NCEAS News and Announcements

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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.




June 29, 2017

If you haven't met Mark Schildhauer, you're truly missing out. Mark joined NCEAS as its fourth employee and has been NCEAS' Director of Computing ever since. When he started, there was a lot of skepticism around NCEAS' core mission, but that skepticism was dispelled as NCEAS changed the culture of science. Before Mark heads out, we wanted to share some of his reflections on his time at NCEAS and how the center has evolved.




June 23, 2017

As the climate changes, there is a growing need to understand how climate variability will affect threatened and endangered species. Wild primate populations may have a low capacity to adapt to climate change due to their highly fragmented ecosystems and limited ability to shift their geographic distribution. To understand which primate species may be most impacted by climate variability, researchers with the SNAPP Primate Life Histories working group studied seven wild populations in the tropics. Their new paper, published recently in Global Change Biology, provides a quantitative basis for predicting how climate change might impact the survival and fertility rates of these primate populations over the long-term.



June 22, 2017

In a recent commentary piece in Applied Vegetation Science, NCEAS Senior Fellow Chris Lortie explores the use of plant facilitation - positive interactions between plants - through the lens of the “Fix-it Felix” effect. Fix-it Felix is a fictional character in the movie "Wreck it Ralph" who can only fix things, no matter the context. So does plant facilitation always promote better outcomes no matter the context, so are there gradients, contexts, or both positive and negative interactions that mediate the restoration outcome?



June 20, 2017

Freshwater ecosystems in tropical oceanic islands are highly vulnerable to species loss from human disturbances, such as deforestation and introduced exotic species. A key challenge for designing appropriate species conservation measures is measuring the impact of multiple disturbances. Most conservation measures group species by taxonomic ranking to predict their response to disturbances. But, in a recent study in Freshwater Biology, scientists with the SNAPP Ridges to Reef Fisheries working group propose a better predictor is grouping species by similar functional traits, such as habitat preference and diet.



June 15, 2017

Leaders from synthesis science centers across the globe, including NCEAS’ own Ben Halpern and Frank Davis, published a piece in Bioscience highlighting the critical role these centers play in advancing scientific research and the need for long-term federal funding to sustain their value.



June 5, 2017

Groundfish are an ecologically and economically important part of the marine ecosystem in the Gulf of Alaska. However, there is still uncertainty surrounding the long-term impacts of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill on this community of fish. To address this gap, the Gulf of Alaska Portfolio Effects working group analyzed 31 years of fisheries surveys to examine the oil spill's consequences. Their findings were published in a recent article in ICES Journal of Marine Science. More>


June 1, 2017

How can we ensure access to clean water under the pressures of a growing population and changing climate conditions? Increasing water infrastructure is one possible method, but the SNAPP Water Security working group proposes that it would be more effective and less costly to secure clean water supplies through protecting and restoring ecosystems. Their publication in Environmental Science & Policy explores the potential for the growing trend of investments in watershed services (IWS) to address the universal concern of securing clean water. More>


May 25, 2017

Aquaculture continues to exceed traditional capture fisheries in meeting the global seafood demand, spurring more and more investigations into how the field can be optimized to its full potential. The SNAPP Open-Ocean Aquaculture working group recently completed a study in Frontiers that helps to answer one very important question about offshore aquaculture: what exactly is it? More>


May 24, 2017

Now more than ever, science demands reproducibility, collaboration, and effective communication. Since environmental scientists use vast amounts of data spanning multiple disciplines, they face unique challenges in achieving goals of transparency and reproducibility. In a recent Nature Ecology & Evolution publication, the Ocean Health Index (OHI) team shares their challenges in reproducibility and the path they took to achieve a more transparent and streamlined workflow, resulting in better science in less time. More>


May 23, 2017


NCEAS is founded upon open science principles and is committed to advancing data science methods. Thus as a primary partner of DataONE, NCEAS is excited to announce that DataONE, the California Digital Library, and DataCite received a 2-year, $747K grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. This grant will support the collection of usage and citation metrics for data objects, and launch a new service that collates and shares these metrics. More>


May 11, 2017

One of the most substantial hurdles to developing a comprehensive conservation framework is ensuring that all direct and indirect variables with the potential to affect conservation targets are accounted for. The latest study released by the SNAPP Ridges to Reef Fisheries working group reinforces the significance of incorporating these factors into management plans by identifying the link between a land-based human activity and marine conservation efforts. Their publication in Biological Conservation addresses how logging activities in the forests of the Solomon Islands pose a threat to near-shore coral reef habitat. More>


May 8, 2017

To effectively manage and protect species within an ecosystem, it is essential to know where they exist. There are currently two global marine species distribution datasets that contain ranges for nearly 25,000 species: IUCN and Aquamaps. Due to the different methodologies and resulting species distributions between these two databases, the Ocean Health Index Working Group compared species range maps within both datasets to identify differences and possible data limitations. Their findings were published in a recent PLOS ONE publication. More>


May 4, 2017

The complexity of marine ecosystems has long presented a challenge to fisheries management in coastal communities. Recognizing that many fish stocks are on the decline, managers and researchers alike have identified the importance of evaluating the mechanisms that link environmental, ecological, and human systems together. Identifying how these systems interact with each other will allow for a more precise understanding of their collective impact on fish populations. The Gulf of Alaska Dynamics working group set out to produce a comprehensive analysis that attempts to model the varied effects of these complex interactions on focal groundfish species of coastal Alaskan communities. Their publication in the ICES Journal of Marine Science catalogues the multitude of natural and anthropologic complexities that impact fisheries stock. More>


May 3, 2017

Tropical forests dominate global terrestrial carbon exchange, but long-term climate variability might affect their ability to uptake and store carbon dioxide. To better understand tropical forest carbon dynamics, the Tropical Nutrient Limitation Working Group assembled published datasets to determine how temperature and rainfall interact to control carbon cycling in tropical forests. Their results are featured in a recent Ecology Letters publication. More>



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