Humans live within complex cultural and natural systems, and this complexity is a key challenge for all individuals and societies. Ecosystems exemplify this, as they are highly complex in structure and function. Scientists have long struggled to understand causes and consequences of this complexity. Today’s environmental upheaval makes this critical, as complexity may control how ecosystems respond to change. At the same time informatics-based methodologies (cyberinfrastructure, GIS, statistics etc.) provide unprecedented possibilities for breakthroughs, exploiting rapid increases in data and computing power and linked conceptual progress.