Delta Science Program & National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis 2021 Synthesis Working Group


The Delta Science Program partnered with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) in the fall of 2021 to lead a collaborative synthesis working group. The synthesis working group delivered high-quality training in synthetic data science and statistical techniques and provided a focused opportunity for enhanced collaboration between scientists from federal and State agencies as well as academic scientists.

Working group participants convened for three weeks of training and collaboration facilitated by experts from NCEAS. Following this working group event, participants performed data analysis and synthesis using their newly developed skills to address questions important to Bay-Delta management. Outputs from the effort are anticipated to be released in mid to late 2022 and will include multiple publications, reproducible workflows, R functions, and derived data.

Why a synthesis working group is important

Ecological synthesis is a critical component of ecosystem-based management and informed decision-making. NCEAS’s emphasis on open science principles and techniques promotes transparency and data sharing through reproducible data, software, and workflows. The need for increased capacity, dedicated time, and coordinated synthesis is recognized and included as an action in the Delta Science Plan, Science Action Agenda, and Interagency Ecological Program Science Strategy.


The working group consisted of 18 participants from nine agencies and universities interested in synthesis projects involving primary productivity, contaminants, connectivity, climate change, growth, floodplains, zooplankton, food web linkages, forecasting, hydrodynamics, and more. Affiliations of participants include:

  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)
  • California Department of Water Resources (DWR)
  • Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Science Program (DSP)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • University of California Berkeley (UCB)
  • University of California Davis (UCD)
  • University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC)
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR)
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)


The working group is leveraging the Fall 2021 training and the collaborative setting to begin analyzing drivers of the estuarine aquatic food supply. Products from this working group will offer strong scientific support to inform decision-making for restoration, protection of endangered species, and management of flow actions. The focus on food webs serves broad interagency goals, such as ecosystem function, resilience, and sustainability. Furthermore, comprehensive, spatially explicit, food-web modeling that is tied to environmental driving forces and conditions is a recommendation in the Independent Science Board's review of The Science of Non-native Species in a Dynamic Delta.


The diagram illustrates the synthesis required to evaluate key environmental drivers in aquatic systems and inform ecosystem-based management.

In summer of 2021, the Delta Science Program worked with a data wrangling and publication expert from NCEAS in the integration and publication of ‘estuarine food supply' relevant datasets from the Interagency Ecological Program and working group participants. The Delta Science Program sees this as an opportunity to make select datasets that previously had limited accessibility more available. The three-week synthesis, collaboration, and statistics training was held in September, October, and November 2021.


Next steps

The participants divided into two distinct subgroups focusing on:

  1. The effect of flood management on estuary health.
  2. Identifying the drivers of food web dynamics on an estuary scale.

In March 2022, both subgroups presented preliminary results at the Delta Independent Science Board meeting (beginning at 2:05) and Interagency Ecological Program (IEP) Annual Workshop (beginning at 20:53). Recent products include two new R packages deltafish and inundation, as well as the Environmental Monitoring Program’s benthic invertebrate monitoring data publication (Wells and IEP 2021 ), and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta genus and community level classification maps (Shruti Khanna, Susan Ustin, Erin Hestir, et al. 2022).

Each subgroup will produce at least one peer-reviewed journal submission , R functions, and derived data by fall 2022, along with communication materials for a manager-level and general audience.

Learn more

The following table provides the curricula for the synthesis working group, as well as interim data and code products, and will be updated as more products are available. To learn more, please visit the links in the table below.

Item Link Progress
Publication of ‘estuarine food supply' relevant datasets See the working group’s latest progress on GitHub: Initiated publication of datasets: DWR/EMP Benthic and Phytoplankton, CDFW Bay Study, and UCD/CDFW vegetation mapping
Pre-workshop curriculum An introduction to RMarkdown
Pre-workshop curriculum Guide to setting up RStudio and GitHub
Week 1 curriculum Reproducible papers with RMarkdown
Week 1 curriculum Git and GitHub
Week 1 curriculum & Cleaning and manipulating data
Week 1 curriculum Functions and packages
Week 1 curriculum & Collaboration, logic models and synthesis development
Week 1 curriculum & & Meta-analysis and systematic review
Week 2 curriculum Git conflicts
Week 2 curriculum & & Bayesian models and informative priors
Week 2 curriculum Missing data and MCMC
Week 3 curriculum Time series and forecasting
Week 3 curriculum & Web based data archival and reproducible data
Week 3 curriculum Comparing models to data and simulation models
Week 3 curriculum Shiny
Week 3 curriculum Reproducible workflows
Week 3 curriculum Communicating research
One-day workshop Spatial vector analysis using sf


Delta Science Program. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.