NCEAS News and Announcements

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November 7, 2014

Understanding how humans value and use ecosystems from a cultural aspect is vital for efforts to make social-ecological systems sustainable. Human preferences and values are nonmaterial and accordingly they are difficult to characterize for ecosystem management. Emerging techniques eliciting qualitative and quantitative data provide feasible means of deepening understanding of the nonmaterial dimensions of complex human-ecosystem relationships.

The NCEAS Working Group, Cultural ecosystem services from marine and coastal systems: Counting the intangibles, has produced three new research projects that provide a framework for employing quantitative and—where necessary—qualitative methods to explicitly consider cultural values in ecosystem planning. More>


November 4, 2014

The debate over fuel-reduction techniques is only a small part of a much larger fire problem that makes society increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic losses. An international review, led by Max Moritz, a specialist in fire at UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources and a NCEAS Associate, calls for changes in our fundamental approach to wildfire: from fighting fire to coexisting with fire as a natural process. The findings appear today the journal Nature.

“We don’t try to ‘fight’ earthquakes — we anticipate them in the way we plan communities, build buildings and prepare for emergencies,” said lead author Moritz. “We don’t think that way about fire, but our review indicates that we should...."  More>


October 30, 2014

The NCEAS Environment and Organisms Working Group has assembled a state-of-the-art set of environmental layers that incorporate well-known but rarely used measures that have direct links to physiological processes into a unified, global, high-resolution dataset for land-cover. Additionally, the team has identified best practices for generating fine-grained air temperature datasets at 1-km scale. The results of this Working Group have recently appeared in two peer-reviewed publications. More>

October 27, 2014

Human facilitated movement of pathogens, broad-scale landscape changes, and perturbations to ecological systems are just a few of the reasons that emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are increasing. The impacts of infectious diseases in wild populations are not restricted to wild animals and plants and have the potential to threaten public health. A NCEAS Working Group looked at previously developed infectious disease models to determine if they were sufficient explaining the large impacts that recently emerging fungal diseases or if other unique features of fungal diseases are contributing to their impacts. More>

October 23, 2014

The availability of nutrients in our environment is being modified by humans including a doubling of nitrogen (N) inputs and a quadrupling of phosphorus (P) inputs relative to pre-industrial levels. The NCEAS Working Group "Comparing trophic structure across ecosystems" conducted a meta-analysis of 118 field and laboratory experiments in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems to better understand how nutrients, independently or in combination, influence the growth of primary producers. The findings of their analysis were recently published in Oikos. More >

October 21, 2014

medium_Oil Well.jpg       To Frack or Not to Frack?

The SNAP Hydraulic Fracturing Working Group is developing better science to inform policy and management practices with regards to the potential effects of water withdrawals and chemical contamination associated with hydraulic fracturing. This interdisciplinary group of ecologists, hydrologists and legal experts is synthesizing fine-scale information from the 48 contiguous states and reviewing existing water use and waste management plans. More>

October 13, 2014

To help meet the challenges of geoscience research in an age of Big Data, NSF has recently awarded UCSB’s NCEAS and partner organizations an EarthCube Building Block grant, GeoLink. GeoLink will advance the use of techniques in Linked Open Data and the Semantic Web to help confederate disparate earth science data resources, focused initially on oceanographic information archived in several major national data repositories. More>

October 8, 2014

     Meeting the needs for open, persistent, robust and accessible Earth observation data

DataONE: the Data Observation Network for Earth ( is a distributed cyberinfrastructure, that has dramatically increased the discoverability and accessibility of diverse Earth and environmental science data. Founded in 2009 by the National Science Foundation, DataONE has recently been awarded an additional $15 million from NSF as part of an accomplishment based renewal. NCEAS's Matt Jones, Director of informatics Research and Development, and Mark Schildhauer, Director of Computing, have been contributing to the DataONE Leadership Team since its inception. NCEAS's KNB Data Repository is a key Coordinating Node of DataONE. Jones will continue as a Co-PI on DataONE in Phase II. More>



October 1, 2014

Contrary to the popular research-based assumption that our world's coral reefs are "doomed," a new longitudinal study from NCEAS paints a brighter picture of how corals will fair in the future. While there will be winners and losers among coral species with increasing natural and anthropogenic stressors, experts now believe a subset of the present coral fauna will likely populate the world's oceans as water temperatures continue to rise, at least over the next century. The results were published today in PLOS ONE. More>


September 30, 2014

SNAP: Science for People and Nature announces the addition of four new Working Groups to its growing portfolio of solution-oriented scientific inquiries – from exploring how video games could overturn entrenched perceptions about climate change to using evidence-based conservation to make the right decisions for people and nature. The four new working groups are:



September 29, 2014

First assessments for Antarctica, Southern Ocean and the High Seas Ocean

Most comprehensive Ocean Health score – Global Oceans score of 67 out of 100

The third annual update from the Ocean Health Index, a partnership led by scientists from UC Santa Barbara's NCEAS and Conservation International, is the first to include scores for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean (72 out of 100*) and the 15 ocean regions beyond national jurisdiction (67 out of 100 for the high seas areas). Together with the 220 Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) measured in 2012 and 2013, the Index now measures all of the oceans on planet Earth. More>


