December 6 – Whats for lunch? A lunchtime exploration of juvenile salmon diets in the Kachemak Bay area

Watershed ecology is all about connections, and one of the most important ways we measure track connections is through the food web.  At KBNERR’s watershed research, we explore how landscapes processes support juvenile salmon in many different parts of the watershed, from headwater streams to estuaries. Those studies often involve learning what the salmon are eating, and this presentation will showcase several examples of what we’ve learned. For this talk, we’re going to take a look at juvenile salmon diets from several different locales. We’ll begin in the ‘headwater stream district’ – the uppermost branches of the watershed. These are very small streams that are very tightly connected to the surrounding landscape. Downstream areas receive flow from upstream sources, but headwaters are the beginning so all of the food in headwaters must be generated from nearby sources.  Next we’ll travel all the way down to the other end of the watershed, where the rivers meet the sea-the estuaries. Here we have the influence of the ocean tides and the freshwater watershed- we’ll call this ‘fusion cuisine’.  We’ll also take a look at imported foods and junk food in in juvenile salmon diets in our area.

Speaker: Coowe Walker

Coowe is the Program Watershed Ecologist and acting Research Coordinator for the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (KBNERR), located in Homer, Alaska. She works collaboratively with colleagues from universities across the US to conduct research that improves understanding of how landscapes are connected with aquatic systems, and how human activities affect those systems.  She has been with KBNERR for 18 years, and enjoys celebrating grant successes with single malt scotch.  She lives with her husband, son, daughter, two dogs, eight chickens, cat and two guinea pigs at the head of Kachemak Bay.

November 29 – Forecasting Population Growth of the Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale in a Changing Environment

The North Atlantic right whale, an endangered species with roughly 500 individuals remaining, is currently the focus of conservation efforts aimed at reducing mortality rates associated with ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear. Consistent monitoring of the population since 1980 has revealed evidence that climate-associated changes in prey availability have played an important role in the population’s recovery. The considerable inter-decadal differences observed in population growth coincide with remote Arctic and North Atlantic oceanographic processes that link to the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Using capture-recapture models, I will quantify the role of prey availability on right whale demographic transitional probabilities and use a corresponding demographic model to forecast population growth rates into the next century. Contrary to previous predictions, the right whale population is projected to recover in the future as long as prey availability and mortality rates remain within the ranges observed during 1980-2012. However, recent events indicate a northward range shift in right whale prey, potentially resulting in decreased prey availability and/or an expansion of right whale habitat into unprotected waters. An annual increase in the number of whale deaths comparable to that observed during the summer 2017 mass mortality event will cause a decline to extinction, even under conditions of normal prey availability. This study highlights the importance of understanding the oceanographic context for observed population changes when evaluating the efficacy of conservation management plans for endangered marine species.

Speaker: Erin Meyer-Gutbrod

Erin is a postdoctoral scholar with the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is broadly interested in assessing ecosystem response to anthropogenic impacts, with a focus on commercially valuable and at-risk species. She is currently conducting a net environmental benefit analysis of oil and gas platform decommissioning scenarios in the Southern California Bight.

Erin’s Website:

October 11 – GeoDesign for “Effective” Stakeholder Engagement in Marine Spatial Planning

Marine spatial planning requires effective stakeholder engagement. For the last 12 years, my lab has been developing and implementing geospatial technologies to increase transparency and stakeholder involvement in marine spatial planning around the world. GeoDesign is a simple approach to designing data-driven spatial plans that seems particularly effective at engaging non-technical stakeholders. I will discuss how we have implemented GeoDesign methods in MarineMap and SeaSketch, two web-based applications used for marine planning. I will also discuss how we are tracking how users are using these tools and introduce the idea of using tradeoff models (and other optimization tools) to investigate the degree to which user-generated plans may be improved to meet science-based goals and objectives.

Speaker: Will McClintock

Will is originally from East Lansing, Michigan, and has studied Biology (B.S., Earlham College), Behavioral Ecology (M.S., University of Cincinnati), Psychology (M.A., Pacifica Graduate Institute) and Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology (Ph.D., University of California Santa Barbara). He has worked in over a dozen countries to support marine spatial planning in the form of stakeholder-friendly decision support tools.

