EBM Tool Office Hour on the Ocean Health Index with Ben Halpern

Event Date: 
October 31, 2012

Welcome to the EBM Tool “Office Hour” Series on OpenChannels.org!

The EBM Tools Network and OpenChannels.org are teaming up on a series of live “office hour” chats about tools and resources for marine conservation, management, and governance. The office hour chats are an opportunity for participants to ask tool experts questions about the tools as well as share their own experiences and insights with the experts and each other. This office hour chat about the Ocean Health Index is with Ben Halpern of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Lead Scientist for the Ocean Health Index.

More about the Ocean Health Index: The Ocean Health Index is a new, comprehensive measure of the ocean’s overall condition. The Index assesses the benefits that a healthy ocean provides through 10 diverse goals for a healthy coupled human-ocean system. Indices were calculated for all coastal countries with an optimal sustainable state having a score of 100. The overall index score was 60 out of 100 with individual country scores ranging from 38 to 86, indicating that there is substantial room for improvement in the way humans interact with the ocean. The analysis was published in Nature, and comprehensive information about the index, country and goal-specific scores can be found at www.oceanhealthindex.org.

More about the Office Hour: This office hour is a live online "chat" conducted by typing and reading text. There is no audio component. All participants are able (and encouraged) to post, and all participants are able to view all posts (i.e. nothing is confidential). These chats are an opportunity for multi-directional flow of information. However, the moderator will delete any inappropriate content including posts that contain inappropriate language and posts that do not pertain to the topic. Participants are encouraged to be frank but to elaborate on and substantiate all praise and criticism. You do not need to be logged into the OpenChannels.org site to participate in the chat, but you are encouraged to create a user account and log in so you do not need to type your name in every post.

Instructions for Participants: The contents of the chat will update automatically every 10 seconds - there is no need to manually refresh your browser. Once you click in the comment box, updating will stop to allow you time to type in your responses. If you find your chat is not updating, please click the Chat not refreshing automatically? Click here. link below the comment box to manually update the feed.

Firefox users: Please note there is a bug in the Firefox browser that will cause your screen to "jump" with each update. We recommend the use of Chrome, Opera, or Internet Explorer 9 for participating in the chat.

This chat is currently closed for questions and comments.


Welcome, everyone. The live chat about the Ocean Health Index with Ben Halpern will start in an hour. The chat site is now open, however, and you can begin posting relevant questions and/or comments.

Question from Franklin Kwai Ben (that was accidentally posted outside this chat): I would like to know more in detail where did you get all data you use to determine the index qualification for Panama per sector or parameter you use ie tourism and others

Thanks for your question. All of the details about where data come from, how we processed them, and how they all fit together into the Index are described in the supplementary methods for the paper that was published in Nature in August. If you go to our project website (www.oceanhealthindex.org) you can request the paper for free. But as a broad response to your question, we used data that are globally available for each component of the Index, so there are obviously many cases where better data for a particular country exist from that country's government, etc.

What is your opinion on using the index as a restoration metric for an area such as the Gulf of Mexico? (ie. Deepwater Horizon disaster, Mississippi River delta restoration, dead zone, fisheries rebuilding, etc.)

Yes, I think it could work really well for this purpose. Of course it would depend on the goals and interest of the agencies in charge and public interest. They may care most about, for example, water quality or habitat condition. Those both can be tracked by the Index (they are 2 of the 10 goals). But one can also then look at the broader impact of restoration across the whole Index, i.e. the full coupled ocean-human system.

So I guess a custom index could be developed depending on the restoration goals and values of the responsible agencies/communities? Region specific data collection could be a component of the restoration work for monitoring don't you think?

I don't think you'd need a custom Index, but instead could focus on (or weight more heavily) components of the Ocean Health Index that are most relevant to the goals and values of the region in which restoration is happening. Collecting more data through monitoring is always a valuable thing to do (you can't manage what you don't measure . . .).

Broadly, yes we have done this. We spent a long time scouring for relevant data, and became well aware of the many data gaps. We haven't written up a summary of this yet, although we've noted the value of doing something like this.

Hi everyone! Thanks for coming to the EBM Tools Office Hour with Ben Halpern. He's busy typing away at your questions so keep them coming in. If there are any questions that aren't answered by the end of the hour, we'll be sure to respond to them later today. Cheers! -Nick Wehner, Project Manager, OpenChannels