About Us

Welcome to the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment

At the Institute on the Environment (IonE), we envision a world in which sustainable agriculture feeds the world; renewable energy powers healthy homes, efficient transportation and flourishing businesses; every person has access to food, water and shelter; oceans, lakes and rivers are clean and healthy; communities have vibrant economies, neighborhoods and cultures; and thriving ecosystems support thriving economies and societies. Overall, humanity restores and renews resources for the benefit of all living things.

IonE is accelerating the transition to this future by supporting breakthrough research across disciplines, developing the next generation of global leaders and building transformative partnerships across the state, region and globe.

It’s important to stress this is not academia as usual. At IonE, we go out of our way to collaborate with external partners while bringing different academic fields of expertise together within the University — all with an eye towards being responsive, agile and entrepreneurial in the face of a changing world.

Our “secret sauce” is our ability to connect innovators from around the University and with external partners to discover solutions, to cultivate not just future scholars but future leaders, and to catalyze collaborations and conversations across sectors — all aimed at solving complex environmental challenges.

And it works! We’re a leader in the field of ecological economics — the science and practice of incorporating externalities and the value of nature into decision making. Our research and engagement activities — in partnership with leading companies, development banks, NGOs and others — have helped advance solutions to sustainably feeding a growing global population. We’re recognized for innovative communications that share stories of emerging risks and solutions with millions of people around the world. Our career scientists are redefining the role of academia in service of society. Our impact entrepreneurship and leadership development programs are unique within higher education and are preparing the next generation of change agents. And our entire community of fellows, researchers, students and staff — in partnership with external collaborators — is working every day to make the world a better place.

Moving forward, we will build on these past accomplishments while accelerating progress towards solutions and preparing for yet unknown challenges that lie ahead. Because the future is not yet set in stone. Together, we create the future.

Our Mission

IonE’s mission is to lead the way toward a future in which people and the environment prosper together.

Our Approach

To solve today’s complex environmental challenges, we must go beyond business-as-usual thinking. IonE’s pioneering approach bridges disciplines and sectors to create a synergistic setting in which to carry out three broad and interacting areas:

Discovering Solutions

IonE pursues research-based solutions to the biggest challenges of the 21st century related to climate adaptation, energy, food and land use freshwater, urban resilience, whole systems and more. We team the brightest minds from across the University and beyond with emerging leaders in science, technology, business, education, policy and other areas to envision and create enduring positive change around the world.

Educating Leaders

IonE’s leadership and education programs shape the next generation of environmental leaders. In addition to offering specialized training in communication, media relations, entrepreneurship, systems thinking and more for faculty fellows, research staff and graduate, professional and postdoctoral students, we also coordinate the undergraduate sustainability studies minor; provide education and mentoring for budding impact entrepreneurs; deliver communications and strategy training for faculty and staff; and contribute to the University’s innovative interdisciplinary Grand Challenges courses.

Engaging Partners

Partnership is at the heart of nearly all of IonE’s activities. By linking our work with that of leaders in the business, investment, media, government, academic and nonprofit sectors, we are building synergies and creating conduits for disseminating innovation around the world while growing new opportunities here at home.


The director of IonE is Jessica Hellmann. As a cross-campus, interdisciplinary institute, IonE reports to the Office for the Vice President for Research.

A Faculty Leadership Council advises IonE’s director, plays a central role in guiding faculty participation in IonE and ensures that faculty concerns are incorporated into IonE goals and decisions. Nominations for membership and questions regarding the Faculty Leadership Council should be sent to Jessica Hellmann.

Alongside our FLC, we also have an External Advisory Board — an international group consisting of government, academic, NGO and corporate leaders who provide strategic advice and counsel to the Institute.