Learning Exchange

The Learning Exchange will offer a variety of opportunities to work in small focus groups with NatCappers as well as practitioners from other organizations, including model‐specific small‐group workshops, poster sessions, focused discussion groups, panel discussions, and more. We know that we have a lot to learn from others working in this space, and we hope to foster a lively exchange of knowledge, information, and understanding. This will be a great opportunity to seek out new collaborations with NatCap and many other organizations and individuals who will also be in attendance.

Some Learning Exchange sessions will be scheduled in advance, but others will form on the fly as critical masses form around particular models, contexts, ideas, or questions. For sandbox sessions, a schedule of which NatCap teams will be available when will be made available, along with sign-up sheets for individual and small-group sessions.

Day One

8:30am-12:30pm Opening Plenary Sessions – No Learning Exchange


1:30pm-3:00pm Uncertainty Analysis: who can you trust? Handling uncertainty all the way from data to models to users
Ecosystem services modelers must deal with uncertainty at all levels, from the biophysical challenges of data scarcity and system complexity, to the human challenges of considering how modeling results will be used in contentious decision arenas. This accessible session will provide attendees an opportunity to discuss frameworks, tools and challenges in dealing with uncertainty in ecosystem services modeling, including a forum to share their setbacks, successes, and needs.

Presenters from NatCap will begin by providing a quick framing of the issues. Five scientists from a range of disciplines will then share their experience in dealing with uncertainty, from the early stage of a project to the presentation of model outputs:

  • Integrating uncertainty from the start: monitoring design (Pierre Mokondoko, INECOL)
  • Dealing with climate change uncertainty through scenarios (James Snider, WWF-Canada)
  • Model structural uncertainty and data quality (James Dennedy-Frank, Stanford)
  • Recent NatCap tools: Batch scripts, Carbon, Fisheries (Rich Sharp, NatCap)
  • NatCap tools in development: InVEST Habitat Quality model (Brad Eichelberger, NatCap)

There will then be a structured dialog for all participants to share how they have successfully dealt with challenges created by uncertainty at all levels, and also to elicit needs that thus far appear to be unmet in the ecosystem services modeling realm — be it ecosystem services-specific guidance on uncertainty, software tools to facilitate uncertainty assessment, or broader frameworks for ensuring uncertainty considerations are given adequate attention at all stages of the modeling cycle.


3:30pm-5:00pm Freshwater/Terrestrial Sandbox
Sandboxes provide an opportunity for Symposium attendees to dive into specific problems they are facing and get feedback from relevant NatCap staff. In this sandbox, members of the Freshwater and Terrestrial Team will be on hand to answer questions about model concepts, software challenges and data issues pertaining to freshwater and terrestrial ecosystem services. If you are interested in this opportunity, be sure to sign up the morning of in order to provide NatCap staff with an idea of what you would like to discuss.


6:00pm-7:30pm Poster Session
The Poster Session provides an open and informal setting for individuals and teams to showcase foundational and applied research on a variety of topics related to Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services. Topics this year will include field studies on the use of payments for ecosystem services, a collaborative web-based tool for Marine spatial planning, as well as multiple applied impact assessments of ecosystem services and biodiversity. More information on how to submit to the poster session can be found here. Abstracts for all posters will be available online after submissions have closed.

Day Two

9:00am-10:30am Poster Review Panels
Held the morning after the poster session, interested participants will be matched with NatCappers and others with relevant expertise to discuss and get feedback on their posters. While still informal, this is an opportunity for more in depth discussions on methods, data and applicatons, as well as on the poster layout and presentation itself (if desired). Participants should be sure to indicate their interest in this session when they submit their poster. (If you have already done submitted and would like to participate, please email poster-session [at] naturalcapitalproject.org)


