Regional Adaptation Leadership Awards
Congratulations to 2018 Great Lakes Regional Adaptation Leadership Award honorees Chris Swanston, Matthew Gray, Jessica Hellmann and Heather Stirratt! Thank you for your contributions and leadership in the field of climate adaptation.
Director, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science and the USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub
Chris Swanston is a leader among Great Lakes adaptation professionals, directing both the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) and USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub. Through his leadership, he has transformed the way many people approach climate adaptation in land management and forestry. His vision is clear: there is a need in the field to bridge the gap between science and action communities. Chris created the Climate Change Response Framework (CCRF) as an integrated approach for responding to climate change through partnerships, vulnerability assessments, adaptation resources, and real-world demonstrations.
As a strong communicator, he has built his team of one to a team of twenty. Vibrant with expertise in climate impacts modeling, ecosystem adaptation, and forest carbon management, the efficacy of the NIACS team has culminated into a high-performing, collaborative, and trusted organization dedicated to serving the needs of land owners and managers across the region. Thousands of natural resource professionals have learned about climate change adaptation through CCRF presentations, trainings, field tours, and more than 250 real-world demonstration projects that use the Adaptation Workbook. Prioritizing respect for local knowledge and individual landowners’ perspectives on managing risks, NIACS team members are coaches for smart adaptation decision-making. Chris’s ideas are central to the adaptation work done at NIACS, and these ideas have ensured success for many. We are honored to honor Chris Swanston as the Winner of the Great Lakes Regional Adaptation Leadership Award. Congratulations, Chris!
Chief of Sustainability, City of Cleveland
Since returning from a Fulbright in Mauritius and joining the staff of the City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Matthew Gray has been working to both reduce greenhouse gases and increase resilience of the City of Cleveland. As a positive role model for other cities in the region, Matt has led efforts through the Urban Sustainability Directors’ Network to create a template for climate change vulnerability assessments to help other cities move forward on climate adaptation. Matt has revamped the Cleveland Carbon Fund to include adaptation work, and co-leads an effort to develop a regional network of cities working on climate adaptation to streamline adaptation efforts.
Matt has worked tirelessly to promote equitable adaptation in Cleveland’s Climate Action Plan and has reached out to numerous city departments to encourage climate change mitigation and adaptation in internal planning efforts. As a city liaison forging strong relationships among organizations in Cleveland to support and carry the work forward, he organizes learning events with partners and an annual Sustainability Summit that brings together leaders from across the city to discuss priorities. We are happy to recognize this work that is so beneficial not only to the people of Cleveland, but to the entire region. Congratulations, Matt!
Director, University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment (IonE)
Jessica Hellmann is an Ecologist studying the effects of climate and other global changes on ecosystems and the people who depend on them. She is dedicated to finding solutions to environmental threats that improve human livelihoods and ecosystem health. A civic leader dedicated to integrating climate adaptation into other fields, she regularly advises organizations such as the Great Plains Institute, Climate Generation and other nonprofits about often-overlooked strategies for adapting to climate change. Jessica envisions a network of change agents for climate adaptation with broad reach within and outside academia. Through her leadership of IonE and the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, she asserts that powerful networks informed by research and education are what is needed to create a hopeful, climate adaptive future. Jessica has taken the Urban Adaptation Assessment to the next level of impact and effectiveness by expanding it to 240 cities in the U.S., integrating a novel approach to measuring social equity.
Additionally, Jessica has led research showing changing climate conditions can influence both species distribution and the rate of evolution by examining modern day and museum butterfly species. Emphasizing her ability to learn and teach on the fly as a skilled science communicator, Jessica is routinely called upon by leading media outlets around the world such as CNN, NPR, Fox News, The Telegraph and the Chicago Tribune to provide expert input on topics related to adaptation and ways to minimize adverse impacts to people and nature. We are very grateful for her contributions to the field of adaptation and her presence in the Great Lakes region. Congratulations, Jessica!
Tune in to hear Director Jessica Hellmann present her vision for the future of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota.
Great Lakes Lead for NOAA’s National Ocean Service at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management
Twin Cities, MN
Heather Stirratt’s work on climate change adaptation motivates communities across the Great Lakes Region. From her NOAA National Ocean Service office in Twin Cities, MN, she has worked with researchers, municipalities, and students to ensure communities receive the support that they need to advance climate-informed decisions at multiple scales. Heather sees the need for broad capacity building. She has acted on this vision through the development of the Great Lakes Climate Training toolkit and of city and neighborhood specific resources in collaboration with the Great Lakes Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative. Heather has a demonstrable ability to think holistically about climate change and its related impacts. She is remarkably capable at bringing together the branches of federal government to serve the needs of the whole region.
A natural engagement specialist, Heather brings people together for a common cause, routinely communicates complex challenges, and truly meets people where they are. Her ability to build and work within teams from across a range of federal agencies — as well as coordinate numerous regional NOAA activities — highlight her power of persuasion and tenacity. When she brings together this potent combination it leads to successfully implemented projects, groundbreaking reports, and successful, engaging events. Her ability to summon resources makes her a terrific ally on a project and one of the most effective adaptation professionals in the Great Lakes region. We are very happy to award her with this Special Recognition for her contributions to the field of adaptation. Congratulations, Heather!