NCEAS Executive Team

Ben Halpern, Executive Director of NCEAS

Ben Halpern is Director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research interests are primarily in marine ecology and conservation planning but span a wide range of disciplines. Ben has been involved with NCEAS for nearly two decades, first as a graduate student participant and post doc and later as a Center Associate and Deputy Director.  More>

Contact: halpern[at]




Courtney Scarborough, Deputy Director of NCEAS

Courtney works to advance the Center’s mission and support cross-Center initiatives that bridge synthesis research, environmental data science and learning activities. Trained as a marine scientist, Courtney is passionate about bringing interdisciplinary science to bear on real world issues affecting people and the planet. She received her Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from the Bren School at UCSB and a Bachelor of Science degree in Aquatic Biology, also from UCSB. 

Contact: scarborough[at]




Geoff Willard, Deputy Director of SNAPP

Geoff Willard is the Deputy Director of the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), an initiative linking NCEAS with The Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society. SNAPP projects leverage NCEAS' strengths as a synthesis center to investigate and help solve the most challenging problems at the intersection of nature conservation and human well-being.  More>

Contact: willard[at]


Marty Downs, Deputy Director, LTER Network Communications Office

Martha (Marty) Downs is the lead Communications Officer for the Long Term Ecological Research Network Communications Office (LTER NCO), based at NCEAS. The NSF-funded LTER Network includes 25 sites and engages thousands of researchers and students to study ecological processes operating on long time scales and large spatial scales. Marty joined the newly-created NCO in 2016 to enhance awareness and understanding of LTER research within the LTER community and across diverse constituencies and stakeholders.  More>

Contact: downs[at]



Matt Jones, Director of Informatics Research and Development

Matthew Jones is Director of Informatics Research and Development at NCEAS. His research interests focus on environmental informatics, including the management, integration, analysis, and modeling of heterogeneous environmental data. His projects have produced effective new techniques for information management and analysis, including metadata standards, data management software, and data analysis software such as scientific workflow systems.  More>

Contact: jones[at]




Amber Budden, Director of Learning and Outreach

Amber Budden is Director of Learning and Outreach where she leads the NCEAS Learning Hub and short course activities. Dr Budden also serves as Director for Community Engagement and Outreach at DataONE, an NSF funded cyberinfrastructure project supporting Earth and environmental scientists, is part of the Make Data Count team, co-PI of the Permafrost Discovery Gateway and co-PI of the Arctic Data Center. Dr Budden is an open science facilitator, community manager and data literacy trainer supporting the community in open science learning and practices; promoting transparency and credit around data sharing; and enabling researchers to easily document, deposit and access research data. More>

Contact: aebudden[at]


Julia Niessen, NCEAS Business Officer

Julia Niessen is the NCEAS Business Officer. She joined the team at a pivotal time and has been instrumental in transitioning the organization over to be an independent research and grants unit at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is responsible for all the financial, facilities, and administrative functions of the Center. Prior to joining NCEAS, Julia was a financial analyst for twelve years with the world renowned Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara.  More>

Contact: niessen[at]