NEON Workshop: Operationalizing Ecological Forecasting

January 6-8, 2016
USGS Powell Center
Ft. Collins, CO

Organizers: Michael Dietze and Andy Fox

Ecosystems are changing worldwide and critical decisions that affect ecosystem health and sustainability are being made every day. As ecologists, we have a responsibility to ensure that these decisions are made with access to the best available science.

However, to bring this idea into practice, ecology needs to make a substantial leap forward towards becoming a more predictive science. Furthermore, even for basic, conceptual questions there is a lot to be gained by addressing problems from a forecasting perspective, with more frequent data-model comparisons helping to highlight misunderstandings and reframe long-standing questions.

Ecological forecasting is occurring across a wide range of ecological sub-disciplines, but there is often insufficient communication and cross-fertilization of ideas and best practices. In particular, with the growth in environmental and ecological monitoring data, there is an enormous unmet potential to develop near real-time ecological forecasts – to use monitoring data not just respond to changing ecosystems, but to anticipate that change.

Goals & Outcomes

This workshop aims to advance the idea of “operational” ecological forecasting and will focus on identifying:
1. In what ecological subdisciplines, and for what problems, would operational forecasts be most immediately useful?
2. What are the low-hanging fruit for NEON and other monitoring data that could be used to build operational forecasts?
3. What are the hurdles to getting this done (theory, data, training, collaboration, technology, funding)?

Products from this workshop will include
• A workshop report, provided to NEON and submitted to EOS
• A perspective/synthesis paper on the opportunities for operational ecological forecasting supported by NEON data, submitted to a peer reviewed journal, such as Frontiers, Ecology Letters, or GCB.
• An archive of meeting presentations and notes
Furthermore, it is our hope that the cross-fertilization across disciplines will lead to interesting new ideas for ecological forecasts that would then be followed up on by smaller groups spun off from this meeting (e.g. through new grant proposals).

Workshop Agenda

Day 1 Talks

Day 2 Talks

Breakout Notes