Ecological drought in the 21st century [Wed. June 29]

Drought is often defined in meteorological, agricultural, hydrological, and socioeconomic terms, but recent hot, dry conditions worldwide and associated impacts to ecosystems, call for expanded consideration and a clear definition of ecological drought. The need to define ecological drought and include it in drought planning and mitigation efforts is a pressing concern because hotter ‘global change-type droughts’, multi-decadal ‘mega-droughts’, and human alterations of climatological, hydrological, and ecological processes increase ecosystem vulnerabilities and threaten human communities that depend on healthy, functioning ecosystems for critical services. Our working group is attempting to establish this much needed definition of ecological drought offer a “call to action” to operationalize ecological drought in the 21st century.
Shelley Crausbay
Post-doctoral Researcher, SNAPP Ecological Drought Working Group
North Central Climate Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Fort Collins, CO
Aaron Ramirez
Post-doctoral Researcher, SNAPP Ecological Drought Working Group
Northwest Climate Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Corvallis, OR

Journalists’ insights into Science Communication with the Media [Wed. June 22]

Worried about getting on the phone with a journalist to talk about your research? Or–worse–that nobody will care enough to call? We’ll set you straight! In this talk, an editor and a writer offer insider tips on how to communicate science to the media. We’ll cover what makes research interesting to the media, how to prepare for an interview with a journalist, and how to best ensure your interviewer understands and writes about your research accurately. We’ll also talk about how to get your research in front of reporters’ eyes and how to maintain relationships with reporters. Anything else you’ve been dying to ask a journalist? We love questions, so there will be plenty of time for a Q&A.

Pacific Standard is a national magazine and website ( based in Santa Barbara. (We’re right on Garden and De La Guerra!) We cover research-based solutions to issues of social, environmental, economic, and educational justice. Nick Jackson is Pacific Standard’s editor-in-chief. He previously worked as the digital editorial director at Outside magazine and as an associate editor at the Atlantic, where he launched‘s health and technology channel. Francie Diep is a staff writer with Pacific Standard. She has a master’s in science journalism and previously worked as a contributing writer with Popular Science.

You can join remotely from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Or dial in using your phone.
United States : +1 (408) 650-3123

Access Code: 653-578-053


Nick Jackson (left) or @nbj914 on Twitter

Francie Diep (right) or @franciediep on Twitter

An evolving vision for the next generation of NCEAS [Wed. June 15]

As I am about to step into the role of Director at NCEAS, I wanted to share my ideas, plans, and vision for where I’d like to take NCEAS in the next few years as well as get your feedback and ideas. I’ll give a short, informal presentation and then open things up to discussion.

Please join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
You can also dial in using your phone.
United States : +1 (408) 650-3123
Access Code: 256-304-101


Benjamin S. Halpern


Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management
UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA 93106

Deputy Director, Nat’l. Center for Ecol. Anal. & Synth. (NCEAS)
735 State St., Suite 300, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Chair in Marine Conservation, Imperial College London

Director, Center for Marine Assessment and Planning (CMAP)

Senior Fellow, UN Envir. Prog.- World Conserv. Monitor. Cent. (UNEP-WCMC)

Model-based assessment to inform ecology education & communication [Wed. June 8]

As children, we often make sense of nature and the world around us by relying on naive mental models, and all too often, these naive mental models are never corrected, exhibiting themselves as persistent scientific misconceptions: animals adapt to their surroundings so they can survive; plants get their food from the soil; removing a species from a food web affects only the species immediately above and below it in the web; humans have caused the majority of extinctions on Earth.

Science educators who recognize student misconceptions about fundamental scientific concepts can lead students to greater educational gains; science communicators who understand public misconceptions can lead their audience to deeper understanding of scientific issues.  Physics education research has long leveraged the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), a model-based assessment of student understanding of classical Newtonian mechanics.  The FCI has become a valuable tool for physics education, providing researchers with data to improve physics pedagogy and curricula.  Since the development of the FCI two decades ago, other concept inventories have been designed to inform chemistry, physical science, and biology curricula as well.

In this talk, I propose the development of a Ecosystem Concept Inventory to examine how students, and the general public, understand fundamental models of ecology.  I will make an argument for model-centered ecology education and how an Ecosystem Concept Inventory is a critical first step.  I will lay out a series of simple models that I believe provide the fundamental structure for a scientifically literate understanding of ecology, and ask the audience for input and insights into developing a model-based assessment to inform ecology education and communication.


