A rapid change (“tipping point”) in environmental conditions can propel the current state of an ecological system into a new state (“regime shift”). Forecasting tipping points and forestalling or accelerating regime shifts have received substantial theoretical attention because they present interesting mathematical and statistical challenges and they are of pressing interest to environmental managers and conservation biologists. However, theoretical developments have rapidly outpaced available data to test models and forecasts of tipping points and regime shifts. In this talk, Professor Ellison presents some of the best available data for identifying tipping points and regime shifts in ecological systems and discusses their value and limitations. He illustrates that even when policy-makers use the most comprehensive current models of tipping points that they decades of advance warning are needed to forestall a regime shift. Finally, Ellison shows how a model experimental aquatic ecosystem may provide new opportunities for much more rapid detection of impending tipping points and regime shifts in ecological systems.