Training Track
*Important: Attendees wishing to attend training sessions are encouraged to bring their own laptops and have both NatCap tools and GIS software installed. NatCap staff will be on hand each morning to assist with installation issues.

With the sequence of training sessions, we follow each step of the Natural Capital Approach, from scoping projects and preparing data, through running models, to synthesizing and communicating the results. As much as possible, we have worked to represent both marine & coastal and freshwater & terrestrial environments. Attendees are welcome to choose which training sessions they attend; those looking for the most technical exposure should plan on spending most of their time at the Symposium in the Training Track.


Day One 

8:30-12:30 Opening Plenary Sessions

1:30pm-3:00pm Getting Started with a Natural Capital Approach

  • This session is intended for those who are new to the Natural Capital Project’s approach to ecosystem service assessment. It will begin with a preview of our training offerings and guidance for how to navigate the training and learning exchange tracks at this year’s Symposium. We will also highlight the importance of early project scoping to help frame appropriate scientific and management questions, improve the quality of analytical outputs, and increase the likelihood that results are salient and accessible to stakeholders and policymakers. This introductory session will conclude with an interactive exercise called Tradeoff! In teams, attendees will compare simple, gamified illustrations of ecosystem service model outputs with the goal of balancing development and conservation objectives in coastal Belize. Bring your laptop if you’d like help installing InVEST, RIOS, OPAL or QGIS software.

3:30pm-5:00pm In Depth: Data Processing

  • Data collection, preparation and presentation form a major portion of the time and effort involved in ecosystem service modelling. Input data often requires scrutiny to make sure it’s of appropriate quality and resolution. Additional processing may be needed to turn source information into the model-required format. Careful consideration must be taken in interpreting and presenting the results. And there are many bumps and details to handle along the way. In this session, we will discuss topics related to the spectrum of data processing: selecting and pre-processing inputs, data management, common model-related issues and use and visualization of results. Bring a laptop with GIS software (QGIS or ArcGIS) to walk through an analysis that considers some of these issues.

Day Two

9:00am-12:30pm — Concurrent Morning Sessions: InVEST Models

  • In Depth: Sediment Retention Model (Fresh water/terrestrial)
    • Increases in sediment yield are observed in many rivers of the world, with dramatic impacts on water quality and reservoir management. Since natural landscapes tend to retain sediment, knowing where and to which extent this service can be delivered is critical to many ecosystem services assessments. The InVEST sediment model was developed to answer these questions. It was recently revised to improve the representation of sediment transport and the valuation of the sediment retention service. In this session, we will outline the new model theory and different approaches to the valuation of sediment retention. We will illustrate its range of application through two case studies. Users will have a chance to run the model on their laptops and ask feedback on their own projects to have a better sense of the skills and data required to use the model.
  • In Depth: Coastal Vulnerability Model (Marine/coastal)
    • Faced with an intensification of human activities and a changing climate, coastal communities need to better understand how modifications of the biological and physical environment can affect their exposure to storm-induced erosion and flooding. The InVEST Coastal Vulnerability model produces a qualitative estimate of such exposure in terms of a Vulnerability Index, which differentiates areas with relatively high or low exposure to erosion and inundation during storms. By coupling these results with population information, the model can show areas along a given coastline where humans are most vulnerable to storm waves and surge. This session will introduce users to the theory behind this model and illustrate its application through case studies. Attendees will have the opportunity to run the model on their laptops, discuss data needs and explore the model outputs.
  • In Depth: Recreation Model (Cross-cutting)
    • Recreation and tourism are important components of economies and they contribute in many ways to quality of life. To quantify the recreational value of natural environments, the InVEST recreation model predicts the distribution of person-days of recreation, based on the locations of natural and cultural features of the landscape. This session will discuss approaches to mapping recreational use, and a technique using geotagged photographs as a proxy for visitation. We will demonstrate methods for preparing input data, developing scenarios, and interpreting results, using our latest research as examples. Finally, we will discuss new developments and future directions for the InVEST Recreation model. Participants will have the opportunity to get feedback on their own projects.

