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

Featured Speakers

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

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 Keynote: TBD
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: TBD *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: TBA
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) P4) Case Studies in P2I (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
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. Working groups and workshops that are currently scheduled which will be open to all include:


1) The Natural Capital Protocol and the Finance Sector Supplement in Practice

Led by: Mark Gough, Executive Director, Natural Capital Coalition

At UNEP FI’s recent conference in Dubai, The Natural Capital Coalition announced that we are partnering with VBDO and the Natural Capital Finance Alliance (formerly Natural Capital Declaration), to produce a Finance Sector Supplement to the Natural Capital Protocol.

The Supplement will provide the guidance and insight required for FIs to integrate natural capital considerations into all financial products and services; including loans, investments and insurance policies.

As part of this half day workshop, financial institutions who are applying/advising on/drafting the Supplement, will explain why including natural capital is vital for the success of the finance sector, and discuss their experiences of applying natural capital approaches.

The workshop will be run by the Coalition’s executive director, Mark Gough.

We believe that this workshop also represents an opportunity for the natural capital community at large to guide the development of the Supplement, and would welcome thoughts on:

  • the state of play on natural capital,
  • the scope of the Finance Sector Supplement,
  • the structure and content of the Supplement.

To provide more detailed input into the Supplement’s development, please follow this link.



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.

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.

Moderator: TBA

Panelists: Coming soon!

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: TBA

Panelists: Coming soon!

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, Professor of Ecological/Environmental Economics, University of Minnesota, and Co-Founder of the Natural Capital Project


  1. Taylor Ricketts, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, University of Vermont, and Co-Founder of the Natural Capital Project
  2. More coming soon!

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: TBA

Panelists: Coming Soon!

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.

Moderator: TBA

Panelists: Coming Soon!

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: TBA

Panelists: Coming Soon!

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: Coming Soon!

L2) Coastal Resilience

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

Abstract: This session will be structured around a roundtable discussion on coastal planning in the state of California.

Featured Participants: Coming soon!

L3) Biodiversity

Tuesday, March 21, 11:00am – 12:30pm

Abstract: This session will look at the latest trends at the forefront of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services.

Featured Participants: Coming soon!

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. Yoonjung Kim, Researcher, Korea Environment Institute
  2. Blake Feist, Landscape Ecologist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  3. More coming soon!

L5) New Frontiers: Methods, Models, and Tools

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

Abstract: This session will include five talks describing advances and applications in modeling-oriented areas of sub-fields of optimization, visualization, and integrated modeling of socio-environmental systems.

Featured Participants: Coming soon!

L6) Scenarios + Stakeholder Engagement

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

Abstract: This collaborative session will focus on sharing different ways of envisioning future scenarios.

Featured Participants: Coming soon!


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

Abstract: This session will cover the latest in approaches for communicating the value of nature, at the conceptual level and in terms of study results. It will also include talks on ways to identify the leverage points for ecosystem services knowledge in a decision process, and recent experience with building capacity and embedding the use of ES in organizations.


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 February 7, 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.