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Chris Neill at aufeis near Toolik LTER station on the North Slope of Alaska.

Chris Neill Awarded Bullard Fellowship by Harvard University

Ecosystems Center scientist Christopher Neill has been awarded a Bullard Fellowship by Harvard University for 2009-2010. He plans to spend his time in residence at Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, combining his interests in Amazon science and journalism.

During his fellowship, Neill plans to synthesize Amazon ecological research that has been conducted by a large number of international researchers under the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA). LBA is a Brazilian and U.S. funded program that attempts to understand how the Amazon functions ecologically as a region and how the Amazon’s function changes with deforestation. Neill also plans to explore the potential of initiating hands-on science journalism courses at Harvard Forest and other Long Term Ecological Research sites in the northeastern U.S. that share a focus on forests and changing land use.

The Amazon is a superb example of how the fate of the major forests of the earth is intricately connected human activities and global change,” Neill said. “The forces that will shape the future of the Amazon forest are many of the same forces that form the core of research at the Harvard Forest.”

Neill said he would use time at Harvard Forest to synthesize Amazon research for a broad-based audience. He looks forward to interactions with Harvard researchers with expertise in forest history, forest disturbance dynamics and fragmentation, measurement of carbon exchange and history of human settlements to place these changes in a broad ecological and historical context. “This will also help me to develop a new phase of my Amazon research that links more directly to social science, examines the interactions between forests and social forces, and integrates my research into broader-based international teaching,” Neill said.

Neill’s other goal, to help science journalists work at the interface of science and public policy, is based on his role at MBL, where he has helped to develop the Science Journalism Program, which provides professional science writers, editors and broadcast journalists a chance to “step into the shoes of the scientists they cover” and immerse themselves in scientific investigations under the mentorship of working scientists. He wants to adapt this program to train journalists to better understand and write about the science and consequences of land use change within local regions that contain the northeastern U.S. LTER sites.