Last fall, the KBS LTER had an exciting opportunity to collaborate with the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, or NCR-SARE, program to address issues related to agriculture and global change. An extensive, 2 ½ day Carbon, Energy and Climate Conference was held on September 26-28, 2012 at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS).
NCR-SARE is organizing a two-year professional development and training initiative around carbon, climate and energy issues, and September’s conference launched the initiative. One-hundred and thirty-three speakers and participants from all 12 North Central Region states, from Ohio to Nebraska, were in attendance.
On the first day, University Extension faculty and staff, Midwestern farmers, non-profit leaders and state and federal agency representatives took in the diverse research happening on the KBS LTER field site, including the sustainability of biofuels experiment, part of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. LTER specialists, researchers and staff explained the investigations being conducted on the KBS LTER field site, and shared both current research efforts and scientific highlights from over 20 years of LTER data. Other tours at KBS included the pasture-based dairy and robotic milking system, as well as cover crop research.
LTER staff and researchers also engaged conference attendees in hands-on workshops, which focused on climate, carbon and/or bioenergy. One participant commented, “[The] hands on demonstrations and field tours were the best part of the conference.”
During the workshops, LTER staff and scientists explained the carbon cycle in agroecosystems, demonstrated how to measure carbon in agricultural soils, helped participants measure greenhouse gas emissions in the field, and taught participants how to seed various cover crops through cover crop demonstrations.
The field tours and workshops set the stage for a series of plenary talks on carbon, bioenergy and climate issues and research. As part of this section of the conference, KBS LTER Director Dr. Phil Robertson shared with participants the opportunities for agriculture to help mitigate climate change. He focused on the newly developed nitrous oxide reduction protocol.
The conference participants left KBS with a greater understanding of the LTER program and its research related to carbon, energy and climate issues. “We received a ton of positive feedback on the balance of time spent in the classroom and fields,” said Dr. Dale Mutch, organizer of the whole conference and LTER Co-investigator. “Participants really appreciated the hands-on experiences.” One participant even commented that the entire conference was a “great toolbox to take back.”
In February and March of this year, KBS LTER education and outreach coordinator Dr. Julie Doll will be co-hosting two follow-up climate change and agriculture workshops with funding from NCR-SARE.