Featured Speakers

Mark Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy

“Investing in Nature: Taking it to Scale”

Mark Tercek is president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest conservation organization. He is the co-author of the Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

Before joining The Nature Conservancy in 2008, Mark was a Partner and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs where he worked for 24 years. Starting in 2005, he led the firm’s environmental strategy and its Environmental Markets Group. Inspired by the opportunity to help businesses, governments and environmental organizations work together in new, innovative ways, Mark left Goldman Sachs in 2008 to head up The Nature Conservancy.

He is a champion of the idea of natural capital — valuing nature for its own sake as well as for the services it provides for people, such as clean air and water, productive soils and a stable climate.

Dr. Jessica Hellmann, Director, University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment


“Natural Capital and Climate Change Adaptation”

Jessica Hellmann is the director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. As director, she provides overall strategic leadership for the Institute, an internationally recognized organization working to solve grand environmental challenges, while promoting interdisciplinary research, teaching and leadership across the university and engaging external partners and stakeholders. Hellmann’s research focuses on global change ecology and climate adaptation. She was among the first to propose and study ways to reduce the impact of climate change through new techniques in conservation management. She works with governments and corporations to build investment in climate change adaptation and co-authored several climate assessment and adaptation planning efforts. Before coming to the University of Minnesota in 2015, Hellmann was on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Biological Sciences. Hellmann is a frequent contributor to leading scientific journals such as Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, BioScience and PLOS ONE. She serves on the editorial board of the journal Evolutionary Applications, is an associate editor with both Conservation Biology and Elementa, and serves on committees for the Ecological Society of America, the College Board and the National Academy of Sciences. Hellmann earned her Ph.D. in biology from Stanford University and served as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Biodiversity Research.

Kate Newman, Vice President for Forests and Freshwater Public Sector Initiatives, World Wildlife Fund


“Rubber, Roads and Rice: Helping countries plan sustainable land-use at scale”

Kate Newman is WWF’s vice president for forests and freshwater public sector initiatives, focusing on the development of national green economy strategies and sustainable conservation finance mechanisms. Previously, Ms. Newman was managing director and priority leader for the coral triangle program, responsible for developing and supporting conservation programs in the coral triangle area of Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. From 2002 to 2006, Ms. Newman was director of marine ecoregions, responsible for developing and supporting conservation programs in six flagship ecoregions around the world—the Bering Sea, Eastern Africa, Galapagos, Mesoamerican Caribbean Reef, Gulf of California, and Sulu-Sulawesi Seas. From her start at WWF in 1990 until becoming director of marine ecoregions, Ms. Newman managed conservation programs in Africa, directing first the Africa and Madagascar division of the Biodiversity Support Program (BSP) until 1996, then the East and Southern African ecoregions program until 2002. Prior to her career at WWF, Ms. Newman worked in international development, primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She started there as a Peace Corps volunteer and then remained for a further three years as a program officer for the United States Agency for International Development managing a capacity building program for rural nonprofits. Ms. Newman received a BA in anthropology from the University of Virginia and MS in environmental management from the University of London, U.K.

Dr. Heather Tallis, Acting Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy

Heather_Tallis“The Perils of Success: Is the conservation community ready for the era of sustainable development goals?”

Heather Tallis is continuing her work with the Natural CapitalProject as a Lead Scientist with The Nature Conservancy. At TNC, Heather focuses on bringing science about people into the work of the Conservancy. Before moving over to TNC, Heather was a Lead Scientist at NatCap, managed the freshwater and terrestrial team, and led the development of NatCap’s RIOS (Resource Investment Optimization System) software. Heather holds an M.S. in chemical oceanography from the University of California, Santa Cruz, a M.S. in marine ecology from the University of Otago in New Zealand and a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Washington. She is co-editor of NatCap’s book, Natural Capital: The Theory and Practice of Mapping Ecosystem Services.

Dr. Jon Foley, Executive Director, California Academy of Sciences

Jon Foley_headshot

“Adventures in Science Communication: Sharing the Importance of Nature with Global Audiences”

Dr. Jonathan Foley is the Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, where he is also the William R. and Gretchen B. Kimball Chair. In this role, Foley leads the greenest museum on the planet and one of the most future-focused scientific institutions in the world. A world-renowned scientist, his work focuses on the sustainability of our planet and the ecosystems and natural resources we depend on. Throughout his career, he and his colleagues have contributed to our understanding of worldwide changes in ecosystems, land use and climate, global food security, and the sustainability of the world’s resources. This work has led Foley to become a trusted advisor to governments, environmental groups, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and business leaders around the world.

Dr. Peter Kareiva, Director, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California Los Angeles


“Forget your H-index, what is your box office?”

Natural Capital Project co-founder Peter Kareiva is the director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. Before joining UCLA, Kareiva was the Chief Scientist and Vice President of The Nature Conservancy. Kareiva’s interests encompass agriculture, conservation, ecology, and the interface of science and policy. In addition to a long academic career, including faculty positions at Brown University, the University of California at Santa Barbara and elsewhere, he worked for NOAA Fisheries for three years, and was Director of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center Conservation Biology Division. Academically, Peter Kareiva is best known for contributions to insect ecology, landscape ecology, risk analysis, mathematical biology, and conservation. His current projects emphasize the interplay of human land-use and biodiversity, resilience in the face of global change, and evidence-based conservation.


