2017 Natural Capital Symposium

March 20-23 | Stanford University


The 2017 Natural Capital Symposium will be a major convening of leaders in natural capital approaches around the world. We are coordinating with international and domestic groups focusing on natural capital approaches, to ensure that the growing community of practice around natural capital approaches continues to engage, learn, and adapt. Interactive sessions throughout the symposium will focus around five central themes:

  • Sustainable Development Planning
  • Securing Freshwater
  • Fostering Resilient Coastal Communities
  • Developing Sustainable Cities
  • Creating Standards for the Private Sector

Keynote Speakers

Carter Roberts

Carter Roberts

President and CEO, World Wildlife Fund

Carter Roberts is President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund in the United States. WWF, the world’s largest network of international conservation organizations, works across 100 countries and enjoys the support of 5 million members worldwide.

Roberts leads WWF’s efforts to save the world’s great ecosystems and address climate change by linking science, field and policy programs with an ambitious initiative to work with markets and businesses to lighten their impact on the planet. He has worked with communities and heads of state in North America, Africa, Latin America and Asia; and has built partnerships with some of the world’s largest corporations, including Walmart, Cargill and Mars to set new industry standards for resource efficiency.

Roberts earned his MBA from Harvard Business School following a BA from Princeton University, and subsequently held marketing management positions for Procter & Gamble and Gillette. He went on to lead international conservation and science programs for fifteen years at The Nature Conservancy before coming to WWF in 2004.

Roberts serves on the Boards of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy at Duke University and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College and the London School of Economics. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Finance Corporation’s Advisory Panel on Sustainability and Business. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative chaired by the Secretary-General of the UN, and President Obama’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking.

Photo © Deb Lindsey/WWF-US

Mark Tercek

Mark Tercek

President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy

Mark Tercek is president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest conservation organization. He is the co-author of the Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

Before joining The Nature Conservancy in 2008, Mark was a Partner and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs where he worked for 24 years. Starting in 2005, he led the firm’s environmental strategy and its Environmental Markets Group. Inspired by the opportunity to help businesses, governments and environmental organizations work together in new, innovative ways, Mark left Goldman Sachs in 2008 to head up The Nature Conservancy.

He is a champion of the idea of natural capital — valuing nature for its own sake as well as for the services it provides for people, such as clean air and water, productive soils and a stable climate.

Photo © Dave Lauridsen

Featured Speakers

Please stay tuned as we continue to announce 2017’s featured speakers!

Kiran Jain

Kiran Jain

Chief Resilience Officer, City of Oakland

Kiran Jain is the Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Oakland and the founder of Civic Design Lab, an innovation space within City Hall.  She has experience in both the public and private sectors focused on urban innovation.  Ms. Jain served as Chief Strategy Officer for Neighborly, a venture-backed company modernizing public finance to build the infrastructure people rely on to work, live, and play.  Prior to Neighborly, Kiran served as a senior deputy city attorney for the City of Oakland focused on land use, urban redevelopment and municipal governance, where she pioneered a partnership between Kiva Zip and the City of Oakland to crowdfund local economic development.  She currently serves on the Executive Board of the Resilient by Design: Bay Area Challenge, which is harnessing the region’s innovative spirit to combat the threat of climate change and sea level rise.

From 2010 through 2013, Kiran served on the board of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, the nation’s first legal and civil rights organization serving low-income Asian Pacific American communities.  Kiran also served as the founding attorney for Kiva, a nonprofit microfinance platform with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Kiran has an A.B. in economics and minor in environmental science from Barnard College, a Master’s Degree in international affairs from Columbia University, and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University.


Zhiyun Ouyang

Zhiyun Ouyang

Deputy Director of Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Director of the State Key Lab of Urban and Regional Ecology

Professor Zhiyun Ouyang is Deputy Director of Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Director of the State Key Lab of Urban and Regional Ecology. In recent years, he has focused on promoting ecosystem service assessment and its policy applications in conservation, restoration and land management in China, serving major government initiatives to secure natural capital and human well-being.

Jennifer Roe

Jennifer Roe

Professor of Design and Health, and Director, Center for Design and Health, School of Architecture, University of Virginia

Jenny Roe is DeShong Professor of Design and Health and the Director of the Center for Design and Health, School of Architecture, University of Virginia (UVa).  She is an environmental psychologist and a specialist researcher in restorative environments. Her research targets hard-to-reach communities in order to quantify the health benefits of good neighborhood design and urban green space.  Current research includes a study of how our cities can be better designed to promote mobility in older people; a study exploring how interventions in urban woodlands can contribute to stress recovery in deprived communities; and a study exploring the effects of short-term tactical urban interventions on wellbeing.  Prior to her current career in academia, she was Principal Landscape Architect in a multi-disciplinary architectural practice in London called Sprunt specialising in social housing, educational and healthcare design.

