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Melissa Kenney

Dr. Melissa A. Kenney is the Director of Research Knowledge Initiatives at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment where she directs efforts to build synergy across IonE’s broad scientific research portfolio. To achieve this goal, she collaborates with faculty, community partners, the University of Minnesota’s systemwide campuses, and the IonE management team to launch new research efforts in support of the strategic plan.

Dr. Kenney is an environmental decision scientist with expertise in multidisciplinary, team-based science approaches to solving sustainability challenges. Her research program broadly addresses how to integrate both scientific knowledge and societal values into policy decision-making under uncertainty. Her research expertise includes conceptual modeling and decision structuring, indicators, systems analysis, multi-attribute methods, and evaluation of decision support to address environmental policy decisions. These decision support tool and collaborative decision-making processes methods have been applied to a range of topics including participatory global change indicators, setting environmental policy criteria, economic analyses for restoration alternatives assessment, expert elicitation, and value of information of indicators. Over the past decade, this work has led to more than 50 publications; more than $5M in grants awarded; more than 100 invited talks, including at the National Academies of Sciences; multiple invited White House events integrating her research findings; and opportunities to translate scientific findings as policy memos or decision support prototypes to federal agencies and the highest levels of government.

In addition to Dr. Kenney’s multidisciplinary scientific research, she has extensive experience in high-level science policy coordination and relationship building between Federal and academic institutions. In her former role as a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, she played a role in visioning a transboundary climate early warning system in the Columbia River basin, facilitated academic center collaborations via a NOAA and NSF partnership, advised several federal agencies on enhancing their social science research agendas, and recommended methods to quantify the value of Federal programs. In recognition of her public engagement leadership, she was part of the inaugural cohort of AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute Public Engagement Fellows, where she focused on enhancing stakeholder-engaged research to create climate-resilient solutions in the U.S. and Chesapeake Bay region.

Dr. Kenney is also an Associate Research Professor in Environmental Decision Science at the University of Maryland. Previously, she was research faculty in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and a postdoctoral scholar with the National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics at the University of Minnesota and Johns Hopkins University. She earned a Ph.D. from Duke University, focused on integrating water quality and decision models.

Research Team Website: indicators.umd.edu

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=Ji3gg-gAAAAJ&hl=en