Adapting to climate change initiatives
Jessica Hellmann ( BS, 96 )
Director of the Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
Woody plants. I remember when it was included in ESPN list of "easy jock classes." They had no idea what they were talking about!
With the great privilege of a U-M degree, also comes great responsibility.
From assisted migration to green roofs, Jessica Hellmann’s research focuses on global change ecology and climate adaptation. She led an important paradigm shift in ecology and natural resource management by showing that adaptation — living with climate change — is just as crucial to the future of humanity and Earth’s ecosystems as slowing and stopping greenhouse gas emissions.
“In my laboratory, we believe that decisions about global change must be informed by scientific understanding and public values,” she said. “Therefore, we develop and deploy cutting-edge science to understand the changing natural world and work with a wide range of stakeholders to discover solutions to environmental change.”
As director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, Hellman provides overall strategic leadership for the internationally recognized organization that’s working to solve grand environmental challenges, while promoting interdisciplinary research, teaching and leadership across the university and engaging external partners and stakeholders. She is also the Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Chair in Excellence in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences.
Hellmann regularly counsels state and national governments on habitat management, restoration and endangered species conservation, and has extended her work on climate change adaptation to human systems, including health, infrastructure, food and water. She has co-authored several climate assessment and adaptation planning efforts, including the biodiversity and ecosystem portions of the Chicago Climate Action Plan and the 2014 National Climate Assessment. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Great Plains Institute, and the Science Advisory Council of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.
“We should be drawing on science and hard data as we decide what to do about climate change. But these decisions aren’t just for the science community to make. The public needs to understand the science and to be part of that conversation,” Hellman said. “Now more than ever, scientists need to be approachable. Those of us making the discoveries must work together with the people making the decisions, as well as the people impacted most by those decisions.”
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 Leopold Leadership Program and a recipient of a career enhancement fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. She is a member of the SEAS External Advisory Board.
Cover photo by Matt Cashore, University of Notre Dame.