Matilda van den Bosch

Matilda van den Bosch

Assistant Professor, Forest and Conservation Sciences, University of British Columbia

Matilda has a medical background and has worked clinically as a physician in general practice and radiology. She has a PhD in landscape planning and public health. Since July 2016 she is an assistant professor at The University of British Columbia, Canada. She holds a shared affiliation between the faculty of medicine and faculty of Forestry.  In her research she explores how interactions with and exposure to natural environments and ecosystems can protect human health and how this displays in various populations across various socioeconomic conditions. She has published numerous scientific articles, book chapters, and policy reports, and is editor of the coming Oxford University press textbook on Nature and Public Health. Results from her studies may be used for healthier urban planning with improved conditions for both people and environment. Matilda works as a consultant for the World health Organization, the UN Environmental Programme, the Environmental Protection Agency of US, and the Climate Change and Innovation Bureau, Health Canada, and she is also president-elect of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment.

Tony Wong

Tony Wong

Professor of Civil Engineering, Monash University, and Chief Executive, Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities

Tony Wong is Professor of Civil Engineering at Monash University and Chief Executive of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities with research hubs in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Singapore. Tony is internationally recognised for his research and practice in sustainable urban water management and water sensitive urban design. His expertise has been gained through consulting, research and academia. He provides strategic advice to governments and industry. And has led a large number of award-winning urban design projects in Australia and overseas. Tony was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 2014. He was awarded the Australian Institution of Engineers 2010 Civil Engineer of the Year, cited as having defined “a new paradigm for design of urban environments that blends creativity with technical and scientific rigour”.

Symposium Schedule

For more details on individual sessions, click “see details” in the grid below. Click a date below to view the schedule for that day.

Approaches & Applications Pathways to Impact Learning Exchange
8:00 am – 8:30 am REGISTRATION
8:30 am – 9:00 am Introductions – NatCappers & Attendees
9:00 am – 9:20 am Partnership Welcome
9:20 am – 9:30 am Preview of the Rest of the Symposium
9:30 am – 10:30 am Plenary Session: What role for Nature in the transition towards Livable Cities?
10:30 am – 11:00 am BREAK
11:00 am – 12:30 pm Plenary Session: Sustainable Development
12:30 pm – 1:00 pm GROUP PHOTO
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm LUNCH
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm A1) Getting Started w/ a Natural Capital Approach (see details) Plenary Session: Mental Health
3:30 pm – 4:00 pm BREAK
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm A1 cont’d) Getting Started (see details) P1) Coastal Resilience (see details) L1) Lightning Talks (see details)
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm Poster Session / Happy Hour
Approaches & Applications Pathways to Impact Learning Exchange
8:15 am – 8:45 am Coffeehouse Chat: Mark Zimsky, Senior Biodiversity Specialist, The Global Environment Facility (GEF), “Opportunities and Barriers to Development Planning”

*coffee served from 8am

8:45 am – 9:00 am REGISTRATION
9:00 am – 10:30 am A2) Developing Scenarios (see details) P2) Securing Freshwater (see details) L2) Coastal Resilience (see details)
10:30 am – 11:00 am BREAK
11:00 am – 12:30 pm A2) Developing Scenarios (Part II) (see details) P3) Community Dependence on Ecosystems: It’s All About the People (see details) L3) Biodiversity (see details)
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm LUNCH
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm Plenary Session: Platforms & Scaling
3:00 pm – 3:30 pm BREAK
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm Keynote: Carter Roberts
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm Reception for Carter Roberts
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm Game Night/Happy Hour
Approaches & Applications Pathways to Impact Learning Exchange
8:15 am – 8:45 am Coffeehouse Chat: Storytelling w/ Jill Schwartz, Senior Director, Communications, WWF-US
8:45 am – 9:00 am REGISTRATION
9:00 am – 10:30 am A3) Applications (concurrent): a) Coastal Resilience, b) InVEST Hydrology Suite (see details) P4) Case Studies in Pathways to Impact Across Scales (see details) L4) Implementing InVEST in New Contexts (see details)
10:30 am – 11:00 am BREAK
11:00 am – 12:30 pm A3) Applications (concurrent): a) Coastal Resilience, b) InVEST Hydrology Suite (see details) P5) Climate Science (see details) L5) New Frontiers: Methods, Models, and Tools (see details)
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm LUNCH
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm A4) New Frontiers: Communications & Capacity Building (see details) P6) Private Financing for Sustainable Development (see details) L6) Scenarios v. Stakeholder Engagement (w/ SRC) (see details)
3:30 pm – 4:00 pm BREAK
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm Keynote: Mark Tercek, “What Conservation Needs from Science”
5:00 pm – 5:30 pm Final Reflections w/ NatCap Leadership

Day 4 (March 23, 2017)

The fourth day of the Natural Capital Symposium is dedicated to the meetings of various working groups, as well as open project-support time with a rotating cast of NatCap staff members. THERE WILL BE ADDITIONAL WORKSHOPS AND WORKING GROUPS ANNOUNCED ON A ROLLING BASIS.

