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Dust To Dust: Then and Now

The 2013 Jornada Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) science meeting and field trip had all the comforts. On this field trip we rode in one of two greyhound-class stratacruiser with a professional driver, a bathroom and an air conditioner. It kicks up an impressive rooster tail of dust. Keep the windows closed! The greyhound-class bus drivers know their dust. When coming to a stop on the dust thick road-bed he paused to let the “dust-rain” settle out around the stratacruiser before opening the door and letting us out.

Twenty years ago in 1993, the LTER science field-trippers rode in a caravan of 7 9-seat, university-class vans. The lead PI, in the lead less-dusty van and determined the speed of travel and thereby open and close the windows as thermal homeostasis dictated. So what is it -- windows open or windows closed?

If you are on a hard surface road and air temperatures are lower than body temperatures, open the windows and get all the forced air convection you can, thus maximizing perspiration and cooling. However, if air temperature is higher than skin temperature, opening the windows just means more heating in need of pre sw. Riding over a gravel, sand and dust roads, like on the Jornada without air conditioning, just hope for cool weather! Forced convection to max out perspiration can be augmented with a hand held fan as it can produce airflow across your skin surface of about 2.5 cm/second. For those with slightly or unsightly skin hair, a more vigorous fanning will help a bit.

Special Thanks: oohs and ahhs

Stephanie Bestelmeyer of the Asombaro Institute for Science Education out-oooohed and -ahhhed all contenders on the field trip. The contenders included Curtis Monger of NMSU who crafted a geophysical synthesis of the Jornada Basin, and Kris Havstad of the USDA who peopled the landscape and made it come alive. A strong science synthesis was thus built that established the foundation for all the talks that followed. Kudos all around. Now we will have to wait another 22 years for the next saga.

LTER & NEON+ARS = A Model

The Jornada LTER, the Jornada NEON, and the Jornada ARS, have established an impressive research partnership. Other LTERs may well be served by cross-site partnering. Site strategic planning in this direction should be a growth industry. Planning at the network level will be critical as well. Somewhere around 2020 and when NEON engineers finish their work and turn keys to the facilities over to the ecological community and to the broader community of environmental scientist, a plan will need to be on the table. 2020 is right around the corner.

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