Openscapes is operated by the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS) and incubated by a Mozilla Fellowship awarded to Julia Lowndes.


The Openscapes story starts with file names like “data_analysis_final_v2b.xls” — you know the ones.

In 2013, when a team of scientists at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) was leading the second annual Ocean Health Index assessment, they found themselves struggling with unruly documentation buried in forwarded emails and knew they needed to find a better way to analyze data in a collaborative way.

So they turned to open source tools – the same used by software engineers — whose resources and supportive online communities were game-changing. Not only did the efficiency of the team’s analyses increase, so too did their impact and reach thanks to open source communication channels. They found these open workflows to be so empowering that they shared their story with the scientific community through a paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution, led by Openscapes founder Julia Lowndes.

The ideas in that paper seeded the vision for Openscapes, and that vision became a reality in the fall of 2018, when Mozilla (yes, the internet advocacy group that brings you Firefox) awarded Julia a fellowship to launch the initiative. The long-term home of Openscapes will be with NCEAS as an important component of its work in environmental data science and training.

As Openscapes moves forward, we look forward to opening the landscapes of science and sharing more stories to help create an efficient, open culture for science. If you work in the environmental science realm, we invite you to be part of this story. We are all in this together. Let’s do better science in less time.


The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) conducts transformational science focused on informing solutions that will allow people and nature to thrive. Through data synthesis, collaborations, and open science, NCEAS accelerates scientific discoveries and generates big-picture insights to help solve environmental challenges. Established in 1995, NCEAS is an independent research affiliate of the University of California at Santa Barbara with a global network and impact. Learn more about NCEAS and its Learning Hub, subscribe to the newsletter, and follow them on Twitter or Facebook.


Mozilla believes the internet must always remain a global public resource, open and accessible to all. Its work is guided by the Mozilla Manifesto. Mozilla focuses on fueling the movement for a healthy internet by supporting a diverse group of fellows working on key internet issues; by connecting open internet leaders at events like MozFest; by publishing critical research in the Internet Health Report; and by rallying citizens around advocacy issues that connect the wellbeing of the internet directly to everyday life. Follow Mozilla on Twitter.


Openscapes has many supportive contributors at NCEAS, Mozilla, and the broader open community.

Julia Stewart Lowndes (also Julie) is the founding director of Openscapes. She is a marine data scientist and Mozilla Fellow at NCEAS, working to increase the value and practice of open environmental science by empowering researchers with existing open tools and communities. She has been building communities of practice in this space since 2013 with the Ocean Health Index after earning her PhD at Stanford University studying drivers and impacts of Humboldt squid in a changing climate. She is a Carpentries instructor, lead creator of the Ocean Health Index’s open data science training, and a co-founder of Eco-Data-Science and R-Ladies Santa Barbara. Learn more about Julia, email her, and follow her on Twitter.


Our vision is a scientific culture that is more efficient and collaborative, and can uncover environmental solutions faster. Openscapes opens the landscapes of science by growing communities of practice around environmental open data science. This means promoting open science and using the internet for good. It also means enabling open culture driven by collaboration, empathy, and kindness. We aim to create a positive open culture in science, so we can do better science in less time.


Allison Horst creates original art for Openscapes as an artist in residence at NCEAS. Allison is a lecturer of data science and statistics at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is also one of the inaugural Openscapes Champions. With a background in the fine arts, she also works digitally; see her stats illustrations and follow her on Twitter.

See all of Allison’s open landscapes on the gallery page.

Our logo designed by Allison Horst represents both the open landscapes and the data within them.


We thank our funders for supporting open science tools, people, and communities. Openscapes was originally created with support from Mozilla, which also sponsored the first Champions Cohort. In 2019 we received additional support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to develop a strategic plan to grow Openscapes and lead future Champions Cohorts.


The Openscapes website was created by Julia Lowndes — using the same open data science workflows she uses for research and promotes through Openscapes. The website code is on github, and is created with RStudio’s blogdown, using the hugo-universal-theme.