Broadening Horizons through Environmental Data Science

A letter from the Director

Executive Director Ben Halpern offers a message for the new year, highlighting the growing importance of environmental data science for making a difference in people's lives and how NCEAS is advancing this emerging discipline.      



Putting tipping points science into practice

The detrimental consequences of tipping points in ocean systems, such as the collapse of a New England lobster fishery in the 1990s, are well known, but they can sometimes be difficult to anticipate, identify and, thus, manage. To help ocean managers better deal with this challenge, the Ocean Tipping Points (OTP) project recently held a three-day workshop on its namesake concept as an effort to bridge science and management.

This workshop was a culminating event for the five-year, multi-partner project, which was co-led by NCEAS and focused on understanding tipping points in oceans and infusing that science into ocean management. Here is a spotlight on a couple of the insights gained at the workshop.   



Figure for thought: How translational ecology can help science make a difference

How can we link ecological knowledge and decision-making more effectively? A recent paper from an NCEAS working group explores translational ecology, an emerging approach that has promise for helping science influence environmental conservation and management decisions.   



A search and rescue team for salmon data

A simple hook and line can be all one needs to catch salmon, but fishing for data about salmon is often more complicated. With a multitude of organizations collecting data all around the world, typically following differing protocols, the result can be a sea of data obstructed by a tangled mess of mismatched standards and different collection methods.

Fortunately there is an army of data scientists now focused on gathering, disentangling, and aligning data for other researchers called the Data Task Force. An NCEAS initiative launched in 2015 and funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Data Task Force rose from the realization that data collection, standardization, and management are often major constraints for big-data projects and can slow down researchers’ ability to produce results.



Sixth annual assessment of ocean health shows relative stability

The Ocean Health Index announced its sixth annual global assessment score – a 70 out of a possible 100 – at the 19th annual Global Environment Facility Large Marine Ecosystem meeting on November 30 in Cape Town, South Africa. While the 2017 score remains the same from 2016, it is roughly one point less than the global scores from 2012 through 2015.

Despite the relative global stability, more individual countries have experienced a decline in regional ocean health since the first assessment in 2012 than those seeing improvement.



Steven Chong

Rachel Sun

NCEAS Portraits: Craig Groves wrote the book on bridging conservation science and practice

Craig Groves is a bridge builder. His first book, Drafting a Conservation Blueprint, connects the science and practice of protecting biodiversity, and he was the first executive director of the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP), which bridges nature conservation, sustainable development and human welfare.

This fall, Groves hung up his hat on his 33-year career and, rather than building one, he crossed a bridge to the next adventure, retirement. We asked him to reflect on his career in this month’s NCEAS Portrait.



Figure for Thought: A “Glocal” approach to bridging human well-being and sustainability

What happens if a community has a different definition of well-being than what is assumed by external investigators and managers? A recent study by the Assessing Biocultural Indicators SNAPP working group and their associates addresses the importance of approaching sustainability challenges in a way that is responsible, effective, and ethical for all involved parties.



Rushiraj Nenuji


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