The broader scientific community is slowly coming to grips with the concept of sustainability. An inherent difficultly with this concept has been that, unlike traditional scientific investigations that seek to explain how things currently function or how previous events led to current phenomena, sustainability research is forward-looking with the goal to understand how both current, and indeterminate future, societal needs can be met. This goal is further constrained by an imperative for maintaining ecological and environmental integrity. This conference addresses several important themes pertinent to the challenge of sustainable ecosystems: data collection and monitoring of natural systems and their components, analysis of those data in the context of biophysical ecosystem models, and application of model outputs to environmental and economic issues for management and policy making. Ecological scale and systems science are two important, but often underappreciated, concepts that are critical for advancing our understanding of sustainability. New sustainability sciences, appearing at the interface of traditional disciplines, are better poised to integrate these concepts. The most important objective of our data collection and modeling efforts will be to anticipate sustainability problems and recommendation alternative courses of action, while aiding social learning by the non-scientific community.