Casey O’Hara
Project Scientist, Ocean Health Index
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis
735 State Street, Suite 300, Santa Barbara  CA  93101

Enhancing Conservation Outcomes and Improving Rangeland Monitoring Efficiency with RDMapper [Wed. June 1]

RDMapper is a web-based application that allows rangeland forage production to be tracked bi-weekly using remotely sensed MODIS vegetation indices. Combining these data with monthly precipitation data and annual on-the-ground monitoring records, RDMapper provides statistical and graphical information and context that supports predictions of end-of-season residual dry matter (RDM). RDM is a landscape-scale metric that has been shown to be a good predictor of rangeland productivity and overall rangeland condition, and is used by grazing managers to monitor grazing impacts, and by land trusts and agencies for conservation easement compliance monitoring. RDMapper can help reduce grazing-related compliance issues and potential conflict between landowners and easement holders, strengthening the overall relationship with cooperating landowners and leading to greater protection of biodiversity values. We developed RDMapper using software written in the R programming language, including the Shiny package. In 2015, we predicted compliance with RDM objectives across approximately 44,000 hectares of conservation easement lands held by The Nature Conservancy in California. We based predictions on past RDM compliance and our interpretation of statistics and graphics that demonstrate differences in vegetation indices and precipitation characteristics for years that were in versus out of compliance with RDM objectives. We tested a framework for adding efficiency to field-based RDM monitoring in future years by evaluating pastures that we had a high confidence would be in RDM compliance in 2015. For these pastures, our prediction of ‘in compliance with high confidence’ was correct on 109 of 110 pastures. We propose that in future years, pastures we are confident will be in compliance can be monitored with a simple visual estimate of RDM, instead of more expensive field methods. We are currently testing RDMapper at additional properties and have transitioned it to a more powerful data processing framework based on MODIS and PRISM web services and Google’s Earth Engine. 

Scott Butterfield
Senior Scientist
The Nature Conservancy


Introduction to Marxan (hands on tutorial) [Wed. May 25]

Systematic conservation planning is the science of understanding which conservation interventions to enact, and when and where to do them given limited conservation budgets and the diverging needs of different stakeholders. This approach is fundamental to modern evidence-based conservation. In this workshop we’ll learn about the fundamental principles of systematic conservation planning, and discuss some examples of where it has been applied. This will be concreted with some simple tutorials using Marxan.


Claire Runge
twitter: @Claire_Runge

Challenges of scale when examining plant-interactions in arid ecosystems: micro, local, & regional [Wed. May 18]

In high stress environments, such as deserts, positive interactions among plants maintain biodiversity and productivity.  However, the role and mechanism of these positive interactions changes depending on the context of spatial scale.
I will discuss how positive plant-interactions in deserts change at the micro, local, and regional scale.  I also discuss the challenges associated with examining plant interactions at different spatial scales as a researcher, such as sampling techniques, community structure, and interacting factors.
Typically studies examining positive plant-interactions focus on local gradients, thereby neglecting micro or regional scales.  All spatial scales share similarities in that each have gradients that modifies the mechanism, magnitude, and direction of plant interactions.  Drawing parallels among different spatial scales and considering all three simultaneously as a response surface can provide a better understanding of positive interactions.  This can assist conservation biologist and restoration ecologists make better informed decisions when managing desert ecosystems in support of global biodiversity.

Alex Filazzola
PhD Student
York University
Toronto, Canada


Industrial Ecology: Material flows at the nature-industry boundary [Wed. May 11]

Achieving a sustainable industrial economic system is the defining challenge of our age, one that requires understanding both of human-made systems that generate stresses on the environment and of the natural systems that absorb them.   Industrial ecology (IE) is a synthesis field that seeks to understand the sustainability implications of decisions made in the context of human systems (businesses, households, public agencies).  The main organizing principle in IE research is the boundary that separates the natural environment from the domain of human activity (aka the “technosphere”).  Though natural systems are necessarily spatial, human systems are often more readily thought of as graphs, where different activities happen at distinct points in order to satisfy demand for products and services in the economy.

I will introduce the core methodologies of IE, material flow analysis and life cycle assessment, describe data collection and analysis in comparison to the natural sciences, and discuss how the operational concerns of businesses influence how IE investigations are designed and how knowledge is shared.




Brandon Kuczenski, Ph.D.
Assistant Researcher
University of California at Santa Barbara
Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Environmental Research
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5131



YouTube: not just for cat videos! Simple ways to create online videos that connect people to your science [Wed. May 4]

It is more important than ever to use video to communicate your science. After all, watching videos is one of the main ways – maybe the primary way – that people use the Internet. Scientists often assume that video is just for outreach, but it can also be used to further your research. But how do you create those videos? After all,
video production can be very equipment intensive (read expensive) and time consuming. Making things even more difficult, video production is not part of scientists’ training. However, advances in technology mean that creating compelling video can be done in less time and at much lower cost than before. This talk will focus on the techniques that
scientists can use to easily produce their own videos to further their science and for outreach.


Jai Ranganathan

Center Associate

National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Translating values over time/space: A continuum approach to reading records and data [Wed. April 27th]

The professional work of data and records creation occurs within a specific context that is bounded by a number of factors. These factors contribute to the shape, form, and other aspects of the data. This discussion will talk about translating and reading co-created data from a particular community of practice, and then turn to a broader conversation about evaluating the context of records.


Heather Soyka
Postdoctoral Research Fellow at DataONE
Santa Barbara, CA 93101