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Map of the LTER SitesLong Term Ecological Research
Ecology is the study of relationships between living organisms and their environment -- the study of how ecosystems function. Many ecosystem processes happen very slowly. For example, it can take decades or even centuries for a fallen tree to decay, and for a lake to fill with sediment and become a grassy meadown. What's more, sometimes these processes happen very slowly, while other times they proceed quite rapidly. Because ecosystems change at varying rates over long periods of time, short-term studies of ecosystems can give misleading results.

In 1980, the National Science Foundation established the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network to support research on long-term ecological processes. One of the goals of the LTER Network is to study how ecosystems change over very long periods of time. To support that goal, the LTER has developed 24 sites: 19 in the lower 48 states plus two sites in Alaska, two in Antarctica, and one in Puerto Rico. More than 1,100 scientists and students use these sites for ecological research. And what these scientists are studying is fascinating!

To help introduce high school and middle school teachers and students to the unique world of the LTER network, we have developed an online manual of educational activities. This manual includes:

  • Six activities that introduce students to the LTER network and research,
  • A PowerPoint slideshow of all the LTER sites,
  • Opportunities for students to manipulate and graph LTER data,
  • Activities in which students use the Internet to explore the LTER network, and
  • Directions for designing and conducting long-term schoolyard research.

LTER Links


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