11:00am-12:00pm Assessment Methodologies

  • CHAP: Thomas O’Neill, Northwest Habitat Institute
    • The Combined Habitat Assessment Protocols or CHAP is a simple yet advanced methodology used to measure habitat quality by considering diversity, complexity and available habitat size. It is not a model but rather a biodiversity accounting system.   CHAP establishes the ecological criteria for establishing a habitat quality assessment that can and does support Mitigation Banking.  Species-habitat-function relationship information stored in the Integrated Habitat and Biodiversity Information System (IBIS) are used in CHAP to compare “values” between: sites, baseline and future conditions, and different management activities.  The CHAP approach can provide and track habitat quality for habitat assessment, impact evaluation, and mitigation (used when impacts are unavoidable). The CHAP approach can: 1) develop detailed habitat maps, 2) document current conditions, 3) track inherent habitat value, habitat composition and potential species at a site, 4) allow for quick assessment of management strategies/actions, 5) establish a consistent method to assess multiple habitats and multiple species, 6) infer future conditions, and 7) provide credit and debit values for a site.  Examples of the approach at several different sites along the west coast will be used as real world demonstrations.  CHAP has been used to secure a mitigation settlement of $150 million and procuring approach for $1 billion dollar restoration effort.  CHAP can also support single species conservation and did for the delisting of the first listed fish species in the US; CHAP can also be a foundation for Forest Carbon crediting.
  • ROAM: Michael Verdone, International Union for Conservation of Nature
    • The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) is a flexible and affordable framework for countries and other entities to rapidly identify and analyze restoration potential and locate specific areas of opportunity at a national or sub-national level. ROAM can support the development of national restoration programs and strategies, enabling countries to meet their existing international commitments under CBD, UNCCD and UNFCCC. This session will present the ROAM approach to identifying restoration opportunities and lead participants through an exercise using the restoration investment prioritization tool developed in collaboration with the Natural Capital Project.

12:00pm-12:30pm Google Tools

  • Brian Sullivan, from Google, will speak about some of his team’s relevant projects such as Global Forest Watch, Timelapse, and Global Fishing Watch. Each has their examples of how they have have driven awareness as well as policy changes and may be valuable tools to the attendees.


1:30pm-3:00pm Communications Sandbox
This sandbox session will provide an opportunity to discuss messaging and communication challenges faced by those attempting to apply natural capital approaches in the real world, and approaches to address those challenges. We’d like to hear from you: What are the hard questions you find yourself being asked? Do you have effective ways of dealing with those questions? Are there any questions you’re afraid of? NatCap communications staff will be on hand to talk about communication strategies ranging from presentations, interviews with reporters, and document design.


3:30pm-5:00pm Pathways to Impact Plenary – No Learning Exchange

Day Three

9:00am-10:30am Frontiers in Optimization for Ecosystem Services
This session will provide an overview of optimization challenges in the ecosystem services realm, and methods and tools (existing or in development) that can address them.


  • Peter Hawthorne, Natural Capital Project, “An Introduction to Optimization Problems in ES and NatCap Tool Preview”
  • Grace Goldberg, UC Santa Barbara, “GeoDesign & Optimization: multiple approaches to collaborative planning in SeaSketch”
  • Katherine Wyatt, Natural Capital Project, “Adapting the RIOS approach to the marine context”
  • Benjamin Bryant, Natural Capital Project, “Sources of Uncertainty in Ecosystem Services Optimization — Implications for Sensitivity Analysis with RIOS and other tools”


