2018 Natural Capital Symposium

March 19-22 | Stanford University
The Natural Capital Symposium is a major convening of leaders advancing the science and practice of incorporating nature’s diverse values into decisions. The event 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: Pathways to Impact, New Frontiers, and Approaches & Applications. Attendees are encouraged to pick and choose which sessions they would like to attend, across all three tracks.

The deadline to register is March 3rd, 2018.

Key Themes

The 2018 Natural Capital Symposium is organized two central themes: Livable Cities, and Sustainable Development. In addition to multiple sessions focused on the key themes, sessions will also center around the shared outcomes of Securing Freshwater, Coastal Climate Resilience, and Creating Standards for the Private Sector.

About the Livable Cities Theme

The Livable Cities program of the Natural Capital Project supports researchers and practitioners in evaluating the costs and benefits of nature-based solutions in cities. We aim to provide knowledge and tools critical to the governance and planning of resilient, sustainable, and equitable cities, supporting both existing urban development and future growth. Our work is organized around three themes: development of tools and methods to quantify the supply and value of urban ecosystem services, analysis of equity issues associated with the management of nature-based solutions, and co-production of approaches that demonstrate how information on nature-based solutions can inform practice at local, regional, and global scales.

About the Sustainable Development Theme

Under the Natural Capital Project’s Sustainable Development Planning outcome, we aim to make integration of nature’s values into development decisions commonplace. We envision a world in which government plans and public- and private-sector investments secure and enhance ecosystem services, leading to more sustainable, resilient and equitable development. We collaborate with government planners, private-sector partners, civil society organizations and researchers to 1) mainstream natural capital into development planning, spatial planning, and infrastructure investment decisions; 2) design and implement policy and finance mechanisms to incentivize the conservation of ecosystem services; and 3) produce accessible science and tools for linking natural capital to human health, livelihoods, and other relevant endpoints for development decisions. We look forward to joining you at the 2018 Symposium to exchange ideas and success stories, identify opportunities and advance solutions to shared challenges around this theme.

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Jane Lubchenco

Dr. Jane Lubchenco

University Distinguished Professor at Oregon State University

Dr. Jane Lubchenco, University Distinguished Professor at Oregon State University, is an environmental scientist with expertise in the ocean, climate change, and interactions between the environment and human well-being. Nominated by President Obama as part of his ‘Science Dream Team,’ she served as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 2009-2013 where she was instrumental in helping craft the U.S. National Ocean Policy and returning fisheries to sustainability and profitability. She also served as the first U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean with the U.S. State Department (2014-2016). With a Ph.D. in ecology from Harvard University, she has eight publications recognized as “Science Citation Classics.” She has been elected to numerous academies of science including the National Academy of Sciences and has received many awards including a MacArthur “genius” award, 20 honorary doctorates, and the National Academy of Sciences’ Public Welfare Medal (the most prestigious award given by the Academy). She was named “2010 Newsmaker of the Year” by the journal Nature. As president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), she proposed the concept of ‘a social contract for scientists’ in which scientists pursue and share knowledge that is relevant to society’s most pressing problems and do so with transparency, honesty and humility. She co-founded three organizations that enable scientists to engage more effectively with society – the Leopold Leadership Program, COMPASS, and Climate Central. She is passionate about enjoying the natural world, pursuing new scientific frontiers that help solve societal problems, and helping scientists engage effectively with citizens, policy-makers, business leaders and society.

Harini Nagendra

Harini Nagendra

Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University, India

Harini Nagendra is a Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University, India. Her research examines the impact of urbanization on ecological sustainability, the role of institutions on forest change, and the use of remote sensing for conservation. She has conducted research and taught at multiple institutions, and was a 2013 Hubert H Humphrey Distinguished Visiting Professor at Macalester College. In 2013, Harini received the Elinor Ostrom Senior Scholar award for her research and practice on the urban commons. She is also a recipient of the 2009 Cozzarelli Prize for sustainability research. Her 2016 book ‘Nature in the City: Bengaluru in the Past, Present, and Future’ examines the impact of urbanization on ecology, human-nature relationships, and urban resilience in the global South.