September 26, 2014

Understanding the causes of species richness across the latitudinal gradient is still elusive. The Botanical Information and Ecology Network (BIEN) Working Group at NCEAS compared a range of ecological theories for explaining biodiversity, such as neutral dynamics, competitive exclusion, and environmental filtering, for how well these predict functional diversity at varying scales. They found that patterns of functional trait diversity are not consistent with any one theory of biodiversity. These conflicting results indicate that no single biodiversity theory considered alone is able to explain the latitudinal gradient of species diversity in terms of functional trait space. The findings of this analysis recently appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). More>


September 15, 2014

A quarter of a century after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in the Gulf of Alaska, NCEAS collaborated with investigators from Gulf Watch Alaska and the Herring Research and Monitoring program to gather all the data collected on the ecological ramifications of the spill overtime. Now, two new NCEAS Working Groups have been selected to use this collated data to conduct long-term synthesis analyzes of the region to gain new insights on the impacts oil has on biological diversity, ecosystems, human communities, and their ability to recover. More>> 




September 13, 2014

Following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in 1989, the oil-impacted areas of the Gulf of Alaska have been extensively monitored to examine impacts of the spill on the ecosystem and to assess and promote recovery of impacted species. NCEAS has collaborated with investigators from Gulf Watch Alaska and the Herring Research and Monitoring program to collate historical data from a quarter century of monitoring studies on physical and biological systems impacted by the spill


NCEAS now seeks a Postdoctoral Associate to conduct synthesis research for the Gulf of Alaska while in residence at NCEAS for two years starting Fall/Winter 2014. Successful candidates will utilize data gathered by NCEAS, along with other existing information, to conduct and publish holistic synthesis and analyses of driving processes and perturbations within complex ecosystem of the Gulf of Alaska. Postdoctoral Associates will pursue their own independent synthesis of the available Gulf of Alaska data while also collaborating with two Gulf of Alaska long-term synthesis Working Groups. Applications are due by October 1, 2014. More>


September 10, 2014

From September 2 to 4, more than 70 scientists from all over the world gathered in Santa Barbara for the first-ever Open Science Codefest. OSCodefest brought together computer programmers and environmental scientists who typically work in isolation to collaborate, problem solve, code, and share skills. This conference was organized to stimulate productivity and community building, while providing ample opportunities for collaborative coding and design sessions. By the conclusion of the meeting, over 20 breakout sessions had been completed, and these new collaborations for skill-sharing and product generation will continue long beyond OSCodefest. More>


August 1, 2014

Corals species respond differently to disturbances in terms of growth and recovery rate. Based on the results of a NCEAS Working Group, scientists now know that corals reduce each others’ abundance in good times, and in tougher times with more disturbance, they can help each other persist by reducing the chance that algae takes over a coral reef. The results were published in The American Naturalist. More> 


July 31, 2014

NCEAS seeks a Scientific Programmer/Analyst (Computer and Network Technologist III) to consult with and advise NCEAS researchers on efficient, appropriate, and powerful computational and informatics approaches for advancing scientific investigations. The Scientific Programmer/Analyst will develop, test, and support analyses and informatics products using best-of-class and open-science inspired technologies. The ideal candidate will give formal instruction, as well as ad hoc assistance in the use of these cutting edge solutions. The Scientific Programmer/Analyst works with NCEAS developers and cyber-infrastructure collaborators to optimize interoperability and long-term sustainability of these codebases and datasets as generalized resources for ecological and conservation science researchers. More>



July 29, 2014

Photo by Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA.

NCEAS researchers are seeking citizen scientists to track giant kelp, without having to get all wet!
A NCEAS Working Group trying to answer the question, “Is climate change is having an impact on giant kelp forests and the marine ecosystems it supports?” painstakingly collected 30 years of NASA Landsat images of kelp canopies floating on the ocean’s surface. While these images could tell the scientists a lot about how kelp forests have fared through the last three decades, it turns out that computers are not able to reliably read the images to distinguish kelp from sea foam. More>


July 29, 2014

Plastic pollution is a growing concern shared by scientists and people across the world. Within the last few years, ecological and environmental researchers are shifting their concern toward a plastic-related problem that cannot be easily seen by the human eye. Researchers from the NCEAS’ Working Group “Marine debris: Scale and impact of trash in ocean ecosystems” offer their perspective on microplastics in the ocean published in Science. More>
July 21, 2014

In the spirit of collaboration and commitment to advancing scientific knowledge, NCEAS invites environmental scientists and computer programmers to come together and participate in the first Open Science Codefest, September 2-4, 2014, in beautiful Santa Barbara, California! Inspired by hack-a-thons and organized in the participant-driven, “unconference” style, the Open Science Codefest is for anyone with an interesting problem, solution, or idea that intersects environmental science and computer programming. This is the conference where you will actually get stuff done. Registration is free, register nowMore>




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