The College of Science’s Environmental Forecasting Collaborative at Virginia Tech will host National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Scientist Lonnie Gonsalves for a virtual talk to be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday Oct. 27.

Gonsalves is the lead for NOAA’s Ecological Forecasting Roadmap initiative. His talk will focus on how environmental decisions drive the “Blue Economy” and climate resilience. The Blue Economy, as described by the World Bank, is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.”

The virtual event is being hosted as a webinar. A Q&A session will follow the talk. Additionally, Gonsalves will virtually meet with faculty and students at Virginia Tech in small group sessions Oct. 27 and Oct. 28. The event is being funded and co-sponsored by the College of Science.

“Ecological forecasting is a powerful tool that builds upon our understanding of the natural world and make predictions that positively impact people, communities, and the economy,” Gonsalves said. “We are successfully building upon NOAA’s investment in a world class environmental observations network that spans the seas and skies, coupled with innovations in predictive models, to address the impacts of climate change, coastal hazards, and other environmental impacts to communities. These efforts put powerful science tools in the hands of public officials, natural resource managers, private industry, and citizens to grow the Blue Economy, promote climate resilience, and support sustainable use of our natural resources.”

Gonsalves added that his talk will address how NOAA’s focus on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) are helping to drive innovation and improved service delivery for NOAA’s ecological forecasting portfolio.

As an early career scientist, Gonsalves’ research focused on using molecular-based techniques to measure fish health, ecosystem level processes, and ecosystem services. He earned his Ph.D. in environmental molecular biology from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2012.

Gonsalves then was hired as a research ecologist with the NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS) at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory, located on the Chesapeake Bay. He spent 18 months serving as the program coordination officer prior to taking on his current role in ecological forecasting. Among his awards is the 2019 U.S. Black Engineer of the Year Award, presented by the STEM Global Competitiveness Conference in Washington, D.C.

The Environmental Forecasting Collaborative is part of the College of Science’s Ecological Forecasting Strategic Research Initiative included in the Strategic Plan for the college, according to Randy Heflin, associate dean for research.

Gonsalves’ talk kicks off the Virginia Tech Environmental Forecasting Distinguished Speaker series, an effort to support the dissemination of innovative ideas in environmental and ecological forecasting to the local scientific community, said Leah Johnson, a lead member of the collaborative and associate professor in the Department of Statistics and an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Biological Sciences and Computational Modeling and Data Analytics (CMDA).

Additional collaborative leaders include Associate Professor Cayelan of biological sciences, and Quinn Thomas, associate professor in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. Johnson, Carey, and Thomas are also all affiliated members of the Global Change Center, part of the Virginia Tech Fralin Life Sciences Institute. The new collaborative also includes faculty, postdoctoral associates, and graduate students from around the university.

One of the affiliated postdoctoral researchers is Mary Lofton. She recently completed graduate work forecasting water quality in Carey’s lab and is continuing forecasting work as a postdoctoral researcher.

“Virginia Tech is rapidly crafting its reputation as a leader in the field of environmental forecasting,” Lofton said. “The Environmental Forecasting Collaborative now permits researchers with skills and research interests in environmental forecasting from across the university to collectively tackle some of society's most pressing challenges and develop targeted training opportunities for students interested in environmental forecasting.”

Thomas, Carey, and Johnson are also involved in the Ecological Forecasting Research Coordination Network, funded by a 2019 National Science Foundation grant to Thomas. This new network is supporting the development of the field ecological and environmental forecasting in the United States and around the world.