August 23 – Acronyms are people too: (re)Defining the NCEAS identity and voice

Speaker: Jenny Seifert

NCEAS is in a unique position to clarify its identity and voice, a crucial priority for enhancing the center’s reach and influence, especially as it settles into the (arguable) 2.0 version of itself. New-ish communications officer Jenny Seifert will present on how NCEAS communications are evolving. Come prepared to participate in a discussion! Jenny doesn’t want to do all the talking.

Small homework assignment: Is there a website you think is really slick and has some relevance to NCEAS? There will be an opportunity during the Roundtable to share a website you really like that has elements NCEAS could emulate in its forthcoming website remodel.

July 12 – Wildnote: Harnessing Technology to Support Citizen Scientists

Speaker: Kristen Hazard

Kristen Hazard, Wildnote’s founder and chief programmer will share the Wildnote story and give an app overview, while Renee Punzi and Nancy Douglas will talk about Wildnote’s current citizen sciene efforts on the Central Coast.

In 2011, Kristen Hazard, a principal at Terra Verde Environmental Consulting, built an environmental compliance reporting app for the powerhouse utility PG&E. The utility needed to comply with environmental regulations while building the infrastructure to accept power from the two huge solar projects in the Carrizo Plains. The app was so valuable to PG&E it started using it on all large construction projects. Over the last five years, PG&E has utilized the app to submit over 50,000 reports and upload over 300,000 photos from more than 600 users from 30 companies. PG&E continues to use the application to meet its compliance reporting needs.

With this background, Kristen’s company, Suntoucher Software, recently created and launched a new app called Wildnote directed to the broader environmental community. Wildnote creates efficiencies in the process of collecting, managing, and reporting environmental data. This is a powerful tool that supports those who are directly involved in the hard work of collecting and analyzing environmental data. The better data we have, the better decisions we can make.


May 24 – Better science in less time: How the Ocean Health Index is transforming marine science for management

For the past four years, we have dramatically improved how we work with the Ocean Health Index by embracing open data science practices and tools. We now work in a way that is more reproducible, transparent, collaborative, and open, with more emphasis on communication. Our work is more reproducible and streamlined, and more than 20 countries around the world are building off our science and our code to assess ocean health in their own jurisdictions.

We’re sharing our story because at the time we thought this transformation was intimidating, but we are living proof that it’s possible. By describing specific tools and how we incrementally began using them for the Ocean Health Index project, we hope to encourage others in the scientific community to do the same — so we can all produce better science in less time.

Speaker: Julie Stewart Lowndes

Julie is a marine biologist working to bridge science and resource management. In her role as project scientist for the Ocean Health Index, Julie facilitates the adaptation of the OHI+ assessment framework to smaller spatial scales relevant to marine policy. She leads trainings internationally and provides conceptual and technical support for independent OHI assessments.

Prior to joining the Index team, Julie completed her Ph.D dissertation at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, researching potential effects of the Humboldt squid in the California Current System on coastal fisheries in a changing climate.

May 17: Red fish, blue fish, where are you, fish?

Species distribution data provide the foundation for a wide range of ecological research studies and conservation management decisions. Two major efforts to provide marine species distributions at a global scale are the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which provides expert-generated range maps that outline the complete extent of a species’ distribution; and AquaMaps, which provides model-generated species distribution maps that predict areas occupied by the species. Together these databases represent 24,586 species (93.1% within AquaMaps, 16.4% within IUCN), with only 2,330 shared species. Differences in intent and methodology can result in very different predictions of species distributions, which bear important implications for scientists and decision makers who rely upon these datasets when conducting research or informing conservation policy and management actions. We illustrate the scientific and management implications of these tradeoffs by repeating a global analysis of gaps in coverage of marine protected areas, and find significantly different results depending on how the two datasets are used. By highlighting tradeoffs between the two datasets, we hope to encourage increased collaboration between taxa experts and large scale species distribution modeling efforts to further improve these foundational datasets, helping to better inform science and policy recommendations around understanding, managing, and protecting marine biodiversity.

