Jonathan A Foley | Director
Jonathan Foley is the director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota, where he is a professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. Foley’s work focuses on complex global environmental systems and their interactions with human societies. He and his students have contributed to our understanding of global-scale ecological processes, global patterns of land use, the behavior of the planet’s climate and water cycles, and the sustainability of our biosphere.
Paul West | Chief Collaboration Officer
Paul West is chief collaboration officer for IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative. His work is related to increasing global food production while decreasing environmental impacts. Paul conducts research on sustainably managing ecosystems with emphasis on the effects of agriculture. He also works with leaders from agribusiness, NGOs, foundations, technology companies and public agencies to increase accessibility and relevance of GLI’s research. Before joining the U of M, Paul worked 17 years at The Nature Conservancy.
Jamie Gerber | Program Coordinator
Jamie Gerber is a scientific program coordinator for the Institute on the Environment’s Global Landscapes Initiative. In this role, he assists with research and analysis related to the global environmental consequences of land use and land cover change. Prior to joining the IonE, he worked as the senior hydrodynamics researcher at Ocean Power Technologies, helping to develop devices to convert ocean wave energy to electricity. Jamie has a doctorate in physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Julia Benavides | Graduate Research Assistant
Julia Benavides is a Graduate Research Assistant with the Global Landscapes Initiative at the Institute on the Environment. She works on the development of Earth Collaboratory, a web-based system aimed at facilitating the exchange of environmental and sustainability information across global and local scales. Julia has a B.Sc. degree in Biology from Javeriana University (Colombia), a postgraduate diploma in Environment and Geoinformatics from University of Antioquia (Colombia), and is currently a M.Sc. student in the Natural Resources Science and Management program at the University of Minnesota. Previously, she worked on the Colombia Biodiversity Information System at Humboldt Institute. Her work experience also includes environmental impact assessments and regional land use planning.
Kate Brauman | Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Kate Brauman is a postdoctoral fellow with the Global Landscapes Initiative. She received her doctorate from the Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, where she evaluated the effects of land use change on water resources. Using the framework of hydrologic ecosystem services, Kate designed and led a project on the Big Island of Hawai’i quantifying the effects of pasture and forest on groundwater recharge and calculating the associated costs of water extraction. At IonE, Kate is looking at the global distribution of water use in agriculture and at its effects on downstream water quantity and quality.
Kimberly Carlson | Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Kimberly Carlson is a Global Landscapes Initiative postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. She earned her PhD at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where she coupled remote sensing and spatially-explicit land change modeling with socio-ecological field data to examine the influence of oil palm plantation expansion on land cover and ecosystem processes in Indonesian Borneo. At IonE, she is assessing tradeoffs between agriculture and the environment.
Emily Cassidy | Graduate Research Assistant
Emily’s research with the Global Landscapes Initiative investigates agricultural productivity, but not just in terms of yield. Emily’s research looks at how much actual food humans receive from global farmlands. She is interested in better understanding how diets affect global land-use patterns and their associated environmental consequences.
Emily Dombeck | Junior Scientist
Emily Dombeck is a junior scientist with the Global Landscapes Initiative, where she is both a researcher and assistant to the director. She received her B.S. in ecology, evolution and behavior from the University of Minnesota, and has worked at the U for over 10 years. Emily is interested in finding creative ways to encourage environmental stewardship and sustainability, and she will be assisting with GLI’s research in sustainable agriculture.
Peder Engstrom | Junior Scientist
Peder Engstrom is junior scientist with IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative. Peder provides assistance with mapping, analysis and other data requests from partners and collaborators. If you see Peder at IonE, chances are he is looking at, talking about, or making a map. Peder’s responsibilities include developing and maintaining EarthStat.org, a web site for serving agriculture-related geographic data and maps. Research interests include cartographic design and representation, web-based mapping tools and bridging the data gap between global and local landscapes.
As the city-dwelling child of two farm kids, Peder grew up living half in the city and half in the countryside of southern Minnesota and Iowa. His interest in agriculture and food led him to geographic information science (GIS) as a way of understanding broader patterns across landscapes. Prior to joining GLI, he dabbled in archaeology, education, artisan bread baking and small-scale farming. Outside of IonE you might find Peder exploring the Mississippi River on bike or by foot.
Matt Johnston | Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Matt Johnston is a postdoctoral researcher in the Global Renewable Energy Leadership fellows program. His research focuses on scale issues associated with increased production and consumption of biofuels. Matt hopes to identify areas most suited for joint food-fuel development projects in food-insecure countries. After receiving his B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Matt worked for Intel Corporation and AstroPower (now GE Energy). Matt returned to his alma mater for graduate studies, earning his M.S. in Land Resources, a graduate certificate in Energy Analysis and Policy, and a Ph.D. in Environment and Resources.
Graham K. MacDonald | Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Graham MacDonald is a postdoctoral researcher with the Global Landscapes Initiative at the Institute on the Environment. His research examines the potential environmental costs and benefits associated with agricultural commodities trade in our increasingly globalized food system. Prior to joining IonE, Graham completed a Ph.D. at McGill University. His graduate research investigated key issues surrounding agricultural phosphorus use over space, time, and ecological systems.
Nathan Mueller | Research Assistant
Nathan Mueller is a doctoral student working with the Global Landscapes Initiative. His research analyzes the influence of agricultural management practices on global crop yields, nutrient loading, water use and climate change adaptation. Nathan collaborates with members of the Natural Capital Project on integrating state-of-the-art agricultural data and modeling into the InVEST ecosystem services modeling and valuation software. Nathan received his bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies from St. Olaf College, where he researched ecological stoichiometry and freshwater nutrient cycling. He was a research assistant at the U.S. EPA Mid-Continent Ecology Division before joining IonE.
Christine O’Connell | Research Assistant
Christine O’Connell is a doctoral student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior and is a research fellow with the Global Landscape Initiative. She uses ecosystem ecology to explore the role that ecosystem services can play in sustainable tropical forest management. Christine’s dissertation investigates the effects of increased agricultural production on Amazonia’s contribution to global climate, biodiversity and nitrogen cycling, using a combination of statistical modeling and field work in Mato Grosso, Brazil.
Christine received a B.S. from Stanford University in earth systems with a focus in biology and, prior to returning to graduate school, spent several years teaching high school biology in an urban charter school in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Deepak Ray | Research Associate
Deepak Ray is a research associate with IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative. He is studying how global crop areas and yields have changed over time. He has published 18 peer-reviewed articles on topics ranging from satellite remote sensing to regional climate modeling, land use change modeling and population studies. Deepak’s research projects have covered international locations, including Central America and Australia. He holds a doctoral degree in atmospheric sciences from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Shipeng Sun | Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Shipeng Sun is a postdoctoral fellow with the Global Landscapes Initiative. He studied geographic information science (GIS) and human-environment interactions at the University of Minnesota Department of Geography. After graduating in 2009, he worked for the Spatial Land-Use Change and Ecological Effects (SLUCE) project and continued research on land use change, land markets, carbon dynamics and other human-environment issues in exurban America using GIS and agent-based modeling. At IonE, Shipeng is working on Web mapping GLI data using Google products and on other research activities.