University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Global Landscapes Initiative

imageCo-Director and Lead Scientist
Global Landscapes Initiative

Institute on the Environment
University of Minnesota
325 Learning and Environmental Sciences Building
1954 Buford Avenue
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55108

twitter: @coolfireecology


Paul West is the co-director and lead scientist for the Global Landscapes Initiative, a program within the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. The program’s aim is to find solutions to improve both food security and the environment. The team’s work is published in leading science journals—including Nature, Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—and collaborates with leading businesses, non-profit organizations, foundations, multi-lateral lending institutions, and investors to put science into practice.

He co-leads the research direction of the team, mentors research fellows and staff, and secures funding. In this role, Paul work on projects that span a range of issues, including: crop production, climate change, water availability and quality, biodiversity, commodity trade, nutrient cycling, diet, and food waste.

Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, Paul worked for 17 years at The Nature Conservancy, on projects ranging from researching the effectiveness of management techniques in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; advising large-scale conservation programs across several continents; and helping launch the Conservancy’s Upper Mississippi River and Great Rivers Partnership programs. He led several large-scale biodiversity planning efforts throughout the upper Midwest and southern Canada that now help direct over $60 million dollars of public and private funding each year in Wisconsin alone.

Paul received the Dr. Laurel Salton Clark Memorial Fellowship from the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium and NASA, and a Sponsored University Research award from IBM. His main hobbies revolve around rediscovering the wonders of the world through the eyes of his two young daughters.


Oakleaf, JR, CM Kennedy, S Baruch-Mordo, PC West, JS Gerber, L Jarvis, J Kiesecker. 2015. A world at risk: aggregating development trends to forecast global habitat conversion. PLoS-ONE Published: October 7, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138334

Smith, P, JI House, M Bustamante, J Sobocká, R Harper, G Pan, Paul C West, J Clark, T Adhya, C Rumpel, K Paustian, P Kuikman, MF Cotrufo, JA Elliott, R McDowell, RI Griffiths,, S Asakawa, A Bondeau, AK Jain, J Meersmans, and TAM Pugh. Global Change Pressures on Soils from Land Use and Management. 2015. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13068

Smith P, MF Cotrufo, C Rumpel, K Paustian, PJ Kuikman, JA Elliott, R McDowell, RI Griffiths, S Asakawa, M Bustamante, JI House, J  Sobocká, R Harper, G Pan, PC West, JS Gerber, JM Clark, T Adhya, RJ Scholes, and MC Scholes. 2015. Biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity as key drivers of ecosystem services provided by soils.  SOIL Discuss., 2, 537-586.

West, PC, JS Gerber, ND Mueller, KA Brauman, KM Carlson, ES Cassidy, PM Engstrom, M Johnston, GK MacDonald, DK Ray, and S Siebert. 2014. Leverage points for improving food security and the environment. Science. 345:325-328.

Mueller ND, PC West, JS Gerber, GK MacDonald, S Polasky and JA Foley. 2014. A tradeoff frontier for global nitrogen use and cereal production. Environmental Research Letters 9:054002.

Cassidy ES, PC West, JS Gerber, JA Foley. 2013. Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare. Environmental Research Letters 8:034015.

Ray DK, N Ramankutty, ND Mueller, PC West, JA Foley. 2012. Recent patterns of crop yield growth, stagnation, and collapse. Nature Communications. 3:1293 doi: 10.1038/ncomms2296

Biggs R, M Schlüter, D Biggs, EL Bohensky, S BurnSilver, G Cundill, V Dakos, T Daw, L Evans, K Kotschy, A Leitch, C Meek, A Quinlan, C Raudsepp-Hearne, M Robards, ML Schoon, L Schultz, PC West. 2012. Toward principles for enhancing the resilience of ecosystem services. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37:421-448.

Foley, JA, N Ramankutty, KA Brauman, ES Cassidy, J Gerber, M Johnston, ND Mueller, C O’Connell, DK Ray, PC West, C Balzer, EM Bennett, SR Carpenter, J Hill, C Monfreda, S Polasky, JR Rockstrom, J Sheehan, S Siebert, D Tilman, DPM Zaks. 2011. Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature. 478: 337-342.

Bagley J, AR Desai, PC West, and JA Foley. 2011. Modeling the Global Biophysical Influence of Land Cover on the Soil-Vegetation-Boundary Layer System. Earth Interactions. 15: 1-32. doi: 10.1175/2011EI394.1.

West PC, GT Narisma, CC Barford, CJ Kucharik, JA Foley. 2011. An alternative approach for quantifying climate regulation by ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 9: 126-133.

West PC, HK Gibbs, C Monfreda, J Wagner, C Barford, SR Carpenter, and JA Foley. 2011. Reply to Vermeulen and Wollenberg: Distinguishing food security and crop yields. . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108: E31-E31.

West PC, HK Gibbs, C Monfreda, J Wagner, C Barford, SR Carpenter, and JA Foley. 2010. Trading carbon for food: global comparison of carbon stocks vs. crop yields on agricultural land. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107(46): 19645-19648. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1011078107.

Biggs R, MW Diebel, D Gilroy, AM Kamarainen, MS Kornis, ND Preston, JE Schmidtz, CK Uejio, MC Van de Bogert, BC Wiedel, PC West, DPM. Zaks, SR Carpenter. 2010. Preparing for the future: teaching scenario planning at the graduate level. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 8: 267-273 doi: 10.1890/080075.

Eckman B, PC West, C Barford, G Raber. 2010. Intuitive simulation, querying, and visualization for river basin policy and management. IBM Journal of Research and Development 53(3), Paper 7, 1-18. 0018- 8646/09

Reuter M, K Lubinski, P West, D Blodgett, M Khoury. 2005. The Nature Conservancy’s approach to conserving and rehabilitating biological diversity in the Upper Mississippi River System. Arch. Hydrobiol. Suppl.155/1-4. 549-560.


The Global Landscapes Initiative is administered by the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment.

Research support to the Global Landscapes Initiative is primarily provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Institute on the Environment. A comprehensive list of additional research support can be found here. Funders have no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of any manuscript.