Institute on the Environment

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Institute on the Environment
IonE wordmark.png
Type Academic institution
Established 2007
Director Jessica Hellmann
Location St. Paul, MN, U.S.
Campus Urban

The Institute on the Environment, or IonE, is a multidisciplinary institute at the University of Minnesota that supports interdisciplinary research, develops leaders and builds cross-sector partnerships aimed at shaping solutions to challenges at the intersection of society and the environment. Its director is Jessica Hellmann.[1]


The mission of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment is to lead the way toward a future in which people and the environment prosper together.


IonE was founded at the University of Minnesota in 2007.[2]

Areas of emphasis[edit]

IonE initiatives focus on six topical areas:

  • Agriculture and land use
  • Renewable energy
  • Valuing nature
  • Climate adaptation and resilience
  • Sustainable Enterprise
  • Water

Three-part approach[edit]

IonE programs, investments and other activities fall into three broad, interacting activities: discovery of solutions, preparing leaders and engaging partners.

Discovering solutions[edit]

IonE pursues research-based solutions to the biggest challenges of the 21st century including climate adaptation, energy, food and land use, freshwater, urban resilience and whole systems. IonE fellows, research scientists and students collate and analyze data and knowledge from diverse sources and fields to identify strategies for improving environmental outcomes. IonE also works with established and emerging leaders in science, technology, business, education, policy and other areas to co-envision and co-create enduring positive change around the world. IonE shares its findings in academic and non-academic outlets.[3]

Preparing leaders[edit]

IonE's leadership and education programs offer a range of specialized training in areas such as communication, media relations, entrepreneurship and systems thinking. IonE coordinates the University's undergraduate sustainability studies minor; offers leadership programming for graduate students; provides education and mentoring for budding entrepreneurs; and delivers communications and strategy training for faculty and staff.[4]

Engaging partners[edit]

IonE links researchers with leaders in the business, investment, media, government, academia and nonprofit sectors to help disseminate Minnesota innovation around the world. It also shares stories and sparks conversations that motivate and empower people to create a more sustainable future.[5]

Programs and strategic initiatives[edit]

The Acara Program for Entrepreneurship gives university students a chance to envision and launch successful social businesses. Since 2009, more than 300 students from 20 universities have participated in Acara’s programs.[6] Acara has partnerships with colleges and universities in the United States as well as India.[7]

The Boreas Leadership Program offers University of Minnesota graduate and professional students and postdoctoral fellows co-curricular leadership development opportunities that build on the strengths of graduate education to create effective change agents.[8]

Ensia is an independent non-profit magazine and event series published by IonE that showcases environmental solutions in action. Ensia's mission is to share environmental solutions and spark conversations that motivate and empower people to create a more sustainable future. It covers a wide range of environment and sustainability issues, looking at the crossroads of sectors, disciplines, ideologies and geographies for new ideas to emerge.[9]

The Global Landscape Initiative works to understand land use changes, to improve the ability to balance human needs with environmental stewardship and to promote secure landscapes across the globe.[10] The 2011 TedxTC lecture, The Other Inconvenient Truth, addresses the challenges being aided by the Global Landscape Initiative.[11]

The Global Water Initiative examines critical links between land use change and water resources, bringing together hydrology, plant-water relations, economics and policy to explore the effects of land cover on water availability and use.

Institute fellows are increasing understanding of urban heat islands, large lakes, the changing boreal forest, resilient communities, human and animal health, global food security, the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and much more. In 2015, there were 63 fellows from 14 colleges, the Science Museum of Minnesota and three University of Minnesota campuses.[12]

The Natural Capital Project includes researchers from University of Minnesota, Stanford University, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and several other entities. It develops new approaches to integrating economics and ecology and advances knowledge and practice related to the economics of natural systems and the role of nature's services in cost-benefit calculations.[13]

The NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise works with the private sector to understand the systemic sustainability challenges of production and consumption systems, develop the decision tools necessary to navigate these complex systems, and accelerate innovation from marginal efforts to meaningful change.[14] The program launched in 2009.[15]

Through IonE's renewable energy programs researchers have developed new clean energy technologies, launched energy start-ups, worked with collaborators to advance the energy transition and improved understanding of the sustainability of biofuels and other forms of renewable energy.

The University of Minnesota's Sustainability Studies program, administered by IonE, is one of the largest programs of its kind in the country. It helps empower the next generation of sustainability leaders and scholars.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Right Time and Place. Prod. Institute on the Environment. Youtube. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2012. <>.
  3. ^ Institute on the Environment. n.d.
  4. ^ "Education & Leadership". Institute on the Environment. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  5. ^ "Partnerships & Engagement". Institute on the Environment. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  6. ^ "Acara." Institute on the Environment. Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2012. Web. 12 July 2012. <>.
  7. ^ Wheeler, David. "How to Pull Students Into ‘Global Challenges’ Research." The Chronicle of Higher Education 2012: n. pag. Print.
  8. ^ Minnesota, University of. "Boreas Leadership Program". Boreas Leadership Program. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  9. ^ "Ensia". Ensia. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  10. ^ "Global Landscapes Initiative." Institute on the Environment. Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2012. Web. 12 July 2012. <>.
  11. ^ TEDxTC - Jonathan Foley - The Other Inconvenient Truth. TED Conferences, LLC. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2012. <>. Retrieved 2012-8-7
  12. ^ "Fellowships & Grants". Institute on the Environment. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  13. ^ "Natural Capital Project." Institute on the Environment. Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2012. Web. 12 July 2012. <>.
  14. ^ "NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise." Institute on the Environment. Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2012. Web. 12 July 2012. <>.
  15. ^ Hulsey, Sasha. "Free Market Sustainability: Environmentally Sustainable?" MN2020: n. pag. Print.
  16. ^ "Sustainability Education." Institute on the Environment. Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2012. Web. 12 July 2012. <>.

External links[edit]