NCEAS / UCSB role as the new LTER Network Communications Office (Oct 7)

The National Science Foundation recently awarded the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network Communications Office (NCO) to UCSB and NCEAS (PI Frank Davis; Co-PIs Carol Blanchette, Jenn Caselle, Stacy Rebich Hespanha, Matt Jones, and Mark Schildhauer). The NCO is conceived as an integrated set of activities in three areas – Communication and Outreach, Synthesis Research, and Education and Training – that builds on NCEAS’ longstanding relationship with LTER scientists, leverages existing staff capacity and infrastructure, and takes advantage of UCSB’s strengths and resources in ecology, environmental science and management, environmental communication and media, and environmental informatics.

In this Roundtable I will summarize the key feaures of the NCO and what it will mean for NCEAS, UCSB, and the broader LTER community. I will leave ample time for discussion of NCO needs and priorities.

Frank W. Davis
Director, NCEAS
Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, UCSB

Introduction to Spatial Analysis in R

Jamie Afflerback (NCEAS Assistant Specialist)
Wed Sept 23
Note location change to Main Conference Room
Ever wonder how to work with your spatial data in R? Now’s the time to learn! I will lead an informal, participatory workshop on how to do some spatial analysis in R. This session will use RStudio to introduce some of the most commonly used spatial packages/libraries to work with both raster and vector data types.

– Your own personal laptop
– Familiarity with R and RStudio. This is not an introduction to R so participants should already be using R.
– The most up to date versions of R and RStudio

The workshop is set up to walk through a script I prepared, line by line. Participants can choose to code as we go along, or just step through the coded script. If you’d like to participate please send an email to by Monday September 21. More details will be sent out next Tuesday.

For a preview, you can find all code and data held in this GitHub repository. Please note that being familiar with GitHub is not a requirement to participate.

Environmental and Social Sustainability: How High A Priority for Environmental Organizations? (Sept 16)

This will be an informal discussion related to sustainability issues for organizations such as our own. Please come prepared to share your experiences, opinions and ideas! I hope that through this discussion we might come up with some concrete ideas about what we, as individuals, can do to help to promote sustainability within our current and future organizations.

Some questions we might use to guide the discussion include:

– Do organizations that focus on environmental issues have a responsibility to be environmentally (and socially) sustainable? Do they have special responsibilities in these areas because of the environmental focus of their work?
– What is meant by ‘sustainability’? What does environmental and social sustainability for an organization like NCEAS look like?
– How do environmental organizations know if they have achieved sustainability, or are making progress toward a goal? What responsibilities do they have (if any) to monitor sustainability performance?
– Do individuals who work for environmental organizations have a responsibility to invest effort in contributing to the sustainability of those organizations? If so, what kinds of actions can they take?

If you have ideas for additional questions we might discuss, please send them to me and I’ll add them to the list.

Dr. Stacy Rebich Hespanha
NCEAS Research Associate

Bundling multiple ecosystem services in agroecosystems: Insights from a historical perspective (Sept 9)

The need to reconcile food production, multiple ecosystem services (ES) and biodiversity conservation has spurred the search for more sustainable ways of farming. In this context, my approach consists in getting insights from the past to support the management of present and future agroecosystems.

First, I investigated how past agricultural practices can affect current ecosystem functioning. A better understanding of such legacy is of key importance for predicting human environmental impacts. In some South American wetlands, I found that humans have created favorable habitat for crops, but also for a high diversity of organisms that today maintain the vestiges of fields against erosion since they were abandoned hundred years ago. Based on these results, I came to understand how to exploit synergies between human actions and those of natural soil organisms (such as social insects, earthworms and plants) to design agroecosystems that support food production, biodiversity and soil fertility.

Second, I tested how a historical perspective on ES can help meet the challenge of managing multiple ES simultaneously. To do this, I reconstructed the provision of nine ES (including food production, carbon storage, flood regulation, recreational activities) over the past 35 years in an agroforested landscape in Quebec, Canada. My results demonstrated that individual ES, ES assemblages, and interactions among ES changed across both time and space, driven by combination of policy changes, biophysical and socio-economic characteristics of the study region. My approach led to a better understanding of how multiple ES interact, how trade-offs and synergies emerge, and how interactions may shift through time as social-ecological conditions change.

Dr. Delphine Renard
McGill University & Quebec Center for Biodiversity Science

July 8: Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge into Resource Management and Research at Pinnacles National Park

In December 2011, an important cultural and ecological process was reignited in Pinnacles National Park when the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band gathered alongside agency fire crews and land managers to burn a stand of native deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens). Throughout California, California Indian people traditionally burned selected areas to manage and promote food and fiber. This project is unique in that it incorporates two distinct knowledge systems and welcomes an indigenous perspective in park research and management. From the project’s beginning, tribal partners participated in establishing research questions and goals of the project. Tribal members, and especially tribal youth, regularly participated in collecting data and implementing treatments. The burn is one of several highlights of this integrated program at Pinnacles that aims to gain a better understanding of California Indian management practices and its role in shaping the landscape over centuries of time, and how this awareness influences today’s management.

Brent Johnson
Park Botanist, Acting Chief
Research and Resource Management Division
Pinnacles National Park

July 7: Discussion about Hurdles to Synthesis and Navigating Collaborations in Working Groups

Navigating working group dynamics can be challenging but is a necessary step to achieve synthesis. Here we discuss hurdles to synthesis and navigating collaborations in working groups (e.g. data availability and integration, analysis techniques, and social / collaborative issues). We will start with a brief informal presentation of key elements of the issue, and aim to spend most of the time engaged in discussion with the NCEAS community. Please come prepared to discuss a hurdle to synthesis (and/or solution!) which you have experienced.

Rachael Blake, NCEAS Post Doc
Jessica Couture, NCEAS Research Associate
Colette Ward, NCEAS Post Doc

Implications of food web constraints for community assembly in space

Spatial variation in diversity and community composition is challenging to interpret within an ecological framework that was conceptually built for local disconnected populations. The meta-community concept was, in this regard, an important achievement in community ecology. However, there remains a considerable gap between theoretical developments and empirical tests of the concept, especially for complex communities with multiple trophic levels. Using the classical Theory of Island Biogeography as a starting point, I extract predictions from theory and test these in a multi-trophic plant-insect grassland assembly experiment evaluating multiple stressors associated with landscape-level anthropogenic perturbations. In the current context of global environmental change, I argue that it is time for ecology to scale up current meta-community knowledge to the ecosystem function level, thereby providing the basis for a stronger meta-ecosystem theory.

Eric Harvey

University of Zürich, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Department of Aquatic Ecology

Materials on topic modeling

Hi all –

Sorry for the delay in posting this. Below are links to the R packages for text mining and topic modeling that I used for my project. In the topic modeling package I used the LDA with Gibbs sampling function.

Finally here is the powerpoint with the initial results of my analysis. It has all of the images in case you want to take a second look:

Thanks to everyone for participating in the discussion and offering great new ideas!