To submit your own proposal for a working group or workshop, please click on the link below.

The Natural Capital Symposium takes place across three simultaneous tracks.

The Natural Capital Symposium runs a full program of sessions from Monday-Wednesday. Thursday has a more flexible schedule, which includes working groups and additional training sessions. The full program is split across three simultaneous “tracks.” We expect to release a draft schedule in the coming months. Attendees are encouraged to pick and choose which sessions they would like to attend, across all three tracks. Additional information about each track, as well as the Poster Session and Working Groups Day can be found below.

Plenaries & Keynotes

K1) Partnership Welcome

Monday, March 20, 9:00am – 9:20am

Natural Capital Project leadership welcomes attendees and kicks-off the Symposium.

K2) Plenary Session: What role for Nature in the transition towards Livable Cities?

Monday, March 20, 9:30am – 10:30am

Abstract: Resilient cities are key elements of a safe and healthy future for the planet. Last year, the UN adopted the New Urban Agenda, highlighting new ways for society to build, manage, and live in cities. As the public and private sectors devote increasing resources to building resilient cities, how can the ecosystem services community contribute to the effort? In this session, thought leaders in the space of urban development will share their experience and provide insights into the role of Nature in the transition towards Livable Cities.


  1. Lynn Scarlett, Global Managing Director for Public Policy, The Nature Conservancy
  2. Claire Bonham-Carter, Director of Sustainable Development, AECOM

Featured Speakers:

  1. Kiran Jain, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Oakland
  2. Tony Wong, Chief Executive, CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, Australia

K3) Plenary: Sustainable Development

Monday, March 20, 11:00am – 12:30pm

Abstract: We are learning that countries need to consider natural capital at the highest level of development policy and planning because this is one of the most powerful levers for impact. National development policies and plans influence a country’s long-term development trajectory, steering sectors like infrastructure, agriculture and energy. For infrastructure alone, $90 trillion of investment is estimated to be needed by 2030 to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and the economic ambitions of the world. Given this, the next 20 years are going to be decisive in determining the global trajectory.

In this session, we will hear powerful regional models for this change globally. Representatives from The Bahamas, Bhutan, China, and Nepal will share inspirational stories of how senior political leaders and ministries of finance, economy, and planning are recognizing this need. We will hear their aspirations and achievements in considering natural capital in the development policies, plans, and priorities of their countries to achieve better outcomes for people and nature.

Featured Speakers:

  1. Ugan Manandhar, Deputy Director, Climate Change, Freshwater and Energy, WWF-Nepal
  2. Nicola Virgill-Rolle, Director of Economic Development and Planning, Office of the Prime Minister, Bahamas
  3. Zhiyun Ouyang, Professor and Deputy Director of the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Director of the State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Talk Title: “Mainstreaming Ecosystem Services into Decision-Making in China”
  4. Kate Newman, Vice President for Public Sector Initiatives, WWF

K4) Psychological ecosystem services: the mental health benefits of nature experience

Monday, March 20, 2:00pm – 3:30pm

Abstract: The world is currently undergoing rates of urbanization that are unprecedented in human history. Concurrent with this trend is a marked decrease in the frequency of nature exposure for many urbanites. As humanity is increasingly concentrated in urban environments, it is necessary that we gain an empirical understanding of the human well-being repercussions resulting from this shift away from regular contact with natural environments. This session on mental health will be focused on the ways in which nature experience benefits various aspects of human cognitive function, mood, and emotion regulation. With this understanding, we can begin to envision the manner in which the psychological benefits of nature experience can be incorporated into the paradigm of ecosystem services. These results have implications for urban planning and public policy, and suggest that accessible natural areas may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.

Moderator: Greg Bratman, Center for Conservation Biology and Department of Psychology, Stanford University

Featured Speakers:

  1. Howard Frumkin, Professor, School of Public Health, University of Washington
  2. Jennifer Roe, Professor of Design and Health; Director of the Center for Design and Health, University of Virginia
  3. Matilda Van Den Bosch, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia

K5) Coffeehouse Chat: Mark Zimsky: “Opportunities and barriers to development planning: finance and policy”

Tuesday, March 21, 8:15am – 8:45am

Abstract: As we get warmed up and ready for the day’s sessions, special guests will take the stage for informal conversations about their work and visions for the future. As you arrive at the venue, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and start the day with some (caffeine and) inspiration!

Mark Zimsky, Sr., Biodiversity Specialist, The Global Environmental Facility

Over the last 27 years, Markzimsky-headshot has gathered worldwide experience developing national biodiversity strategies, designing biodiversity conservation projects for national, regional and global-level execution, and implementing sustainable agriculture, natural resources management, and conservation projects at the national and community level. He has practical experience in more than 36 countries across Latin America, Africa, and Asia designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating conservation programs and projects with a particular expertise in program strategy development and portfolio and results-based monitoring.

