Dr. Melissa A. Kenney (she/her) is the Director of Research and 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 staff to launch knowledge initiatives in support of IonE’s impact goal initiatives on carbon neutrality, sustainable land use, and safe drinking water.
Dr. Kenney is also a Principal Research Scholar in Environmental Decision Support Science with expertise in multidisciplinary, team-based science approaches to solving sustainability challenges. Her research team conducts multidisciplinary social science research to increase the use of evidence in climate adaptation and mitigation, ecosystem resilience, interdependent infrastructure decisions, and water quality management. The goal of her program is to understand and improve the processes and tools that aid these decisions, both in the public and private sectors.
Over the past decade, this work has led to more than 60 publications; approximately $22M in grants awarded; more than 125 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. She is an author of the Adaptation Chapter of the 5th U.S. National Climate Assessment and was an author of the Decision Support Chapter of the 3rd U.S. National Climate Assessment.
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. Her research has led to the operationalization of decision support visualization changes for the NOAA temperature and precipitation outlooks in September 2021 and proof-of-concept national climate indicator system released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) in May 2015, which continues to be updated and expanded to this day as part of sustained U.S. National Climate Assessment products. 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.
Previously, Dr. Kenney was an Associate Research Professor in Environmental Decision Science at the University of Maryland, and she was research faculty in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She was 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.
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=Ji3gg-gAAAAJ&hl=en