NCEAS: Advancing Ecology to Improve Lives and the Environment

Established in 1995, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) is a research center of the University of California, Santa Barbara and was the first national synthesis center of its kind.

There is broad acknowledgement that NCEAS has significantly altered the way ecological science is conducted, towards being more collaborative, open, integrative, relevant, and technologically informed. Different from the scientific tradition of solitary lab or fieldwork, NCEAS fosters collaborative synthesis research – assembling interdisciplinary teams to distill existing data, ideas, theories, or methods drawn from many sources, across multiple fields of inquiry, to accelerate the generation of new scientific knowledge at a broad scale.

photo of our building on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, California bathed in early morning lightNCEAS has helped create a large community of scientists from multiple disciplines, eager to collaborate to answer some of the toughest environmental questions facing society. Through collective Working Group projects scientists share data and methods, synthesize vast amounts of information, and discover new insights and understanding to improve lives and the environment. Some examples of the Center’s scientific research include:

  • Science for Nature and People
  • Ecological Effects of Climate Change
  • Ecology of Infectious Disease
  • Marine Ecology and Conservation
  • Ecosystem Services

NCEAS has hosted more than 6000 scientists to date, created innovative new informatic approaches to support data synthesis, and helped build the capacity of the scientific community by providing a range of training opportunities for scientists throughout their careers. The Center has earned a reputation as one of the most productive science institutions in the country and as such, the NCEAS model has since been replicated by many other synthesis centers around the world.

While the NCEAS model has proven to be highly cost-effective, the Center attracts funders and research partners primarily due to its well-known research vitality stemming from the dynamic nature of its community of resident and visiting scientists. The Center’s institutional and disciplinary "neutrality" increases the degree of trust, speeds conflict resolution, and facilitates creativity, allowing participants to share ideas freely in a highly supportive environment that handles the mundane logistical and technical issues. Our environment increases the potential for serendipitous discovery, transdisciplinary skill acquisition, and the generation of collaborative, integrative scientific insights.



NCEAS is building on its strengths and expanding its mission to:

  • Rapidly advance ecological knowledge through analysis and synthesis of existing data to address critical environmental challenges for the benefit of nature and the well-being of people;
  • Provide computing solutions to enable networked scientific collaboration by leveraging NCEAS’ innovation and leadership in informatics;
  • Promote the skills, knowledge and collaborative culture among scientists, policy-makers, and resource managers necessary for transformative research and to speed application. 
photo of scientists working on their laptops in the lounge of our research center

NCEAS Collaboration Center Offers:

  • Facilities designed to create a dedicated, intellectually stimulating, and “neutral” environment, free from outside distractions
  • Exceptional scientific and computational tools, support and training
  • State of the art cyberinfrastructure to support face-to-face and virtual collaborations
  • Connections to a broad community of scientists, institutions, and organizations dealing with similar issues
  • Access to UCSB's large pool of expertise in the ecological and environmental sciences


Funding for NCEAS programs come from a variety of sources including the University of California, Santa Barbara, the National Science Foundation, private foundations, non-government organizations, and other collaborators. NCEAS seeks additional funds from collaborators, agency and corporate partners, and private donors.

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