advance both ecosystem science and public policy.

How Is The NERC Organized?

1. Membership

The NERC was formed in 2000 and has grown to over 250 participants from over 80 institutions throughout the region. Participation in the NERC is open to anyone involved with ecosystem research and ecosystem management in the region, including researchers, students, resource managers, and policy makers. To join, contact the Chair of the NERC Steering Committee.

2. Research Task Groups

The NERC research is undertaken by self-organized task groups of participants who share an interest in a particular topic. These task groups hold workshops, write grant proposals and papers, and in general advance the research and analysis of their topic with an emphasis on regional and cross-site collaboration and synthesis. Examples of topics studied by NERC Task groups include:

  • Synthesis of nitrogen amendment experiments in U.S. and Europe
  • Analysis of deposition and effects of mercury in the Northeast
  • Evaluation of discrepancies in ecosystem sulfur budgets
  • Evaluation of forest response to an introduced forest pest
  • Analysis of climate variability and change in the region
  • Role of long-term monitoring in science and policy
  • Development of environmental sensor networks
  • Winter biogeochemistry

3. Meetings and Management

Task groups meet as necessary to accomplish their research. The entire NERC membership meets biennially in a major conference that has become the pre-eminent venue for presenting ecosystem research in the region. The conference participants elect the NERC Steering Committee, which provides overall management and vision for the organization.

4. Steering Committee

The current (through 2017) members of the Steering Committee are:

Douglas Burns (Chair), US Geological Survey, Troy, NY
Irena Creed, University of Western Ontario, Canada
Clara Funk, US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC
Gregory Lampman, NY State Energy Research and Development Authority, Albany, NY
Nora Casson, University of Winnipeg
Geoff Millard, Syracuse University
Matthew Vadeboncouer, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH