University of Minnesota names Jessica Hellmann director of the Institute on the Environment
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.
Bringing together researchers from across the University of Minnesota system with collaborators around the world, the Institute on the Environment — founded in 2008 — seeks lasting solutions to Earth's biggest challenges through research, partnerships and leadership development. For more information, visit environment.umn.edu.