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

Jerry Yang

Jerry Yang

Founding Partner, AME Cloud Ventures

Entrepreneur Jerry Yang co-founded Yahoo! Inc. in 1995 and served on the Board of Directors until January 2012. Mr. Yang also served as a member of the executive management team. While at Yahoo he led a number of initiatives, including two of the biggest investments in the internet: Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group. Yang holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University. He is widely recognized as a visionary and pioneer in the internet technology sector, and was named one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35 by the MIT Technology Review in 1999.

Mr. Yang served as a director of Yahoo Japan Corporation (TSE:4689) and Alibaba Group until January 2012; and a director of Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) from July 2000 to November 2012.

Mr. Yang currently works with and invests in technology entrepreneurs through AME Cloud Ventures, his innovation investment firm. Mr. Yang serves as a director on the boards of Workday Inc., Lenovo Group, and Alibaba Group. He also serves on a number of his portfolio boards, including Docker and Didi.

Mr. Yang and his wife, Akiko Yamazaki, are well known philanthropists who focus on higher education, conservation and the arts. Mr. Yang serves as a Board Director of Dunhuang Foundation (USA), Member of the Asian Art Visiting Committee at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a Board Member for Monterey Peninsula Foundation.

Mr. Yang is serving on the Stanford University’s Board of Trustees, beginning in October 2017. He was previously on the board from 2005 through 2015, including being a Vice Chair. He currently is also a member of the Board for the National Committee of US-China Relations, a member of the Brookings China Advisory Council, a member of the Committee of 100, as well as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tracks & Sessions

The Natural Capital Symposium runs a full program of sessions from Monday-Wednesday. Thursday has a more flexible schedule, which includes working groups, workshops, 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, can be found below.

Pathways to Impact

The Pathways to Impact track highlights engagements where ecosystem services 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 seven sessions in this track focus on key topics and desired outcomes that are shared across our community of practice.

P1) Natural Capital Planning in China

P2) Sustainable Development Roundtable
P3) Securing Catchment Management for Infrastructure
P4) Creating Enduring and Resilient Programs for Water Security
P5) Livable Cities: Urban Intangibles
P7) Livable Cities: Coastal Resilience and Urban Stormwater Management

P6) Standards for the Private Sector

Wednesday, March 21st, 11:00am-12:30pm
Location: Paul Brest East

Abstract: The world’s major private-sector organizations exceed all but the largest governments in financial resources and influence, making their operating decisions vital for achieving global environmental sustainability and green growth. Collectively, multinational corporations and the financial system broadly drive the behavior of whole sectors of production. A growing number of companies and financial investors have made public commitments to sustainability. These commitments are increasingly converging around a common set of standards to govern behavior and decision-making.  For example, in the infrastructure sector, sustainability standards are emerging to support companies financing, developing and designing infrastructure projects. However, for these commitments to be meaningful they need to be based on reliable, transparent data on ecosystem changes. We consider what new approaches or information sources are needed to evaluate impacts of investment standards across the private and finance sectors, suggesting a shift from self-reporting on ESG metrics to accountability based on real-time remote-sensing data and ecosystem service modeling.

New Frontiers

The New Frontiers track focuses on leading edge, experimental, and theoretical work that is still on its way to making an impact. We anticipate many of the topics and projects explored in this track will evolve into Pathways to Impact sessions of their own in future years. Sessions in this track feature robust exchanges of new research, lessons learned, and exciting opportunities at the farthest reaches of natural capital science.

N1) Lightning Talks

Monday, March 19th, 2:00pm-3:30pm
Location: Paul Brest West

Abstract: This session provides a venue for researchers and practitioners to share and discuss their diverse experiences and work with natural capital approaches. The session will consist of seven to nine short presentations followed by small group breakout discussions on topics introduced during the lightning talk.  This year’s speakers address, among others, issues of coastal resilience and carbon sequestration, touching on broader themes of urban planning and public health.  Presenters come from a range of countries and disciples; each brings a unique perspective to the common question of how to account for multiple ecosystem services and the potential trade-offs between them.

