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Reflections on GLEON’s 10th Birthday

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The Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) is supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant Number DBI RCN 0639229 and MSB 1137327, 1137353 and other generous donors. This blog receives technical support from the Center for Limnology (CFL) at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Any information, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog are those of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF, CFL, Cary Institute, GLEON or GLEON Student Association (GSA).


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Photo: GLEON founders Hamilton, Kratz, Arzberger and Lin. Credit: L.Borre

Left to right: Founding members of the GLEON Steering Committee: David Hamilton (New Zealand), Tim Kratz (USA), Peter Arzberger (USA), and Fang-Pang Lin (Taiwan) at the GLEON17 meeting (October 2015) in Chuncheon, South Korea. Photo by Lisa Borre

By Tim Kratz, Peter Arzberger, David Hamilton, and Fang-Pang Lin

Ten years ago, a relatively small group of lake scientists, information managers and information technology experts met in San Diego alongside experts on coral reefs in what we now consider to be the first GLEON meeting. G1, though of course none of us called it that – in fact the name GLEON didn’t yet exist – started an adventure in doing network science.

The goal of the first meeting was to explore whether developing an international network that deployed and made use of high-frequency measurements on lakes and coral reefs made sense scientifically, socially, and practically. It resulted in what we now know as the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network, or GLEON, a thriving, energetic, and creative network that has brought an international community of scientists together. But back then, we had only a dim inkling of what GLEON would become a decade later.

Photo: GLEON1 meeting in San Diego, CA, 2005. Credit: Teri Simas.

Group photo  from the first GLEON meeting, held in San Diego, California, USA, March 7-9, 2005. Photo by Teri Simas.

At the GLEON17 meeting in South Korea, the original Steering Committee (Peter Arzberger, David Hamilton, Fang-Pang Lin and Tim Kratz) reflected on the past ten years and identified a number of milestones that were instrumental in GLEON’s development or marked significant achievements. It would be nice to say that these milestones were the result of a well thought out strategic plan, but the truth is that much of the time we were operating on our best hunches of how to do international, collaborative science in a new, inclusive way. There were groups like PRAGMA that we used as a model, but most of our decisions were the result of identifying and trying to abide by our core values of inclusion, transparency, and consensus.


Photo: GLEON founders at G17 meeting. Credit: Grace Hong.

Left to right: Peter Arzberger, Fang-Pang Lin, Tim Kratz, and David Hamilton at G17 reflecting on the first 10 years of GLEON. Photo by Grace Hong.

GLEON milestones

Pre-conception: Peter Arzberger, Fang-Pang Lin, Tim Kratz and Paul Hanson attended a US NSF-sponsored workshop in August 2003 on Sensing the Environment. During a break they started to discuss how the information technology that a relatively new network, PRAGMA, was developing might be useful to scientists wanting to deploy sensors in the environment. A rather farfetched plan (or so one of us (TK) thought at the time) to put sensors on a lake in Taiwan was hatched. This lake was chosen because the several typhoons it experienced each year promised to inform us about lake response to disturbance.

Gestation: By spring 2004, that farfetched plan resulted in data streaming from an instrumented buoy on Yuan Yang Lake in Taiwan. Putting together the teams, funding, and plans that resulted in this buoy was tremendous fun, and we thought if we could do this for one lake, why not in many others? Would there be scientific value in such a network of people, lakes, and data? We formed an initial Steering Committee consisting of Peter Arzberger, David Hamilton, Tim Kratz and Fang-Pang Lin to discuss that question and plan for a wider meeting to find out.

Birth: The first GLEON meeting was held in March 2005 in San Diego, California, USA.  In addition to the Steering Committee, a number present day active GLEONites participated in the meeting, including Paul Hanson, Hsiu-Mei Chou, Bomchul Kim, and Ken Chiu. At a post meeting dinner the name GLEON was coined. There were several choices for names discussed, but a quick internet search on ‘GLEON’ turned up a winery in France. We thought that was a good omen and GLEON it was.

First BirthdayWorking Groups, the mechanism by which most of the GLEON science is done, were implemented early on in GLEON though the specific working groups have changed over the years. Having a mechanism by which groups of people with similar interests could create and carry out projects with a “just do it” attitude has served GLEON well.

Second Birthday: The GLEON Student Association (GSA) was started. Involving students in GLEON has been one of the keys to GLEON’s success.

Third Birthday: The Collaborative Climate Committee (CCC) was created to look after the people side of the network and provide guidance on ways GLEON could better live up to the shared values described in its Operating Principles and Procedures document. Having a formal mechanism for assuring our shared values are practiced has helped keep GLEON inclusive, transparent, and productive. This was the year that GLEON membership topped 100.

Sixth Birthday: The first GLEON papers using data from multiple GLEON sites were published. Prior publications were conceptual, methodological, or included data from only one site.

Seventh BirthdayProject Tracker, the tool that allows everyone to see the status of all GLEON projects in a transparent way, was developed and implemented. A number of affiliated regional initiatives, such as NETLAKE (Networking Lake Observatories in Europe) and SAFER,(Sensing the Americas’ Freshwater Ecosystem Risk from Climate Change) started.

Eighth Birthday: The GSA became recognized as a model of graduate student training in network science.

Ninth Birthday: GLEON members made open source collaborative software, such as Lake Analyzer, available for all to use.

GLEON now has more than 550 individual members from 51 countries. None of us could have predicted that GLEON would have grown from that initial small meeting 10 years ago to the internationally recognized network that it has become today.  What will the next 10 years bring?

Image: GLEON 17 meeting photo. Credit: Grace Hong.

GLEON17 meeting, Chuncheon, South Korea | 12-16 October 2015. Photo by Grace Hong.


1 Comment

  1. Abel U. Udoh says:

    Congratulating the founding fathers and mothers of GLEON while also, thanking them for the foresight in establishing this great organization in which I have been a beneficiary, attending meetings, gaining knowledge and wining friends around the globe. GLEON has made successes, contributing glaringly, to discussing and find possible remedies to the monster called, climate change.
    May we live to inherit back, our virgin world!

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