About Us

The world is changing at a rate and scale unprecedented in human history. How can we meet humanity's needs in just and innovative ways while protecting the environment on which life depends? The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies is confronting this challenge through imaginative research that transcends disciplinary boundaries; through hands-on educational initiatives that bridge classrooms and communities; and through public programs that foster environmental conversations among people from business, government, academia and advocacy.

The Nelson Institute is home to four interdisciplinary research centers that serve as laboratories and incubators for solutions to the world's most critical environmental challenges.

  • The Center for Climatic Research explores the past, present and future of the Earth's climate system and is a world leader in studies of climate history, ocean-atmosphere-biosphere interactions, and future climate at local, regional and global scales.
  • The Center for Culture, History and Environment investigates environmental and cultural change in the full sweep of human history and explores how this knowledge can inform our relationship with the environment today and in the future.
  • The Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment examines connections between natural resources, technology, policy, human health, security in the rapidly changing global environment.
  • The Land Tenure Center works to promote equitable and sustainable land stewardship, particularly where biodiversity or local livelihoods are at risk.

In addition, the Nelson Institute offers educational opportunities for undergraduates through a major or certificate in environmental studies. Graduate students can pursue degrees in Environmental Conservation, Environment and Resources, or Water Resources Management, and certificates in Culture, History and Environment; Energy Analysis and Policy; Humans and the Global Environment; and Transportation Management and Policy.

The Nelson Institute's interdisciplinary education and research is helping to solve today's most challenging environmental issues and train tomorrow's leaders and innovators, but it is built upon a powerful historical legacy. The institute was established in 1970 and renamed in 2002 for former Wisconsin governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, the author of landmark environmental legislation and the founder of Earth Day. His commitment to environmental protection and social justice inspire our work -- more critical now than ever before on a rapidly changing planet.