NASA: Call for Members of the Science Definition Team for the ABoVE Field Campaign

Status Report From: NASA Science Mission Directorate
Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012

NASA is soliciting applications and nominations for members of the Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) field campaign Science Definition Team (SDT). Response will take the form of a Letter of Application submitted to the Terrestrial Ecology Program Manager at NASA Headquarters.

1. Scope of the Program

The next major field campaign to be sponsored by the NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program will focus on 1) developing a fuller understanding of ecosystem vulnerability to climate change in the Arctic and boreal regions of westernNorth America, with some degree of concentrated effort in Alaska, and 2) providing the scientific information required to develop options for societal responses to the impacts of these changes. The field campaign will be based on the Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) concept as described in the ABoVE Scoping Study Report, Revised ABoVE Executive Summary, and report of the June 13-15, 2012 ABoVE Workshop (available at; if this Web site is not available, please send an email to to request copies of the desired documents).

Climate change in the Arctic and boreal region is unfolding faster than anywhere else on Earth, resulting in a longer ice-free Arctic Ocean during summer, warming and thawing of permafrost, increases in the frequency and severity of climate-driven disturbances, widespread changes to surface water extent, and alterations in vegetation structure and function. Environmental change in this region is increasingly affecting society in a variety of ways, including impacts on forests from insects and fires, erosion of Arctic coastlines, and changes to wildlife habitat and ecosystems that affect subsistence opportunities and economic uses. Research conducted as part of ABoVE to address ecosystem vulnerability in these systems will involve observations, process-oriented analyses, scientific syntheses, and modeling. Emphasis will be on research that integrates data collected by airborne andspaceborne sensors with information obtained from field studies and ground-based observations. The study will address questions that are associated with processes that are critical to understanding the environmental and societal impacts of climate change in Arctic-boreal ecosystems, as well as ecosystem responses that in turn affect trajectories of future change in the region and/or feedback to the global climate system.

ABoVE will contribute to the priorities of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), conducting research that responds to specific calls for research that advances understanding of vulnerabilities in human and biogeophysical systems and their relationships to climate extremes, thresholds, and tipping points ( This research will require: integrated cross-sectoral, biogeophysical, and socioeconomic observations, as well as improved simulation and modeling. Specific areas where progress is needed include: observations to detect trends in extremes, integration of observations into models, attribution of change to human or natural causes, integrated research on Earth and human systems; simulation and prediction at spatial and temporal scale conducive to decision making; and adaptation responses to changing frequency and intensity of extreme events.

The ABoVE Science Definition Team (SDT) members will spend approximately twelve to fifteen months refining the science questions and issues to be addressed and developing a detailed study design for the ABoVE field campaign. The SDT will be supported in its efforts by the Terrestrial Ecology Program at NASA Headquarters and the ABoVE support team within the Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems (CC&E) Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The work of the SDT will culminate in a report that will serve as the Concise Experiment Plan NASA will use to guide its implementation of the field campaign (for an example, please refer to the Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia Concise Experiment Plan at

2. Science Definition Team for ABoVE

2.1 ABoVE SDT Structure

The ABoVE SDT will consist of approximately 8-20 members with expertise in scientific disciplines relevant to the goals of ABoVE. These include, but are not limited to ecology, biogeochemistry, ecohydrology, geography, land surface climatology, and the social, behavioral, and economic sciences. Members also will have expertise in the methodologies to be used: satellite, airborne, and in situ observations; data analysis; data synthesis; data management; and modeling. It will be desirable for some members of the SDT to have knowledge of and experience working in northern high latitude ecosystems and/or experience in applying scientific knowledge to decision making in the region. NASA also will be looking for members who have a demonstrated ability to work well as constructive, engaged members of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team. The Terrestrial Ecology Program Manager will make a recommendation to the Selecting Official for a Chair or Co-Chairs of the ABoVE SDT from the selected SDT members. The NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program Manager and possibly other agency representatives will be ex officio members of the ABoVE SDT.

NASA is currently seeking and discussing partnerships with other organizations in the conduct of ABoVE. There is also the possibility that partnerships may develop to involve ABoVE in abroader, multidisciplinary field program in the Arctic. If such partnerships are realized, NASA may ask its ABoVE SDT members to also engage in the scientific planning for the combined activity, joining with the scientists representing the scientific interests of the partner organizations. NASA is not anticipating that such interactions will add significantly to the burden ofwork to be undertaken by the ABoVE SDT.

