NCEAS News and Announcements

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November 1, 2017

Definitions of drought have tended to focus primarily on its effects as a meteorological condition and through a human-centric lens – for example, reduced water levels, crop stress or failure, and socioeconomic impacts. What these definitions ignore are the high costs of drought on nature and how those costs, in turn, affect human communities.

Recently, a team of researchers from the NCEAS collaborative initiative Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) developed a new definition, dubbed ecological drought, that provides a more holistic view. By integrating drought’s ecological, climatic, hydrological, socioeconomic and cultural dimensions, this conceptual framework may help decision-makers better prevent and respond to drought impacts.



October 30, 2017

Amid growing interest in leveraging nature-based solutions to mitigate the intensities of climate change, an alliance of ecologists, engineers and insurance experts has endeavored to determine the true (dollar) value of coastal habitats as natural defenses and to translate that value into risk-reduction incentives for conservation or restoration efforts.

By linking the unique knowledge and resources of these otherwise disconnected sectors, they are creating a win-win-win for insurance companies, communities and nature.



October 26, 2017

The idea of Planetary Boundaries has had remarkable influence on how scientists and policymakers think about the earth’s capacity to support humanity. Yet, the framework largely ignores something that covers two-thirds of the planet – our oceans. 

According to a new paper, published October 24th in Nature Ecology and Evolution, the near absence of oceans from the framework, which focuses primarily on land-based systems, is a major oversight that limits our understanding of the planet’s actual boundaries and the framework’s usefulness for policy.



October 25, 2017

Like many early career scientists who come to NCEAS, Skylar Hopkins began her scientific journey as a “muddy boots ecologist.” Unlike many others, her initial career aspirations were not in science, but in history and elementary education.

An avid caver, an experience she likens to being an astronaut, and blogger about parasites, Hopkins is one of the newer faces at NCEAS who brings a perspective that surely adds to the diversity of people who make up our community. 



October 19, 2017

A recent paper published in Biological Conservation provides a conceptual framework for how aquaculture could be leveraged to help conserve species and ecosystems, underscoring its potentially significant role in achieving conservation objectives across the globe.



October 11, 2017

Henry L. Gholz, of Fort Collins, CO, died rock climbing in Colorado on September 30, 2017.

Henry Gholz’s passing is a tragic loss for ecology. Henry was a prominent ecosystem scientist who also had a stellar career in research administration and leadership. As a National Science Foundation (NSF) Program Director in Ecosystems Studies, he helped to shape ecological science in lasting ways. His visionary and outstanding guidance of interdisciplinary teams in NSF’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program became an international model for ecological research. His oversight of NCEAS, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, allowed ecological research to flourish in new ways, helping to make NCEAS an exemplar for ecological synthesis all over the world.



September 29, 2017

NCEAS has been on the frontlines of the open data movement, supporting the creation of tools to enable researchers, practitioners and decision-makers to locate, analyze and repeat.

Here’s a brief look at tools that have emerged from our work - and from the challenges of working with big data, as experienced by our own researchers.



September 28, 2017

Hopefully, you aren’t thinking spam. For the real answer, a new paper in the journal Fish and Fisheries found correlations between a rise in multi-author publications and the rise of email, the Internet, and NCEAS.

In other words, there is something to email and the working group model that facilitated broader collaborations among scientists, which may also contribute to citation rates.



September 26, 2017

When artist Elkpen began her work on a mural to cover an oddly shaped wall and adjacent pillar in the NCEAS lounge, she had over 50 pages of vignettes and illustrations about the ideas behind the Center to guide her. At completion in September, her chalky white drawings upon a chalkboard-like wall convey an intricate and whimsical interpretation of how NCEAS works to advance science, build community and shape our world.

Elkpen, whose pen name does have a story behind it, is a Los Angeles-based street artist whose wall drawings and “public intervention” projects can be found throughout southern California and scattered beyond the Golden State. Her mural at AVA Santa Barbara, a wine-tasting room, was what inspired NCEAS executive director Ben Halpern to approach her about livening up our lounge, a central space with many uses and lots of traffic.



September 20, 2017

NCEAS director, Ben Halpern, is among the newest group of distinguished scientists to become a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, a prestigious honor in recognition of notable contributions to science. Halpern joins over 400 other prominent scientists, including Sylvia Earle, Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Peter Raven, and Jill Tarter.

“The California Academy of Sciences has strong history exploring life on earth and communicating about science's role in understanding the planet,” said Halpern. “As a Fellow I will have an opportunity to play a role in that mission.”



September 18, 2017

For people who make a living by harvesting natural resources, income volatility is a persistent threat – crops could fail, fisheries could collapse and forests could burn. But for individuals who fish for a living, whose income can be among the most volatile, there may be a way to more stability: fishing for multiple species, instead of just one.