He has worked for a wide variety of institutions including UNDP, UNEP, the US Peace Corps, and NGOs such as Ecology Action of the Mid-peninsula, and ACDI-VOCA. Currently, Mark leads the work of the Global Environmental Facility in biodiversity in his capacity as the Biodiversity Focal Area Coordinator.  In addition, he oversees all programming investments in biodiversity, climate change, sustainable land management, and chemicals and waste in Latin America as the Regional Coordinator for Latin America.

Mark received a Master of Forest Science Degree from the Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1991 and a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation and Resource Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989.

K6) Scaling natural capital approaches

Tuesday, March 21, 1:30pm – 3:00pm

Abstract: This session will feature 3 very different ways in which natural capital approaches are transforming decisions at breathtaking scales. We will hear about how (i) national-scale development planning in China is changing policies and investments designed to safeguard human well-being; (ii) nature-based watershed payment schemes are spreading rapidly around the world; and (iii) NatCap’s open-source data and software platform is making analyses of natural capital values faster and easier. After short presentations by each speaker, Mary Ruckelshaus will moderate an open discussion with the audience about the opportunities and challenges facing our community of practice in the urgent need to scale uptake of natural capital information.

Moderator: Mary Ruckelshaus, Managing Director, Natural Capital Project

Featured Speakers:

  1. Zhiyun Ouyang, Professor and Deputy Director of the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Director of the State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology
  2. Ma Qiang, Deputy Director, Department of Development Planning, National Development and Reform Commission, Talk Title: “China’s Dream: Becoming The Ecological Civilization of the 21st Century”
  3. Rich Sharp, Chief Software Architect, Natural Capital Project

K7) Keynote: Carter Roberts

Tuesday, March 21, 3:30pm – 4:30pm

Keynote address from Carter Roberts, President and CEO, World Wildlife Fund

K8) Coffeehouse Chat: Storytelling with Jill Schwartz, Senior Director, Communications, WWF-US

Wednesday, March 22, 8:00am – 8:50am

Abstract: Without solid facts and data, the natural capital movement won’t grow. But without stories, nobody will listen to the facts and data. Stories draw people in so they are inspired enough about an issue to care about the science behind it. Come hear five people within the movement, from as far away as Nepal and as close as the United States, tell stories about their experiences in the field—and hopefully inspire you to think about what stories you can tell to advance your natural capital project when you get home.Without solid facts and data, the natural capital movement won’t grow. But without stories, nobody will listen to the facts and data. Stories draw people in so they are inspired enough about an issue to care about the science behind it. Come here five people within the movement, from as far away as Nepal and as close as the US, tell stories about their experiences in the field—and hopefully inspire you to think about what stories you can tell to advance your natural capital project when you get home.

K9) Keynote: Mark Tercek

Wednesday, March 22, 4:00pm – 5:00pm

Keynote address from Mark Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy, entitled:

“What Conservation Needs from Science”

K10) Final Reflections

Wednesday, March 22, 5:00pm – 5:30pm

Natural Capital Project leadership reflects on the past three days and closes the Symposium.


Pathways to Impact

P2IThe Pathways to Impact track highlights engagements where ecosystem services (ES) information has had an impact on a decision, a stakeholder process, or an outcome. This track focuses on work that addresses a real policy window in collaboration with local stakeholders, and where it can be demonstrated — or at least there is good reason to believe—that the ES information will be used to inform decisions.

The six sessions in this track focus on key topics and desired outcomes that are shared across our community of practice.

This year’s sessions are:

P1) Fostering Resilient Coastal Communities

Monday, March 20, 4:00pm-5:30pm

Abstract: Expanding coastal development, rising seas and the potential for increasing intensity and frequency of storms pose risk to coastal communities and infrastructure. The practice of using natural and nature-based approaches to enhance coastal resilience is growing and offers the opportunity to share lessons and insights from on-going work around the world and identify new science and avenues for future efforts. This session features four panelists that will share their experiences and research incorporating protection provided by ecosystems into coastal risk reduction planning. Joining us from a variety of institutions including NGOs, government and academia, the speakers will share a wide range of perspectives and interests. Presentations will be followed by questions for the panel and discussion with the audience.


  1. Todd Bridges, Senior Research Scientist at US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, US Army Corps of Engineers
  2. Michael Beck, Lead Scientist, The Nature Conservancy and Adjunct Professor in Ocean Sciences, University of California-Santa Cruz
  3. Katie Arkema, Lead Scientist, Natural Capital Project

P2) Securing freshwater through innovative public and private partnerships

Tuesday, March 21, 9:00am-10:30am

Abstract: This session will showcase examples of innovative mechanisms for securing freshwater, through partnerships between public and private institutions, development banks, and civil society. Following presentation of example cases, there will be a panel discussion on the lessons learned, opportunities and potential co-benefits for using water as a way to convene many different interests around land and resource management, climate change, and ecosystem-based adaptation.

