Frank Davis Named New Director of UCSB Ecological Think Tank
Bren School professor of ecology Frank Davis has been named the new director of the UCSB National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). He replaces the previous director, Ed McCauley.
Davis spent four and a half years as deputy director at the think tank, which, he says, “has had the same model since day one, to synthesize analyze data as groups or individuals.”
Since it was founded in 1995, NCEAS has used funds from NSF to support research working groups.
“We don’t fund data-gathering, but rather the activities of synthesis and working with data,” he says. “The field of ecology is highly fragmented, so people need a synthetic view to solve problems. NCEAS allows researchers to pool evidence and theories to come up with better generalizations. A lot of high-impact work has been done here over the years.”
In fact, papers resulting from work done at NCEAS rank among the top one percent in terms of the frequency with which they are cited. “That makes it one of the most influential institutions on the planet in terms of ecology,” says Davis.
But core funding for NCEAS is set to expire in July 2012.
“I have a year to find funding, but it’s not unlike going out and trying to drum up research funds,” Davis says.As director, Davis will oversee the enterprise, working with the staff and interacting with the science advisory board to evaluate research proposals. He’ll also serve as an ambassador for NCEAS in terms of trying to connect with local, national, and international collaborators. Davis will remain on the Bren School faculty this year but will not teach, in order to free up time for the NCEAS work.
“I’m doing it because I think the place is that important,” he says. “I’ve gotten a lot out of it over the years, and as far as I can tell, other people who have used NCEAS love it and would hate to see it go.
“A lot of the work tends to be policy relevant; for instance, NCEAS has had a lot of impact on the Channel Islands marine protected area network,” Davis says. “NCEAS doesn’t do management or policy per se; it does science in a way that is particularly relevant to policy makers and decision makers.”