2.2 ABoVE SDT Responsibilities

The members of the ABoVE SDT will provide NASA with scientific assistance in developing a Concise Experiment Plan for the ABoVE field campaign. This plan will include the science questions to be addressed, a compelling rationale explaining the scientific and societal importance of the study, the research approach/strategy, a reasonably detailed study design and description of required field and remote sensing observations, required field infrastructure, logistics, and data management capabilities.

NASA's charge to the SDT will be to design a regional, Arctic-boreal terrestrial ecosystem research project to be conducted in western North America, including Alaska, that is faithful to the scope and primary objectives described in the Revised Executive Summary for ABoVE. The ABoVE Scoping Study Report included details regarding study design and management as a proof-of-concept demonstration of feasibility. The SDT will be free to adopt those recommendations or further consider, refine, and/or alter the study design to best address ABoVE goals and objectives. The SDT will be charged to identify the particular societal issues that will be studied in ABoVE, with the understanding that these will likely require the incorporation of complementary social and natural science perspectives and methods. The SDT will be charged to design a study that leverages, complements, and is compatible with ongoing Arctic-boreal research projects and field observations of national and international organizations working in the region. The NASA field campaign can then focus on filling gaps in scientific or geographic coverage and providing integrated regional analyses through effective use of satellite and airborne remote sensing, geospatial data analysis tools, and integrative data synthesis and modeling studies.

The initial meeting of the ABoVE SDT will be targeted for late January 2013 and will be a teleconference call (for planning purposes, proposers should hold the afternoons of January 24 and 28 for a one and a half hour teleconference call to be scheduled on one or the other of those two days). The SDT can be expected to meet in person four times over the twelve to fifteen months following SDT selection. Meeting duration will be for (typically) two to three days. The SDT also may have regular phone-in meetings. Meetings will be called and their agendas set by the SDT Chair in coordination with NASA HQ and CC&E Office management to ensure that planned activities are aligned with programmatic needs and expectations. NASA will support travel expenses for all ABoVE SDTwork. Salary and other financial support will not be provided to SDT members. The CC&E Office will be responsible for any tasks necessary to support the work of the ABoVE SDT.

All reports and other output of the ABoVE SDT will be made publicly available. Once the SDT's work has concluded, it will be disbanded prior to any solicitations for the field campaign being issued by NASA.

2.3 ABoVE SDT Membership Proposal Content

Response to this Call is in the form of a Letter of Application. In the letter, the applicant should provide evidence of expertise and knowledge in areas highly relevant to the ABoVE primary scientific goals and related research activities. The types of expertise and knowledge desired were listed in section 2.1; however, appropriate expertise is not limited to the examples given there. All applicants must explain the knowledge and skills they have to offer and why they are important for SDT activities. Letters of application should provide a brief statement regarding which aspects of the ABoVE study the applicant would be able to help develop, as well as their overall vision regarding the scientific direction and scope of the field campaign. Applicants may express an interest in serving as SDT Chair (or co-Chair), but NASA will not limit selection of the SDT Chair to those applicants who express interest.

The Letter may contain a brief list of references to scientific or technical papers the applicant has published and/or positions held and work conductedthat establish her/him as a leader in their area(s) of expertise. The Letter should also contain a statement of how much time the applicant will commit over the next twelve to fifteen months for activities related to the ABoVE SDT, particularly if there are any major constraints that may restrict full engagement in the significant amount of work that will be required to define the scientific approach and study design for the ABoVE field campaign.

Letter applications are invited from individuals, not groups. Collaborations and teams are not solicited. Each Letter is to be limited to three pages, with 11-point (or larger) font and one-inch margins. The subject line of a responsive application must read "NASA ABoVE SDT Application." Letter applications submitted by E-mail are preferred, but may also be submitted by regular mail or fax. Responses to this invitation must be received no later than 4:30 PM EST on December 14, 2012.

3. Selection of the ABoVE Science Definition Team

NASA expects to select approximately 8-20 individuals for membership on theABoVE SDT and plans to announce its selection in January 2013. NASA will select the ABoVE SDT members and the SDT Chair from the pool of respondents after reviewing the letters received in response to this call.

Application letters should be submitted to:

Dr. Diane E. Wickland
Terrestrial Ecology Program
Earth Science Division - Science Mission Directorate
Mail Suite 3B74
NASA Headquarters
300 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20546
Tel: 202-358-0245
E-mail: Diane.
Fax: 202-358-3172

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