In a study published September 18th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a team of scientists from the University of Washington, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has shown that people who purchased multiple fishing permits and diversified the types of species they catch had much less income variability than people who specialized in just one species or obtained a single type of permit.



August 31, 2017

Smart decisions about natural resource management typically include two things: collaboration between diverse perspectives and data from various scientific sources. These are the bread and butter of NCEAS, as well as of two scientists we recently welcomed to our community: Will McClintock and Grace Goldberg.

In August McClintock and Goldberg migrated from the UCSB’s Marine Science Institute (MSI) to NCEAS to join us as a Senior Fellow and a Specialist, respectively. While maintaining their MSI affiliations, as formal members of the NCEAS community they will be able to enhance and amplify their work in the development and implementation of innovative software that facilitates collaborative, data-driven decision-making for managing oceans sustainably.



August 30, 2017

This 3-day, hands-on workshop will help resource managers and scientists understand and apply a suite of cutting-edge scientific tools and methods to support effective management decisions related to ecological regime shifts, fisheries collapse and other types of dramatic ecological change in the ocean. It will be taught by an interdisciplinary team of scientists and law/policy experts with experience developing and applying these methods.



August 24, 2017


An international team of scientists investigating the effects of six planned or potential Andean dams on the Amazon river system has found that major negative ecological impacts can be expected both above the dams and throughout the lowland floodplains and the Amazon Delta. The authors warn that, if not well planned, the construction of these dams and other infrastructure development in the Andes headwaters could have catastrophic effects across the entire Amazon River basin and threaten the food security of millions of people.

The study, entitled “The potential impact of new Andean dams on the Amazon fluvial ecosystem,” was published on August 23rd in PLOS ONE and conducted by the Amazon Waters Initiative, an offshoot of the former Amazon Waters working group supported by the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), one of NCEAS’ collaborative initiatives.



August 10, 2017

Covering 70 percent of Earth’s surface, the world’s oceans are vast and deep. So vast, in fact, that nearly every coastal country has the potential to meet its own domestic seafood needs through aquaculture, and each country could do so using a tiny fraction of its ocean territory.

So finds a study from the Science for Nature and People Partnership's (SNAPP) Sustainable Aquaculture working group, led by scientists from UC Santa Barbara and including researchers from the Nature Conservancy, UCLA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their research, published August 14th in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, demonstrates the oceans’ potential to support aquaculture. Also known as fish farming, the practice is the fastest-growing food sector and poised to address increasing issues of food insecurity around the globe.



July 28, 2017

Colandr Aids Practitioners and Policymakers in Making Faster, More Timely Science-Based Decisions

Determining the best course of action for protecting an ecosystem and the human livelihoods dependent on it is no quick and easy process, despite the urgency often felt around it. It can take months, even years of sifting through piles of studies to track down the evidence needed to make the right decision – until now.

Researchers from the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), in partnership with Conservation International and DataKind, recently launched Colandr, an open-access machine learning application that allows for faster sifting and winnowing of scientific data to help conservation practitioners and policymakers find the evidence they need to make science-based decisions more quickly than ever before.



July 20, 2017

Through small shifts in human pressure or environmental conditions, tipping points bring about large, sometimes abrupt changes in a natural system. From collapsed fisheries and coastal dead zones, to melting sea ice and dying coral reefs, the detrimental consequences of tipping points are well known, yet practical tools for coping with them have been limited.

To address this challenge, researchers from the Ocean Tipping Points project recently launched a new online portal that provides concrete analytical tools and resources to help ocean managers predict, prevent and even recover from tipping points and keep ecosystems healthy and resilient.



July 19, 2017


It is with deep sadness that we announce Brad McRae, a former NCEAS post-doc and dear friend to many, passed away last week from stomach cancer. He is survived by his wife and two children, ages 2 and 4. This is a significant loss to the NCEAS community and the scientific community as a whole.



July 10, 2017

Part of the NCEAS mission is to catalyze scientific collaborations that go beyond its working groups. This week, we welcome the newest research offshoot: the Conservation Aquaculture Research Team, or CART, which emerged from the Sustainable Open-Ocean Aquaculture Working Group of the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP).

“We see CART’s primary mission as bridging the scientific gap in understanding between aquaculture, climate change and larger food systems to inform policy and help align seafood production with conservation objectives,” says co-founder Halley Froehlich, who was formerly a postdoctoral researcher for the working group.



July 5, 2017

For perhaps the first time ever, the world’s oceans have a health record, and we’re getting some clues as to what might be underlying its symptoms of improvement or decline.

A study by a team of researchers from NCEAS and Conservation International synthesized five years’ worth of vital signs on a host of indicators – ranging from water quality to food provision to tourism potential – and found that while overall ocean health appears to be stable, the oceans around many of the 220 countries analyzed are changing, and in many cases not for the better. Their results are published in PLOS ONE.





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