Featured Panel: Mental Health, Ecosystems, and Urban Planningamsterdam-1089647_1920

The Mental Health session will focus on the many ways in which nature experience influences psychological well-being, in both cognitive and emotional dimensions.  Our esteemed speakers will present results from a variety of experimental approaches that, taken together, form an exciting, emerging knowledge foundation for psychological ecosystem services.

Dr. Marc Berman, University of Chicago, Department of Psychology

“Deconstructing nature and its benefits”

Marc Berman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and is involved in the Cognition, Social and Integrative Neuroscience programs. Understanding the relationship between individual psychological and neural processing and environmental factors lies at the heart of my research. In my lab we utilize brain imaging, behavioral experimentation, computational neuroscience and statistical models to quantify the person, the environment and their interactions. Marc received his B.S.E. in Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in Psychology and IOE from the University of Michigan. He received post-doctoral training at the University of Toronto’s Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest. Before arriving to Chicago he was an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Ben Wheeler, University of Exeter, Medical School

“Natural environments for population health and wellbeing: longitudinal and spatial approaches”

Ben Wheeler is a Senior Research Fellow at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School. Since qualifying with a BSc in Environmental Sciences and a PhD in Social Medicine, he has over 12 years of post-doctoral research experience in health geography and environmental epidemiology. His expertise includes working with large datasets such as national census data, mortality and disease registries, health service utilisation and health survey datasets. Ben’s research approach is highly interdisciplinary, frequently collaborating with natural and social scientists across a range of research disciplines to investigate links between environment, health and socio-economic health inequalities. A key focus is on the positive impacts of natural environments (e.g. urban greenspace and coastal environments) on population health and wellbeing. Ben led the project “Beyond Greenspace”, and is co-investigator on a number of projects including “BlueHealth” (Horizons 2020) and “Bottom-up Climate Adaptation Strategies towards a Sustainable Europe” (FP7). He has authored/co-authored over 50 peer-reviewed papers, chapters and books. Ben’s research is engaged with policy and practice, including work with private sector, NGOs, local, national and international authorities. Recently he has been working with Cornwall Council on how research can inform the management of public open space for biodiversity and human wellbeing, and with the World Health Organisation to develop urban greenspace indicators for population health applications.

Dr. Ming Kuo, University of Illinois, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

“Greening as a public health measure: Dosage, active ingredients, and return on investment”

Ming Kuo studies the impacts of urban environments on healthy human functioning, in particular how “green space” supports healthy human functioning in both individuals and communities.  In 1993, she led a series of studies on the impacts of green spaces on human functioning in inner city Chicago, for which she and her collaborators received the Environmental Design Research Association’s Achievement Award.  A second line of research with her student Dr. Andrea Faber Taylor has documented the impacts of green spaces on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  More recent work has examined the ties between greener schoolyards and academic achievement.  Her work has convincingly linked healthy urban ecosystems to stronger, safer neighborhoods, lower crime, reduced AD/HD symptoms, reduced aggression, and an array of other mental health indicators.
Dr. Kuo’s work has had substantial impacts in her own field, across related fields, in practice and in policy.  She has given national and international keynotes in multiple fields:  environmental education, urban ecology, national recreation and parks association, and urban forestry, as well as environmental design research and environmental psychology.  Her work was the basis of a $10 million tree planting initiative by the City of Chicago, a US Conference of Mayors resolution on urban forestry, and has shaped federal landscaping guidelines.  Dr. Kuo has helped shape research agendas at the national level at the USDA, CDC, and NIH, as well as at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Of the 50 most cited articles in environment and behavior, Dr. Kuo is an author on six.

Greg Bratman, Stanford University, School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences

“Environmental impacts on mood and cognitive function: the pathway of emotion regulation”

Greg is a doctoral student in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, and the Center for Conservation Biology. He is working to define and study “psychological ecosystem services” by examining the impact of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health. He is exploring approaches for evaluating the psychological impacts of nature, and how these can best be incorporated into the paradigm of ecosystem services. Greg earned his Masters Degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB, and his B.S. in Philosophy from Princeton University. He also writes comedies.

“Coffeehouse” Chats


On Tuesday and Wednesday morning, as we get warmed up and ready for the day’s sessions, special guests will take the stage for informal conversations about their work and visions for the future. As you arrive at the venue, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and start the day with some (caffeine and) inspiration!

Tuesday, 8:30am: Patrick Beary (TNC), will discuss the importance of the private sector in catalyzing global sustainability.

Wednesday, 8:30am: Marcos Sapateiro, Jose Rafael, Sonia da Silveria, Alberto Macia, Sergio Malo, and Teresa Magalhaes, all from Mozambique, in conversation with Eoin Sinnot (WWF-Mozambique), sharing personal reflections about the challenges of good decision making and a vision of Mozambique’s natural capital for future generations.