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University of Minnesota global ecologist Jonathan Foley receives prestigious Heinz Award in the environment

Foley honored as a pioneer in understanding global ecosystems, land use and the environmental implications of modern agriculture

Courtesy of Steve Wewerka and the Univ. of Minnesota
University of Minnesota February 25, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL — The Heinz Awards, established by Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation to honor the memory of the late U.S. Senator John Heinz, today recognized Jonathan Foley, Ph.D., director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota, as one of the five recipients of the 19th Heinz Awards. The winner of the Environment award, Dr. Foley serves as an important voice on the study of complex environmental systems, and as a pioneer in understanding global ecosystems, land use, and the environmental implications of modern agriculture. His recent work has focused on reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture worldwide while simultaneously feeding a growing population.

"As we work to provide an adequate food supply for all of the world’s nations, we must also understand and plan for the resulting environmental effects. For more than 20 years, Dr. Foley has developed a variety of tools supported by scientific research that drive everyone — environmental groups, the agricultural community, policy makers and the general public — to see these interrelated challenges in a different light," said Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation. "At the same time, Dr. Foley has served as a source of hope, fostering collaboration among key stakeholders with the goal of finding practical solutions to address the challenges of feeding the world and minimizing the environmental impact of agriculture."

Dr. Foley’s career has long focused on improving our understanding of the world’s environmental systems, including world-leading work in global ecosystems, climate change, land use, deforestation and food security. Foley and his students and colleagues have pioneered the development of computer models and global datasets to describe the world’s ecosystems, land use and agriculture. Foley is also is a noted science communicator, and has dedicated much of his career to mentoring young scientists to engage with decision-makers and public audiences.

Foley and his colleagues work to build broad coalitions among environmental groups, think tanks, philanthropic foundations, businesses and academia to bolster global food security and environmental sustainability. Foley and his team are also strongly engaged in science communication projects that help inform policy-makers and citizens across the world.

 "I am tremendously grateful to have won the Heinz Award in the Environment," said Foley. "It is truly humbling to accept this award, especially given the extraordinary legacy this award represents.

"Naturally, the award also belongs to the wonderful students, colleagues and collaborators I have been fortunate to work with over the years — especially at the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin. No one ever really wins an award like this on their own. These are truly group efforts."

In addition to Dr. Foley, the 19th Heinz Awards also honored the following individuals:

  • Arts and Humanities: Abraham Verghese, M.D., of Stanford, Calif. Dr. Verghese is being recognized for his work as a critically acclaimed best-selling author. His poignant stories document his belief that healing must go beyond the cures, diagnostic tests and technological advancements and must also address the sense of profound vulnerability patients feel when they are facing a major health crisis.
  • Human Condition: Salman Khan, of Mountain View, Calif. Mr. Khan is founder of the highly acclaimed Khan Academy, a nonprofit educational organization that has revolutionized how thousands of children and students of all ages across the globe are learning math, science and other subjects.
  • Public Policy: Sanjeev Arora, M.D., of Albuquerque, N.M. A tenured professor of Internal Medicine at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNMHSC), Dr. Arora is receiving the award for creating and expanding Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes).
  • Technology, the Economy and Employment: Leila Janah, of San Francisco, Calif. A social entrepreneur with a passion for empowering the impoverished to improve their own situation, Ms. Janah is being recognized for founding SamaSource, a nonprofit organization that is using the power of technology and the Internet to provide employment or "microwork" opportunities for people in some of the poorest regions of the world.

Recipients will officially receive their awards at a ceremony in Pittsburgh, Pa., on April 3, 2014.

In addition to the monetary award of $250,000, each recipient also receives a medallion inscribed with the image of Senator Heinz on one side and a rendering of a globe passing between two hands on the other.

The award adds to a growing list of University of Minnesota faculty conducting environmental research that have received major international recognition recently, including ecologist David Tilman (Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences), plant ecologist Peter Reich (BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology) and entomologist Marla Spivak (MacArthur Fellowship), among others. Numerous environmental faculty at the University of Minnesota have also been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in recent years, including Sarah Hobbie (ecologist), Steve Polasky (environmental economist) and David Tilman (ecologist) along with fellow colleagues from other disciplines at the University of Minnesota. Together these awards and honors add to the University of Minnesota’s stature as one of the world’s leading centers of excellence for environmental teaching and research.

About the Heinz Awards
Established by Teresa Heinz in 1993 to honor the memory of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz, the Heinz Awards celebrate the accomplishments and spirit of the senator by recognizing the extraordinary achievements of individuals in the areas of greatest importance to him. The awards, administered by the Heinz Family Foundation, annually recognize individuals for their contributions in the areas of Arts and Humanities; Environment; Human Condition; Public Policy; and Technology, the Economy and Employment. Nominations are submitted by invited experts, who serve anonymously, and are reviewed by jurors appointed by the Heinz Family Foundation. Award recipients are ultimately selected by the Board of Directors. For more information on the Heinz Awards, visit www.heinzawards.net.

About the Institute on the Environment
The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment seeks lasting solutions to Earth's biggest challenges through research, partnerships and leadership development. For more information, visit environment.umn.edu.

Media contacts:
Mary Hoff, Institute on the Environment, maryhoff@umn.edu, (612) 626-2670
Brooke Dillon, University News Service, bldillon@umn.edu, (612) 624-2801

Related links:

www1.umn.edu/news/news-releases/2014/UR_CONTENT_472204.html
www.heinzawards.net/recipients/jonathan-foley