Moderator: Adrian Vogl, Senior Scientist, Natural Capital Project


  1. Andrea Erickson, Managing Director Water Funds and Water Markets, The Nature Conservancy
  2. Suzanne Ozment, Associate, Global Water Program World Resources Institute
  3. Shuchi Vora, Social Scientist and Conservationist, WWF-India

P3) Community Dependence on Ecosystems: It’s All About the People

Tuesday, March 21, 11:00am – 12:30pm

Abstract: Natural capital approaches to investment and development decisions promise to reveal human dependence on nature by mapping and quantifying the benefits of ecosystems to people. Yet much of the current science and practices fall short of this promise by failing to translate biophysical changes to effects on human communities. When beneficiaries and their demand for services are not explicitly incorporated into decisions, we risk compromising those streams of benefits and ultimately progress towards sustainable development. This session features four panelists that will share their research and experiences connecting the dots between ecosystems and people to inform climate adaptation, management of fisheries and fisheries dependent livelihoods, health and water quality. In particular we will explore approaches for quantifying community dependence on ecosystems and for evaluating the outcomes of health, conservation and economic policies.

Moderator: Steve Polasky, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, and Co-Founder of the Natural Capital Project


  1. Eddie Allison, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington
  2. Seema Jayachandran, Department of Economics, Northwestern University and The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, Massachusetts Institute for Technology
  3. Cathy Kling, Department of Economics, Iowa State University
  4. Taylor Ricketts, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, University of Vermont, and Co-Founder of the Natural Capital Project

P4) Case Studies in Pathways to Impact Across Various Scales

Wednesday, March 22, 9:00am-10:30am

Abstract: This session features case studies where ecosystem services information has been used in a policy or planning process. These cases cover a multitude of services and decision contexts, and sample from a broad array of geographic scales, from an individual company campus to an international community of nations.

Moderator: Rob Griffin, Economist, Natural Capital Project


  1. Kate Malmgren, [e]Team Design and Construction Integrator, Google
  2. Sari Ancel, Ecology Program Project Manager, Google
  3. Rachel Neugarten, Senior Manager of Conservation Priority Setting, Conservation International
  4. James Vause, Lead Economist, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre

P5) Climate Change

Wednesday, March 22, 11:00am-12:30pm

Abstract: This session will address new trends at the intersection of ecosystem services and climate change.


  1. Chris Field, Perry L. McCarty Director, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
  2. Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist and Senior Vice President, WWF-US
  3. Katie Arkema, Lead Scientist, Natural Capital Project
  4. Lee Hannah, Senior Research Fellow, Conservation International

P6) Private Financing for Sustainable Development

March 22, 2:00pm-3:30pm

Abstract: Sustainable development plans are just plans until they are funded and delivered. While attention is rightly focused on the role of policy and governance in fostering sustainable development, the private sector is uniquely poised to respond to the significant investment needs of the Sustainable Development Goals and has been showing interest in engaging. For infrastructure alone, it is estimated that $90 trillion of investment is needed by 2030. Leading companies and financial institutions are slowly improving their understanding of the risks of ecosystem degradation to their bottom lines and implications for risk-return profiles. Some are starting to make bold commitments to promote fair and sustainable development. But to drive investments in sustainable land use and management practices, the private sector needs both greater incentives and practical approaches for integrating natural capital and human well-being metrics in standard return-on-investment evaluations and risk assessments. Furthermore, there are also new opportunities for leading financial institutions who recognize and properly integrate natural capital in their decision making. In this session, we will discuss how natural capital approaches can facilitate the creation of financial incentives to make sustainable development more durable.

Moderator: Ray Dhirani, Head of Sustainable Finance and Extractives, WWF-UK


  1. Elizabeth White, Chief Strategist, Risk and Sustainability, International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group
  2. Andrew Collins, Technical Director, ESG Standards Setting, Sustainable Accounting Standards Board
  3. Spencer Wood, Senior Scientist, Natural Capital Project
  4. Zach Knight, Co-Founder and Partner, Blue Forest Conservation
  5. Eric Letsinger, Founder, Quantified Ventures

Learning Exchange


The Learning Exchange focuses on leading edge, experimental, and theoretical work that is still on its way to making an impact.

The six sessions in the Learning Exchange will feature robust interchanges of creative ideas in a variety of formats, from poster sessions and lightning talks, to round table discussions of lessons learned, software demonstrations, and panel discussions of the latest science and research at the farthest reaches of ecosystem services science.

This year’s sessions are:

L1) Lightning Talks

Monday, March 20, 4:00pm-5:30pm

Abstract: 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 breakout discussions on topics introduced during the lightning talks.

