Director's New Year Message 2017

January 2017


Dear NCEAS Community,


Six months ago I stepped into the role of Director of NCEAS at a time of growth and broad optimism. We owe that momentum to the leadership of Frank Davis, the productivity of NCEAS residents and staff, the engagement and output of the global community of scientists and practitioners that participate in NCEAS activities, and the funders supporting our work.

I am excited about the opportunity to continue growing NCEAS. There are many ways to do this, and all of them focus on expanding our role in supporting ecological and environmental science communities and advancing synthesis science to inform management, policy, and conservation efforts around the world.

NCEAS continues to be successful when measured by traditional metrics. In 2016 alone, we hosted nearly 500 working group participants, with growing international (20% non-US) and increasingly more diverse (40% women, 45% non-academic) participation. Residents and working groups published over 60 papers and we secured over $8.6 million in new funding for NCEAS projects.

The impact of NCEAS extends beyond academic metrics by leveraging our many partnerships with The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, Nautilus Impact Investing and others. For example, Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) working groups provided specific science-based recommendations to the Chinese government on how to enact the recent ivory ban to minimize unintended consequences, to Latin American investors on the return on investment of watershed restoration and protection for future water security, and to the fisheries agencies in Kenya and Peru on options for best managing their data-limited fisheries.



Looking forward, we will continue supporting working groups while expanding the scope of what we do at the Center. Below are highlights from several projects, demonstrating the range and vitality of work at NCEAS in the year to come.

SNAPP: The Science for Nature and People Partnership is a joint effort by NCEAS, TNC and WCS to produce ‘science to solutions’ outcomes. The coming year will see the launch of 4 new working groups (28 in total overall) on topics ranging from wildlife connectivity and infrastructure planning in India to ecological levers for human health, and the hiring of 3 new post-docs (16 in total overall). Stay tuned for the next call for proposals!

LTER NCO: The Network Communications Office of the Long-Term Ecological Research Network is in full swing. Five synthesis working groups are underway, drawing on 36 years of ecological inquiry across 25 sites. By expanding the Network’s public profile, the LTER-NCO is also increasing access to this valuable science for communities of ecologists, resource managers, and conservation professionals.

Arctic Data Repository: Last year we launched the Arctic Data Center in collaboration with the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and DataONE. Over the next year NCEAS will support synthesis research leveraging over half a million data objects within the repository, launch data management training events for Arctic researchers and provide metadata and other infrastructure enhancements.

SASAP: Over the next 12-18 months, the State of Alaska’s Salmon and People’s eight new working groups will provide an up-to-date, interdisciplinary perspective on Alaska’s salmon systems and the people who rely upon them, as well as insights into the pressures on salmon and salmon communities and options for response to those pressures.

DataONE: As a primary partner of DataONE, NCEAS supports the informatics, infrastructure, training and sustainability activities of the project. Now in its 8th year, DataONE will continue to increase the number of Member Nodes in the network, provide training activities focused on provenance metadata, enhance the semantic annotation to support search and discovery, and further develop data level metrics following the Make Data Count pilot project in 2016.

OHI: The Ocean Health Index will conduct its sixth annual global assessment, and continues to support over two dozen independent OHI+ projects around the world, on every continent. The team is working closely with government and NGO partners in British Colombia and New England to calculate annual assessments for the past 10 years.

TomKat UC Carbon Neutrality: Leveraging the NCEAS model to address critical issues of sustainability, two interdisciplinary working groups are formulating recommendations for how the entire University of California System can achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 by eliminating natural gas as an energy source and developing a strategic communications plan to help the UC System achieve its goals.



These projects represent some of the many ways we work to meet NCEAS’s mission, one that stands on the three pillars of research, informatics, and training. We are particularly excited about several emerging programs and directions for the Center in support of these pillars.

Research: We recently launched a Senior Fellows program to support and expand our repertoire of project-based science. We are also actively growing our resident post-doc community. Sign up for the NCEAS Newsletter to be the first to learn about several new Calls for Proposals in 2017.

Informatics: With 12 active awards in progress, informatics at NCEAS continues to grow and enhance our mission. We will launch a new Data Task Force to examine the impact of high-quality data services on the productivity and outcomes of scientific synthesis and break new ground on dealing with data semantics through EarthCube, GeoLink and DataONE.

Training: This summer we will host our third Open Science for Synthesis (OSS) training, a 3-week training workshop for scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico. We are also leading several proposals to significantly expand training opportunities, including an Ecological Data Corps “train the trainers” program in partnership with WSU and a new Masters degree in Environmental Data Science in partnership with the Bren School at UCSB.



We are committed to supporting the ecological and environmental science communities through synthesis research, informatics innovation, and data science training. Through the collaborative research at NCEAS and a growing number of partnerships that help us translate that science into action—and ultimately solutions—NCEAS is playing an even larger role in helping science inform policy and practice.

My door is always open, whether at NCEAS or virtually through email. Please be in touch with any ideas for future work or collaborations. I look forward to hearing from you.



Ben Halpern
NCEAS Executive Director