You can explore an interactive web app of our results here:

Speaker: Casey O’Hara

Casey is a Researcher at NCEAS with the Ocean Health Index project as well as an educator, environmentalist, engineer, and musician. He studied climate change adaptation and mitigation, coastal marine resources, and environmental communication at UCSB’s Bren School and received his Master’s degree in 2014.  Long prior to Bren, he earned a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford in 1994.

Feb 22nd – Biocultural approaches to indicator development and use from local to global

Pacific Island communities are facing unprecedented challenges in conserving natural resources and maintaining human well-being. In these place-based communities, biocultural connections, or the integrated social, economic, cultural and environmental linkages between people and nature are widely believed to play a critical role in improving and maintaining the resilience of both human and ecological communities. However, indicators of human or ecological well-being rarely reflect the integrated nature of these systems.

We synthesized information from visioning exercises across multiple Pacific Island archipelagoes (Hawaiʻi, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands) to better understand the perspectives of Pacific Islanders on characteristics of vibrant biocultural landscapes and seascapes. Based on this and a review of the literature, we identified key elements that describe a resilient biocultural state for Pacific Island communities. We are using these elements to identify if and how international sustainability goals capture local perspectives and values. We are also using these key elements to develop a community self-assessment guide. Finally, we are in the process of comparing indicators of biocultural resilience and their drivers across the Pacific Islands. We expect the results of our work will guide practices on sustainability and well-being that better resonate with communities and better reflect important connections between people and nature.

Eleanor Sterling
Chief Conservation Scientist
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation
American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024


Stacy Jupiter
Wildlife Conservation Society
Associate Conservation Scientist
Fiji Country Program Director


Rachel Dacks
University of Hawaii

Interactive Tradeoffs to Support Anticipatory Marine Spatial Planning [Wed. Sept.14]

Human use of the oceans is increasingly in conflict with conservation of endangered species. Evaluation of environmental impacts have historically been post hoc; the time and place of human activity is often already proposed before assessment. I describe anticipatory spatial decision support frameworks that highlight tradeoffs between industry and conservation with interactively synchronized map and tradeoff plots for two spatially distinct problems: siting for offshore wind energy development (OWED) and routing for ships to avoid striking whales.

Offshore wind energy development suffers from a lengthy environmental compliance process, estimated to incur a 7 to 10 year permitting timeline in the US. To responsibly and expeditiously evaluate environmental impacts we differentially assess sensitivity of wildlife above the water line in space, and below the water line in time. During long-term OWED operation, birds can collide and be displaced by active turbines. During episodic pre-operation phases, cetaceans are most heavily impacted acoustically by seismic airgun surveys and pile driving. The framework highlights sites in space that are most profitable and least sensitive to birds. For a given site, pre-operation activities are advised by cetacean sensitivity across months of the year that minimize impacts on migratory cetaceans, particularly those of highest conservation concern such as the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena Glacialis) in the case of the US Mid-Atlantic study area.

For routing ships to avoid whale strikes, British Columbia is evaluated in light of potential new oil tanker traffic to Port Kitimat where an oil pipeline terminal is under consideration. Marine mammal species distributions are aggregated to a single map layer, weighted by species conservation concern. This map layer of risk to species acts as the resistance surface by which least-cost routing is implemented. Transformations are applied to this surface before the routing algorithm for providing a series of routes offering a range of tradeoffs between conservation and industry. Preemptive avoidance of whale hotspots by ships could theoretically become as commonplace in the oceans as traffic avoidance by cars with Google Maps.
The web-based interfaces are built using the open-source, cross-platform R package shiny. Future developments and broader applications will be discussed.


Ben Best is an environmental data scientist with a strong background in marine spatial ecology. He offers consulting services, current clients of which include the Ocean Health Index and Marine Biodiversity Observation Network. He has lectured at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management for several courses (GIS, Advanced GIS, Landscape Ecology, Environmental Informatics) as well as Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment (Marine GIS). He was previously employed as a senior analyst for the Ocean Health Index and research associate for development of the OBIS-SEAMAP marine animal observation geoportal. He recently completed a PhD at Duke University’s Nicholas School from the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab and obtained an MS in Environmental Sciences from Duke, and from UCSB a BS in Aquatic Biology and BA in Geography.



Ben Best, Ph.D.

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