Featured Participants:

  1. Miguel Bugalho, Principal Investigator, WWF MedPO and University of Lisbon, Talk Title: “May PES approaches bring cultural ecosystem services into the conservation equation?”
  2. Juhern Kim, Senior Land-use Specialist, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), Talk Title: “Integrated Ecosystem Investment: Learning from Costa Rican PES and Roads Ahead”
  3. Marina Garcia-Llorente, PhD researcher, Madrid Institute for Rural Development Agricultural and Food Research (IMIDRA), Talk Title: “Social and inclusive farming to reconnect human wellbeing with nature”
  4. Jinlong Liu, PhD Candidate, The University of Melbourne, Talk Title: “Identification and classification of urban cultural ecosystem service flow: a case study in the City of Melbourne”
  5. Nilanjan Ghosh, Senior Economic Adviser, WWF-India, Talk Title: “An Ecological Economic argument for Planned Retreat and Ecosystem Regeneration as adaptation to Climate Change: The case of Indian Sundarbans Delta (ISD)”
  6. Eugene Itua, Director, Natural Eco Capital, Talk Title: “Natural Capital: Placing Nature at the Core of the Economy in Nigeria”
  7. Fanglin Sun, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, San Diego, Talk Title: “Valuing the Storm Surge Mitigation Effect of Coastal Wetland”
  8. Siro Abdallah, GIS and Modeling Expert, WWF-Kenya, Talk Title: “Integration of Natural Capital Needs into County Spatial Planning Process – Lessons from Kenya”

L2) Coastal Resilience

Tuesday, March 21, 9:00am-10:30am

Abstract: The San Francisco Bay Area is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States, with a significant number of its more than 7.4 million people, critical assets, and infrastructure located along the shoreline.  The anticipation of rising tides due to climate change is catalyzing extensive planning efforts in the Bay to reach across jurisdictions and sectors and focus on building regional resilience.  As part of this effort, decision-makers in the Bay are exploring where investing in natural infrastructure and restoration efforts may be effective long-term adaptation strategies.  This session will feature several short talks from practitioners and scientists working on building resilience and adapting to rising sea levels in the Bay Area.  Following the talks, an open, roundtable discussion will give participants the opportunity to ask questions and share experience from their own region.

Featured Participants:

  1. Matt Gerhart, Program Manager for the San Francisco Bay Conservancy program of the State of California Coastal Conservancy
  2. Hilary Papendick, Climate Resiliency Specialist, County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability
  3. Lindy Lowe, Chief Planning Officer, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
  4. Mark Stacey, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley
  5. Warner Chabot, Executive Director, San Francisco Estuary Institute & The Aquatic Science Center
  6. Sam Veloz, Climate Adaptation Group Director, Point Blue

L3) Biodiversity

Tuesday, March 21, 11:00am – 12:30pm

Abstract: Biodiversity is complex; it encompasses everything from genes to ecosystems, spans spatial scales from a soil aggregate to the globe, and is constantly changing through time. In an attempt to tackle the enormous challenge that is describing the variety of life on planet earth, biodiversity scientists have drawn from classical ecology and natural history, molecular biology, remote sensing, mathematics, physics, and biogeochemistry. Each discipline has created a plethora of methods, measurements, and metrics in pursuit of quantifying current patterns and projecting future threats to biodiversity. In doing so, we’ve uncovered and characterized much of the nuance of the particular type of diversity in a given system. The challenge now is how to best integrate measurements of oft-disparate metrics of biodiversity alongside ecosystem service evaluations to meet specific policy aims. This session will cover ways to best target future biodiversity research to meet regional and global policy aims from both a pure biodiversity standpoint and the biodiversity-moderated ecosystem services perspective.

Featured Participants:

  1. Henrique Pereira, Professor of Biodiversity Conservation, German Center for Integrative Biology Research (iDiv), Chair of the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON), Talk Title: “Modelling biodiversity with the countryside SAR: the importance of habitat affinity”
  2. Daniel Karp, Assistant Professor, University of California Davis
  3. Silvia Ceaușu, PhD Candidate in Biodiversity Conservation, German Center for Integrative Biology Research (iDiv), Talk Title: “No ecosystem services left behind: reconnecting ecosystem services and biodiversity”

L4) Implementing InVEST in New Contexts

Wednesday, March 22, 9:00am-10:30am

Abstract: InVEST is being used to assess ecosystem services in a range of contexts around the world. This session’s presenters will share experiences of how they have used InVEST to model species habitat, assess cultural ecosystem services, engage multiple stakeholders in scenario simulations, and incorporate wave energy models in marine planning. These studies cover a variety of ecosystems (including grassland, forest and marine) in North America, Southeast Asia and the Amazon.

