University of Minnesota

Jonathan Foley wins Heinz Award

Jonathan Foley wins the Heinz Award in Environment for his work on behalf of the global environment.

February 25, 2014

Jonathan Foley, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE), has won a 2014 Heinz Award for his work on complex environmental systems and as a pioneer in understanding global ecosystems, land use, and the environmental implications of modern agriculture.

Foley, who won in the Environment category, is one of five recipients of the 19th Heinz Awards. The awards were established by Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation to honor the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz. They annually recognize individuals for their contributions in the areas of Arts and Humanities; Environment; Human Condition; Public Policy; and Technology, the Economy and Employment.

“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, chair of the foundation.

Foley has devoted much of his career to improving our understanding of the world’s environmental systems, including world-leading work in global ecosystems, climate change, land use, deforestation, and food security. He and his students and colleagues have pioneered the building of computer models and global datasets to describe the world’s ecosystems, land use and agriculture.  

With his colleagues, he works to build connections among environmental groups, think tanks, philanthropic foundations, businesses, and academia to bolster global food security and environmental sustainability. Through science communication projects, he and his team also 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 the monetary award of $250,000, each recipient receives a medallion inscribed with the image of Sen. Heinz on one side and a rendering of a globe passing between two hands on the other. Recipients will officially receive their awards April 3 at a ceremony in Pittsburgh.

The award adds to a growing list of University of Minnesota faculty conducting environmental research who 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 Ecology and Conservation Biology), geochemist and paleoclimatologist Larry Edwards (National Academy of Sciences' Arthur L. Day Prize), and entomologist Marla Spivak (MacArthur Fellowship). Four environmental faculty at the University of Minnesota have also been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recent years: Sarah Hobbie (ecologist), Stephen Polasky (environmental economist), Edwards, and Tilman.

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.

A complete list of winners is available at the Heinz Awards website.

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