University of Minnesota names Jessica Hellmann director of the Institute on the Environmentnews_ione_director_announcement

Renowned environmental researcher, scholar and communicator Jessica Hellmann has been named the new director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Hellmann, who is currently on the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, will begin her tenure as director of the Institute on the Environment August 31, 2015. She also will join the University faculty as the Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Chair in Excellence in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Hellmann has accepted our offer to lead the Institute on the Environment,” said University of Minnesota Vice President for Research Brian Herman. “Her scientific background in ecology and extensive research and collaborative work on climate change provide a solid foundation from which to effectively guide the Institute as it addresses the most critical environmental challenges of our future while influencing change at the highest levels.”

Hellmann is one of the nation’s leading researchers on global change ecology and climate adaptation and the research director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, which assesses and ranks the vulnerability of nations around the world to climate change and their readiness to adapt to climate change. In addition, she leads the climate change adaptation program at Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative and directs GLOBES, an interdisciplinary graduate training program in environment and society, among numerous other high-level academic and scientific appointments. She also founded Notre Dame’s undergraduate minor in sustainability.

As director of the Institute on the Environment, Hellmann will provide strategic leadership for the Institute, an internationally recognized organization working to solve grand environmental challenges, while promoting interdisciplinary research, teaching and leadership across the university, engaging external partners and stakeholders.

Hellmann earned her Ph.D. in biology from Stanford University and served as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Biodiversity Research. She is an alumna of Stanford’s Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, and a recipient of a career enhancement fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. She has been a member of the Notre Dame faculty since 2003.

Hellmann is a frequent contributor to leading scientific journals such as Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, BioScience and PLoS One. She serves on the editorial board of the journal Evolutionary Applications, is an associate editor with both Conservation Biology and Elementa, and serves on committees for the Ecological Society of America, the College Board and the National Academy of Sciences. She contributed to the 2014 National Climate Assessment and has served in numerous other positions that bring her scientific expertise to bear on solving environmental and societal challenges.

A skilled science communicator, Hellmann is routinely called upon by leading media outlets around the world such as CNN, NPR, Fox News, The Telegraph and the Chicago Tribune to provide expert input on topics related to global change and ways to minimize adverse impacts to people and nature.

“The University of Minnesota has extraordinary people and assets focused on environmental scholarship and application,” said Hellmann. “I look forward to building on those strengths to expand the scope, impact and visibility of the Institute on the Environment. Never has it been more critical for researchers to work with society to preserve precious resources, build resiliency to environmental change and identify new solutions to vexing environmental problems.”

Hellmann succeeds Jonathan Foley, who led the Institute from 2008 to 2014 and is currently executive director of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

For media inquiries, please contact Todd Reubold, Institute on the Environment,, 612-624-6140

Photo courtesy of Barbara Johnson (University of Notre Dame)

Conservation and conversation in Costa RicaCCCR

Can communication improve conservation? That was the goal in early June, when more than 80 biologists, conservationists, students and journalists gathered from around the world for a two-day open house to share ideas and experiences, network, and strategize how to communicate the value of the research and conservation activities going on at the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (Guanacaste Conservation Area) in northwestern Costa Rica.

ACG spreads across 402,781 acres of rain forest, dry tropical forest and cloud forest, as well as a marine reserve in the northwestern corner of Costa Rica. Scientists and ACG staff are engaged in about 150 different research projects there, from studying ants, primates and sea turtles to observing tropical forest regeneration and how it affects water availability to local communities. Continue reading

Catch up with Frontiers in the Environment talksPhoto by Photo Phiend (Flickr Creative Commons)

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Art exhibit: We watch the streamIMG_0326 - Cr2

How do we learn to see the deep interconnections we have with the world around us?

That is the question Jonee Kulman Brigham seeks to answer with her art-led environmental education project, “River Journey: Exploring the Value of the Mississippi River.” Brigham, an IonE resident fellow, sustainable design program faculty member in the College of  Design and a visiting scholar in the College of Education and Human Development, wanted to help youth connect the Mississippi River to the water coming out of their taps at school and at home. Photographs and student reflections of this exploration are the focus of the art exhibit now on display in IonE’s Commons Meeting and Art Space.
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U of M researchers advance natural capital principles around the worldNatural Capital PNAS

Key leaders around the world are becoming more aware of the importance of including the value of nature in development decisions — witness the publication this week of a special issue of the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the topic — thanks to the work of The Natural Capital Project and researchers affiliated with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

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This article was written by Bob Henson and reprinted with permission from Wunderground. IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative collaborates with leaders in agriculture and related sectors to develop solutions for meeting current and future global food needs while sustaining our planet.

If you’ve ever encountered Argentinian pears in your New York grocery or snacked on California almonds while visiting Tokyo, you’ve seen the global food market in action. How will the nuance and complexity of global food trade be affected if some agricultural areas benefit from a warming climate, while others get hurt? Graham MacDonald gave us a sneak preview. He’s a researcher at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, where he studies the role of trade in the global food system. Continue reading

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Editor’s note: IonE’s nearly 70 resident fellows — faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries — are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges. Over the course of the next year, this series will introduce our diverse resident fellows in their own words. Here we interview IonE resident fellow Dominic Travis, epidemiologist in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Let the conversation begin!

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This article was adapted from the original by Emily Zimmer for Rosemount Town Pages.

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The University of Minnesota Resilient Communities Project celebrated the conclusion of its one-year partnership with Rosemount during a luncheon at the McNamara Alumni Center. Continue reading

Community solar and Minnesota’s energy futureSolar Community

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Listen to the broadcast.

Photo by BlackRockSolar (Flickr/Creative Commons)

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Watch the lecture here.

IonE resident fellows are faculty with appointments throughout the University of Minnesota system who come together here to share ideas, inspiration and innovation across disciplinary boundaries and are among the shining stars of IonE’s signature approach to addressing global grand challenges.

Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Flickr/Creative Commons)

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What’s your current favorite project?

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A workshop on invasive species in the Galapagos Islands, the launch of a food festival at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and the implementation of a new course on impact ventures in rural Nicaragua are some of the projects receiving Institute on the Environment Mini Grants this spring. Eleven projects received grants of up to $3,000 and one received $5,000 for a total disbursement of $43,300.

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The University and the Institute on the Environment are committed to finding solutions to the global grand challenges facing us now and in the years ahead. One of the grandest of all is how to build a more resilient food system that can provide food security for a growing population while preserving the environment we rely on. Continue reading

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If you ever thought a young adult is too inexperienced to make a difference, you haven’t met the participants in the Institute on the Environment’s Acara impact entrepreneurship program.

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This article is reprinted with permission from the University of Minnesota.

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