Featured Participants:

  1. Cali Roth, Geospatial Analyst, US Geological Survey, Talk Title: “Validating InVEST Model Assessments of Imperiled Grassland Bird Habitat Quality”
  2. Yoonjung Kim, Researcher, Korea Environment Institute, Talk Title: “Evaluating determinants of spatial attraction choice with social big-data: a modelling study on eco-tourism of ASEAN Heritage Parks as a ‘Technical and Scientific Cooperation’ with regional experts”
  3. Blake E. Feist, Landscape Ecologist, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Talk Title: “Harnessing the renewable energy potential of the motion of the ocean amidst a crowded sea of existing resource uses”

L5) New Frontiers: Methods, Models, and Tools

Wednesday, March 22, 11:00am-12:30pm

Abstract: Practitioners in the ecosystem services community continue to innovate to find new ways to model, display, and otherwise improve ES modeling workflows — all with the goal of helping stakeholders incorporate nature’s value into decision making. This session will include five talks covering recent advances in diverse modeling-related areas of optimization, visualization, large-scale data analysis, web-based workflows, and integrated modeling of socio-environmental systems.

Featured Participants:

  1. Toby Roxburgh, Economics Adviser, WWF-UK, Talk Title: Global Natural Capital Scenario Analysis: Assessing the Implications of Environmental Change for Economies and People
  2. Martin Lacayo, PhD Candidate, University of Geneva, Talk Title: Ecosystem Services Analysis Workflows Using Web Services
  3. Heera Lee, PhD Candidate, University of Bonn, Talk Title: Automatic tagging of crowdsourced photos for quantifying cultural ecosystem services – a case study in Saxony, Germany
  4. Benjamin Bryant, Natural Capital Project, Talk Title: Humble Spatial Optimization: A diagnostic-laden approach for targeting landscape interventions under uncertainty in processes and values
  5. Charlotte Weil, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Natural Capital Project, Talk Title: Dynamic visualization strategies for displaying natural capital information in support of decision making

L6) Scenarios + Stakeholder Engagement

Wednesday, March 22, 2:00pm-3:30pm

Abstract: Scenarios are plausible stories about how the future of a social-ecological system might unfold. Scenario planning can be an important tool for transformation because it forces people to think explicitly about alternative situations, consider key uncertainties and create an understanding that a different order of things is possible. We will bring together leading scholars from diverse disciplines to create a novel overview of the multiple roles scenarios can have in social-ecological transformations.

Featured Participants:

  1. Steve Polasky, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, and Co-Founder of the Natural Capital Project
  2. Patty Balvanera, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
  3. Albert Norstrom, Executive Director, Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), and Researcher, Stockholm Resilience Center
  4. Anne Guerry, Chief Strategy Officer and Lead Scientist, Natural Capital Project


Approaches & Applications


This year’s Approaches & Applications track has evolved from prior years’ Training Track. It is primarily comprised of half-day workshops on key topics for practitioners and project teams who are looking to get their own natural capital-based projects underway. These classroom sessions are led by NatCap staff members and NatCap partners and collaborators. Additional training support will also be available during open support hours on Thursday.

The workshops being offered this year are:

A1) Getting Started with a Natural Capital Approach

Monday, March 20, 2:00pm-5:30pm

Abstract: This session is intended for those who are new to taking a natural capital approach to informing decisions. It will begin with a preview of our training offerings and guidance for how to navigate the Approaches & Applications 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 session will also introduce NatCap’s primary software suite, InVEST, and walk through typical workflows, and give an overview of the various models available within it. Bring your laptop if you’d like help installing InVEST, RIOS, OPAL or QGIS software.

A2) Scenario-based Decision Making for Sustainable Development

Tuesday, March 21, 9:00am-10:30am

Abstract: This session will explore scenario approaches, tools and case studies that have potential to support sustainable development planning at national and sub-national scales by governments, communities and other stakeholders. The session will introduce scenarios and relevant scenario tools, exploring their proven or potential utility, strengths and weaknesses in the contexts of sustainable development planning, building on case studies.

A3a) Hands-on with the InVEST Hydrology Suite

Wednesday, March 22nd, 9am-12:30pm

Abstract: Whether you have a background in hydrology or are simply interested in how natural ecosystems provide freshwater services, this session is for you! We will present an overview of the four freshwater models that are part of the InVEST suite, with examples of recent applications by NatCap and partners. The second part of the session will be dedicated to hands-on activities, focused on one or two of our most recent models (nutrient retention and seasonal water yield). Participants will have a chance to run the models on their laptops and share lessons and best practices for the application of InVEST models.

