Scientists and graduate students of the Coweeta LTER measuring stream conditions in the Upper Little Tennessee River Basin." (Courtesy Rhett Jackson)

As funding for scientific research remains coveted, the University of Georgia is losing one of its resources. The UGA Coweeta Research Program is winding down after decades of data collection and the program will officially end in December.

The Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research program, one of 28 Long Term Ecological Research Networks in the nation, is a USDA Forest Service Lab created in North Carolina in 1934 to research forest hydrology. The lab began its partnership with UGA in 1968.

This partnership has allowed graduate students and faculty over the years the opportunity to conduct research related to forestry and ecology at the lab.

Every six years, LTERs are required to submit a renewal proposal to the National Science Foundation for funding. While UGA submitted its proposal for funding to continue research in the lab back in 2016, it was rejected.

“We’ve been an LTER since 1980 and in 2016, our renewal proposal was rejected by NSF," said Rhett Jackson, the lead principal investigator of the Coweeta LTER Program. "We don’t actually know the reason."

However, the LTER, in operation since 1980, was given “wind-down money” by the NSF to finish their remaining projects, Jackson said.

Although the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab will continue to operate and be in use, the UGA Coweeta LTER Research Program will cease due to these circumstances. 

John Maerz is a professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and one of UGA’s principal investigators for the Coweeta LTER. He has been involved with the lab for more than a decade, using the location for courses, research and field trips. Maerz had five graduate students study there.

“We’ve done 11 years of studies of how amphibian populations in the mountains are influenced by things like climate,” Maerz said. “We’ve done work on the importance of animals and ecosystem processes.”

The Warnell College collaborates with a number of bio-stations across the Southeast outside of Coweeta, Maerz said. The college does research with the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory in Aiken, South Carolina and the Joseph E. Jones Ecological Research Center in Newton, Georgia.

For Maerz, losing Coweeta leaves a lasting mark. 

“The University of Georgia’s relationship with the Coweeta LTER — that relationship goes back a really long time,” Maerz said. “Three-quarters of a century. So it’s been a really long and rich relationship.”

Although Warnell collaborates with many other labs, the grant loss will affect the opportunities for research of graduate students and faculty in Warnell. 

“It basically just means there is no longer a long-term data-collection stream from Coweeta and that there are a lot of graduate student projects that won’t happen,” Jackson said.

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