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]



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, NCEAS Fellow

Amber Budden is the Director for Community Engagement and Outreach at DataONE, an NSF funded cyberinfrastructure project supporting Earth and environmental scientists in their data management, preservation, search and discovery needs. She is also an NCEAS Senior Fellow and resident of the NCEAS community. Amber joined NCEAS as a postdoc in 2007 conducting research into publication practices and open access before taking her position with DataONE in 2010. An advocate for open and transparent science, it was a natural extension to become involved in open data and in her role at DataONE she both supports the community using DataONE tools and services and conducts training and outreach activities in best practices or data management.  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]