A3b) Hands-on with InVEST for Coastal Resilience

Wednesday, March 22, 9:00am-12:30pm

Abstract: Ecosystems play a crucial role in supporting livelihoods in coastal communities and minimizing a community’s’ risk to coastal hazards. Competing needs for development can threaten those ecosystems. During this session we will work with a suite of InVEST models that address these trade-offs and highlight the role of healthy ecosystems. The Habitat Risk Assessment model maps impacts of human activities on ecosystems. In turn, the Coastal Vulnerability model measures how change in ecosystems lead to change in ability to reduce risks from coastal hazards. And the Recreation and Tourism model explores values of coastal ecosystems in their ability to provide recreation opportunities and support livelihoods in the tourism industry. The goal of this session is to introduce the scientific underpinnings of these models, discuss different contexts in which to apply them, and build familiarity with running and interpreting results from InVEST models. We will use exercises designed to illustrate how real-world planning decisions can be informed with quantitative model results. We will also explore the basic structure of InVEST models in general and learn about the InVEST file structure, the user interface, and types of model inputs and outputs.

A4) New Frontiers: Communication and Capacity

Wednesday, March 22, 2:00pm-3:30pm

Abstract: This session features talks on communication about the value of nature and the social contexts surrounding ecosystem service decision-making. The approaches include immersive computer-based education, games that illuminate constraints and opportunities in a social context, how to reconcile storytelling and science to burst confirmation bias, and lessons for overcoming barriers in international cross-disciplinary work.

Featured Participants:

  1. Tim Kelly, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Planet3
  2. Clément Feger, Research Associate, University of Cambridge, Talk Title: Putting the Context Diagnostic tool to practice : A training session on how to explore the social dimensions of real-world contexts
  3. Nathanael Johnson, Senior Writer, Grist, Talk Title: Storytelling and evidence: Brokering peace between natural enemies


Held on Monday evening, the Poster Session provides an open and informal setting for individuals and teams to showcase academic and practical research in a variety of topics related to natural capital and ecosystem services. We welcome posters on all relevant topics, but are particularly interested to include posters on the following focal topics:

Safe, Resilient Coastal Communities
Sustainable Development Planning
Standards for the Private Sector
Sustainable, Livable Cities
Secure Freshwater

The submission deadline for contributing abstracts to the 2017 Natural Capital Symposium has passed. We still welcome the submission of posters. The poster submission deadline is March 3, 2017.


Following the full 3-day program of the Symposium, there will be multiple working groups meeting on Thursday, March 23rd. NatCap staff will be available to work with you in what we call our “sandbox” sessions. This is time for you to get hands-on help with model running, feedback about your own work, guidance about using an ecosystem services approach in decisions, or just generally to talk more with us about whatever is on your mind. We also expect to have several working groups which will be open for Symposium attendees to join if they choose.

Please check back again soon for more information and a list of available working groups and/or training sessions.

At Stanford University


The Natural Capital Symposium will be held at the Munger Conference Center, on the campus of Stanford University.

555 Salvatierra Way
Stanford, CA 94305

To get there by Marguerite Shuttle, take the X or Y to Campus Drive & Alvarado, then walk toward the center of campus on Salvatierra Way. This will take you right into the Rehnquist Courtyard, between Paul Brest Hall and Jacobson-Sorensen Hall. If you are staying at the Sheraton Palo Alto, you can catch the Marguerite Shuttle at the Palo Alto Transit Center (the Palo Alto Caltrain Station). The X and Y shuttles pick passengers up from the driveway adjacent to the southbound platform. Take the Y shuttle to Campus Drive & Alvarado.

Walking directions from the Sheraton Palo Alto/Palo Alto Transit Center
Walking directions from the Stanford Terrace Inn
Driving directions to the Munger Conference Center

Map of Munger Conference Center



Stanford University is easily accessible from both the San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose (SJC) Airports. Please click here for directions to/from area airports to Stanford. Stanford campus is located near the Palo Alto Caltrain station. There are free“Marguerite” shuttles that run from the station to locations across campus throughout the day. The X and Y shuttles stop very close to Paul Brest Hall, the location of the Munger Conference Center, epicenter of the Natural Capital Symposium. Bicycle rentals are available from the Campus Bike Shop.


We have arranged a special group rate at the Sheraton Palo Alto. The rate is $339/night + taxes and fees, and is available for the nights of March 19-22. Reservations can be made by calling toll free at 1-800-325-3535 (you must mention the “Natural Capital Symposium” to be given the group rate). You can also make your booking online on our group booking page. Group bookings must be made by Monday, March 6, 2017.

There are also many other lodging options in the area or within a short ride on public transportation. Stanford University maintains a list of other local lodging options here. We realize that lodging in the Stanford area can be quite expensive, so we have also set up a contact list for attendees who are looking to share rooms or seek out alternative lodging options to get in touch with each other. Once you have registered, reach out to us and we’ll be happy to send you a link to the list.

We hope you’ll join us.

The Natural Capital Symposium is a chance to exchange ideas, swap stories, advance science, and spend time with thought-leaders and practitioners accounting for nature’s contributions to society to make smarter decisions for a more sustainable future.

Contact Us

Have questions about the 2017 Natural Capital Symposium? Please email us at natcap2017@gmail.com or fill out the form below.

Past Events

Curious about our past Symposium events? Check out the 2016 and 2015 event pages.