The Origins, Early Aspects, and Development of the Long Term Ecological Research Program

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Kingsland, Sharon E.; Franklin, Jerry F.; Waide, Robert B. 2021. The Origins, Early Aspects, and Development of the Long Term Ecological Research Program. In: The Challenges of Long Term Ecological Research: A Historical Analysis. 2.23-54. doi:


The chapter explores a series of overlapping discussions from the 1960s to the mid-1970s concerning the need to preserve natural areas for ecological research and observation, as well as the need for ecologists to be advocates for ecological science in the light of modern environmental problems. The U.S. Forest Service was also actively promoting the creation of Research Natural Areas and making them available for ecological research. A report prepared under the auspices of The Institute of Ecology in the mid-1970s drew attention to the desirability of creating a large network of experimental ecological reserves across the U.S. and its territories. This report led to three workshops during which ecologists debated what such a network of research sites might look like. The third workshop’s proposals led directly to the creation of the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program, which began in 1980 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The chapter follows these conversations with particular emphasis on the participation of Jerry F. Franklin, who took part in early discussions about expanding ecological research infrastructure while serving as Ecosystem Studies Program Officer at NSF during 1973–1975. He subsequently was director of the H.J. Andrews Ecosystem Research Project, which joined the LTER Program in 1980, chaired the LTER Program’s Coordinating Committee from 1982 to 1995, and established and directed LTER’s coordinating office from 1982 to 1996. In 1997 the Network Office shifted to the University of New Mexico, beginning a new phase in the coordination of the developing network.
Keywords LTER program · LTER network · LTER network office · Long-term ecological research · History of ecology · Conservation movement · Ecosystem ecology · International biological program