Complexity in estuarine systems calls for integrated and community-based approaches for using and developing models and data. Environmental and hydrodynamic models have helped organize and extend knowledge and predictions for physical, biological, and chemical aspects. However, specialization has often steered science and management to fragmentation among models, data, and management of estuarine systems. Integration of models and data in platforms that increase collaboration, interdisciplinary work, organization and transparency have been successful in other systems.
Mathematical modeling developed in the past few decades to capture current understanding and inform immediate decisions and long-term strategies remains the most viable science-based approach for supporting management of these complex systems. Changes and uncertainties require that such technical activities occur in a long-term adaptive management framework. However, strategies and responsibilities for selecting, developing, and employing models and data, selecting modeling questions, and making the best use of multiple modeling efforts among diverse institutions remain unresolved.
A new approach is needed to build and evolve scientific and technical understanding and analysis capability for policy and management for large estuarine systems across institutions, interests, and different areas of expertise. A modeling Collaboratory is proposed that has capacity to build, refine, maintain and upgrade models, compare and contrast different scientific approaches, quantify uncertainty in predictions, synthesize current data, and accelerate the discovery of knowledge to inform policy and management for these challenging problems. A Collaboratory will focus on specific problems with a defined time-line, with the intent of providing broadly credible information for the many parties involved in decision-making and management. For the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a partnership of the federal government, the State of California, and contractors, perhaps hosted by an academic institution, would establish this center with access to computational and scientific resources from agencies, consultants, NGOs, and academics.