The NCEAS logo is derived from a beautiful strange attractor which arises from a simplified system of equations first studied by MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz. The Lorenz attractor is notable for having chaotic  solutions for certain parameter values and initial conditions which, when plotted, resemble a butterfly or figure eight. That this elegant representation of nature can arise from clever computation is a source of inspiration for NCEAS.
NCEAS Logo 1995
NCEAS Logo 2013
The butterfly itself is also an apt symbol for NCEAS, since the Center is located along a stretch of the California coast that hosts the most renowned Monarch butterfly overwintering site in the western United States.
Fittingly, two NCEAS Informatics products have been named in honor of members of this remarkable insect order:
Monarch, an early workflow prototyping experiment, and
Morpho , metadata and data management software, named for a genus of neotropical butterflies