1:30pm-5:00pm — Concurrent Afternoon Sessions: Scenario Tools

  • RIOS I: Introduction to RIOS (Fresh water/terrestrial)
    • This session will introduce participants to the concepts of designing portfolios of investments in watershed services. The Resource Investment Optimization Tool (RIOS), is a tool that combines biophysical information, stakeholder preferences, population data, and economic information to identify cost-effective places for conservation and restoration to restore and protect watershed-based ecosystem services. This session will introduce the RIOS tool, show examples of its application, and walk users through a hands-on exercise to develop portfolios that achieve ecosystem service objectives with a limited budget. Please bring a laptop computer with Windows and the RIOS program installed.
  • Scenario Generator (Marine/coastal)
    • Scenarios are storylines that describe possible futures. Spatially explicit scenarios are an important input for InVEST models. There are many approaches to creating such scenarios but with data limitations and the need to incorporate stakeholder inputs the options diminish fast. In this session, we provide an overview of scenarios, the NatCap approach and we will introduce participants to the scenario generator, a simple tool which can be used to generate scenarios from stakeholder inputs with minimal data. Participants will get the opportunity to go through a hands-on exercise to understand the working of the tool.
  • Habitat Risk Assessment (Cross-cutting)
    • Integrated management that seeks to achieve multiple objectives for people and nature requires transparent and accessible approaches for understanding the influence of human activities on ecosystems that provide these services.  The InVEST Habitat Risk Assessment (HRA) model assesses cumulative risk to habitats in land and seascapes now and under future management scenarios.  Outputs from the model can be used to identify risk hotspots for prioritizing conservation and restoration and siting human activities to avoid sensitive habitats.  Risk results can also be used as inputs into ecosystem service models to reflect how future actions influence the ability of habitats to provide services.  This session will introduce users to the theory behind the HRA model, illustrate its application through case studies and discuss how it can be used to develop input data layers for analyzing ecosystem services under future scenarios.  Attendees will have the opportunity to run the model on their laptops, discuss data needs and explore model outputs.

Day Three

9:00am-12:30pm: Concurrent Morning Sessions: Hands-on Application

  • RIOS II: RIOS in Detail
    • Building on the introduction given in RIOS I, this session will go more into the details of the RIOS interface and technical considerations for doing a RIOS analysis. Topics will include factor/objective weighting, pre-processing, creating and configuring input data and ideas for calculating return on investment using InVEST freshwater models. Please bring a laptop with the latest RIOS installed to follow along in the interface, as well as participate in a hands-on exercise putting some of these topics into practice.
  • So you want to use marine InVEST…we can help!
    • NatCap scientists and analysts will offer a ‘firehose’ presentation on the different coastal-marine modules contained within the InVEST toolkit. After this introduction, we will break into small groups for Q&A, discussion and live demonstrations of select marine ecosystem service models. Potential discussion topics include details on the science underpinning our models and their limitations, data input requirements and how to interpret and communicate model results. If you’d like additional help using marine InVEST, bring your questions and data to our coastal-marine sandbox session on Wednesday afternoon.

1:30pm-5:00pm Hands-on with OPAL: Assessing and mitigating development impacts to ecosystem services and biodiversity

  • Learn how NatCap’s newest tool, OPAL (Offset Portfolio Analyzer and Locator), can be used to quantify the impacts of infrastructure development projects and assess the benefits of mitigation options for freshwater and terrestrial ecosystem services and biodiversity. OPAL helps users answer questions such as: How much habitat and ecosystem services will be lost with project development?, Which communities will lose ecosystem service benefits as a result?, and Where and how much offsets are needed to mitigate losses of habitat and ecosystem service benefits in a socially equitable way? The first part of the session will provide an overview of OPAL’s capabilities and examples of its application from Latin America. Following this introduction, participants will have the opportunity to gain experience using OPAL through a hands-on exercise. To run OPAL for the hands-on exercise, please bring a laptop computer with Windows and the OPAL program installed.