The Pre-History of LTER - Dave Coleman

Plenary Address at the LTER All Scientists Meeting

Sunday, September 13 1900

Dave Coleman
Odum School of Ecology
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602.

The Pre-History of LTER


LTER has a fascinating pre-history. Its origins are traceable to the successful completion of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957-58, and the subsequent longer-term effort, the International Biological Program (IBP), which ran from 1964 through the mid-1970s, with a shorter duration in the USA.

The IBP enabled ecologists to collaborate interdisciplinary and internationally in ways that had not been envisioned previously. It marks the beginning of the era of “big ecology.” Several key scientists in the IBP became major movers and shakers in LTER, and a few have continued on into NEON. The indispensable role of NSF personnel in carrying the IBP legacy, including funding, into the LTER program is also noted.

Some major research thrusts from IBP are identified and the evolution of LTER and its successful use of long-term experimental studies are reviewed. IBP had some shortcomings in funding, management and synthesis. LTER has improved on most, but not all of these aspects and a comparison between programs is provided. Prospects are bright indeed for the further flourishing of “big ecology.”