N2) New Frontiers: Methods, Models, and Tools
N3) Ecosystem Services and Human Health
N4) Livable Cities Roundtable
N5) Implementing InVEST in New Contexts
N6) New Frontiers: Practical Academia
N7) Assembling Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development

Approaches & Applications

The Approaches & Applications track contains a mix of half-day workshops on key topics for practitioners and project teams who are looking to get their own natural capital-based projects underway, as well as more traditional conference sessions with presentations followed by opportunities for discussion. The workshop sessions are led by NatCap staff members and NatCap partners and collaborators, with additional training support also available during open support hours on Thursday.

A1) Getting Started with a Natural Capital Approach

Monday, March 19th, 2:00pm – 5:00pm
Tresidder Memorial Union, Oak East Room

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 discuss ways of approaching a natural capital analysis, and provide illustrative case studies. This session will also introduce NatCap’s primary software suite, InVEST, 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

A3a) Hands-on with InVEST for Coastal Resilience
A3b) Hands-on with the InVEST Hydrology Suite

A4) Communicating Natural Capital Information

Special Topics

New for this year, we will also be featuring a set of smaller-group sessions focused around more specific topic areas, to allow for deeper dives into several sub-topics of our key themes. The sessions will take a more interactive format, allowing new opportunities for Symposium attendees to “get into the weeds” on specific topics.


Tuesday, March 20th, 9:00am-10:30am
Jacobson-Sorensen Hall, Room 123

Abstract: The Intergovernmental Science/Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services it provides to society, in response to requests from decision makers. The first IPBES assessment of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services and their interlinkages at the global level is slated for completion in 2018. The scope of the assessment is to evaluate the status and trends with regard to biodiversity and ecosystem services, the impact of biodiversity and ecosystem services on human well-being, and the impact of potential future scenarios of human development on biodiversity and ecosystem services. We present here findings and insights from this global assessment, and will discuss with the audience possible implications for its application to public and private sector decision-making.

S2) Participatory Mapping

S3) Climate Change

S4) Earth Observations for Ecosystem Services


The abstract submission deadline has now passed. If you submitted an abstract before the deadline, but have not heard back from us about it, please reach out via email. For those who were not able to submit a short talk, please consider sharing your work at the Symposium via a poster!


We are now accepting posters for the 2018 Natural Capital Symposium. Poster topics from across the scope of natural capital and ecosystem services research and practice are welcome. Posters will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the registration period (October 1, 2017 – March 3, 2018)

Submit a poster

Venue and transportation

Munger Building 4, 555 Salvatierra St, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

Munger Building 4, 555 Salvatierra St, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

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.

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 special group rates at two area hotels for this event, the Sheraton Palo Alto and the Creekside Inn. The Sheraton Palo Alto is adjacent to campus and a short shuttle bus ride or 1.5 mile walk away from the Munger Conference Center. The Creekside Inn is a 2.4 mile walk or short trip on public transit and/or Stanford shuttles away.

Sheraton Palo Alto
625 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301 map
King OR two double beds $359/night + taxes and fees
Reservations can be made by calling toll free at 1-800-325-3535 and mentioning the 2018 Natural Capital Symposium or book online.
Reservations must be made by Friday, February 16th to access this special rate

Creekside Inn
3400 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306 map
Queen Bed $245/night + taxes and fees
King bed $265/night + taxes and fees
To book, call (650) 493-2711, ask for in-house reservations, and mention the Natural Capital Symposium; or book online
Reservations must be made by Monday, February 19th to access this special rate

There are also many other lodging options in the area and within a short ride on public transportation. Stanford University maintains a list of other local lodging options. 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 by email and we’ll be happy to send you a link to the list.


For the 2018 Natural Capital Symposium, we are pleased to announce a scholarship initiative to at least partially support the registration and travel costs for attendees from low-income countries or other circumstances where the costs of attending and/or traveling to the event present a barrier to their attendance. The application period for these scholarships has passed.  If you already submitted your application, you should be hearing back from us very soon.

Interested in sponsoring Symposium scholarships? If yes, please contact us by email natcap2018@gmail.com.


Send us a message at natcap2018@gmail.com, or fill out the form.

Past Events

Curious about our past Symposium events? Check out the 2017, 2016 and 2015 event pages.

The deadline to register is March 3rd, 2018.