11:00am-12:30pm Implementing InVEST and other tool-based case studies

  • Dan Farr, Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute: NetLogo
    • We are using the multi-agent, programmable modelling environment NetLogo to develop spatially explicit simulation models of ecosystem service provision and value. Preliminary models have been completed for forage production, carbon storage, water purification and pollination, plus a synthetic biodiversity index. Research projects and case studies are under way to validate, improve, and apply these models. Key applications include the design of new markets for ecosystem services and biodiversity, scenario models for regional land use planning, and stewardship reporting. We are also developing systems to enable web-delivery of the models to promote increased awareness of society’s impact on ecosystems, and vice versa. Our interdisciplinary research team is based at the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, University of Alberta. http://www.ecosystemservices.abmi.ca. We’d like to share our experiences with the NatCap community and learn from the efforts of others.
  • Jonathan Kochmer, Earth Economics:  Cross-linking and integration of EPA’s ESPF-L (Ecosystem Services Production Function Library) and EE’s Ecosystem Valuation Toolkit (EVT)
    • Economic and non-economic values of ecosystem services can be quantified or estimated using a variety of distinct approaches. For example, practitioners may use ecosystem services production function models (ESPFMs) for a target location, or alternatively, deploy benefit/function/value transfer to an Area of Interest from other locations. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, but practitioners have historically tended to use one or the other approach to the exclusion of the other. This presentation will discuss collaboration between the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Earth Economics (EE) to explore cross-linking ESPFMs and Benefit Transfer Databases in order to allow a multivalent approach to valuation. In particular, I will share efforts EPA and EE have taken toward and progress to-date in exploring cross-linking and integration of EPA’s ESPF-L (Ecosystem Services Production Function Library) and EE’s Ecosystem Valuation Toolkit (EVT) and the possible utility to practitioners of Ecosystem Services valuation.
  • James Snider, WWF-Canada: Applying InVEST in Canada
    • The purpose of this study is to evaluate the dynamics of freshwater ecosystem services under future climate change scenarios. Three InVEST models were applied in a Canada-wide analysis to establish the current, baseline value of freshwater related ecosystem services, specifically: Reservoir Hydropower Production, Sediment Retention, and Nutrient Retention.  In addition, we have assessed the projected change in those three ecosystems services for future timelines of 2025, 2050 and 2100, using climate change scenarios defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its fifth Assessment Report and results of the Canadian Global Coupled Model Version 4 (CGCM4) for key climatic variables. These future projections allow us to identify areas of significant projected declines of key freshwater ecosystem services, or conversely areas where provisioning of those services may increase. As such, our results can inform adaptation planning in watersheds across the country. Further, these analyses create an important and novel way to communicate the current value of freshwater ecosystems in Canada, as well as the potential risk these ecosystem face due to future climate change.
  • Tom Oliver, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology: Validating InVEST in the UK
    • Ecosystem service models are increasingly used to inform applied management actions. Therefore, it is crucially important that these models are rigorously validated to ensure that management does has the intended consequences and that policies informed by these models are defensible. I will discuss work in the UK using a range of monitoring data sources to validate a number of InVEST models (water yield, nutrient retention, pollination). I will also discuss a large consortium project (http://www.brc.ac.uk/wessexbess/) aiming to understand whether and how biodiversity underpins various ecosystem services. In cases where biodiversity is important for stocks and flows or the resilience of ecosystem services then it will need to be appropriately considered in ecosystem service models.
  • Clément Feger, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (CESCO): Applying InVEST in France
    • What place for ES assessments in the strategy of a water services firm aiming to develop ecosystem management business models? Sharing the experience of an InVEST case study in Bordeaux (France).


1:30pm-3:00pm Marine & Coastal Sandbox
Sandboxes provide an opportunity for Symposium attendees to dive into specific problems they are facing and get feedback from relevant NatCap staff. In this sandbox, members of the Marine & Coastal Team will be on hand to answer questions about model concepts, software challenges and data issues pertaining to marine and coastal contexts. If you are interested in this opportunity, be sure to sign up the morning of to provide NatCap staff with an idea of what you would like to discuss.


3:30pm-5:00pm Lightning Talks
This session provides a venue for researchers and practitioners to share their diverse experiences and work with natural capital approaches. The session will consist of nine short presentations followed by small group break-out discussions on topics introduced during the lightning talks. Topics include: blue carbon; natural capital accounting; urbanization; recreational services; bundling ecosystem services across diverse socio-ecological contexts; optimal restoration strategies; and coastal vulnerability.


  • Megan Meachum, Stockholm Resilience Center, “Bundles of Ecosystem Services and Their Drivers”
  • Grace Newman, Carleton College, “Urbanization in Addis Ababa”
  • Carrie Sessions, University of Washington, “Tracking Recreational Visitation
  • Kim Bonine, Conservation Strategy Fund, “Training and Capacity Building
  • Marian Weber, Alberta Innovates, “Integrating Offsets in Natural Capital Accounting”
  • Bruna Pavani, Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA) – Brazil, “Coastal Vulnerability on the southern Brazilian coast”
  • Danny Karp, NatureNet Science Fellow, UC Berkeley and The Nature Conservancy, “Co-managing agriculture for conservation and food safety”

3:30pm-5:00pm Where to Put Things? Sandbox
The Where to Put Things? sandbox will be your chance to work one-on-one with NatCap experts to have your questions answered about when and how optimization can be useful, RIOS concepts, data, outputs, and applications to specific projects.  Some questions you may have that we can answer:

1) Which is the right optimization approach for my project (RIOS or other)?  How can I set it up to answer the questions I am interested in?
2) How can I get my data in shape to run the RIOS model?
3) How can I use RIOS outputs to answer questions beyond just where to invest?
4) RIOS won’t run on my computer… help!