Jessica Hellmann named Director of University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment

Author: Alex Gumm

Jessica Hellmann, associate professor and associate department chair of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, has been named the new director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. 
As director, Hellmann will work to solve grand environmental challenges, while advancing interdisciplinary research, teaching and engaging with external partners and stakeholders. Her appointment, effective August 31, includes joining the University as a Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. 


A Notre Dame faculty member since 2003, Hellmann is a national expert on climate change adaptation, examining the ecological affects of the changing climate and other human-caused environmental changes. Her research evaluates which species and ecosystems are most sensitive to climate impacts and how to adapt to these changes. 

Hellmann leads Notre Dame’s climate change adaptation program, and is the research director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, the world’s leading annual Index ranking countries based on vulnerability and readiness to adapt to climate change.  Both are part of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative, which focuses on the interrelated problems of invasive species, land use and climate change, and their synergistic impacts on water resources.


“It has been an extraordinary privilege being part of the Environmental Change Initiative,” Hellmann said. “The ECI is a place where researchers can cross disciplinary boundaries to do work that has an impact. My students and researchers have benefited tremendously from the connections to the outside world that ECI provides.”



Hellmann directs GLOBES, an interdisciplinary graduate environmental training program and founded Notre Dame’s undergraduate minor in sustainability. She is also an alumna of Stanford’s Aldo Leopold Leadership Program and a recipient of a career enhancement fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. 



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.


“Jessica has been an influential voice surrounding climate adaptation and the environment while at Notre Dame,” said Interim ECI Director Jennifer Tank. “We count ourselves lucky to have experienced her dedication and passion for scientific leadership here at the ECI through her work on ND-GAIN, and as faculty lead of the climate change adaptation program. While we recognize her departure as a loss for Notre Dame, we also celebrate this outstanding opportunity for her to direct the Institute on the Environment, carrying on the ECI tradition of ‘Science Serving Society’ to the University of Minnesota.” 

Originally published by Alex Gumm at on July 02, 2015.