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 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 Center for Ecology and the Environment fosters research, instruction, and outreach among ecologists at UW and beyond
We also have many partnerships in education, research and community service that promote a more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable world.
In addition, the Nelson Institute offers educational opportunities for undergraduates through a major or certificate in environmental studies, a certificate in sustainability, and the Community Environmental Scholars Program. Graduate students can pursue degrees in environmental conservation, environmental observation and informatics, environment and resources, or water resources management; and certificates in energy analysis and policy or culture, history, and environment.
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.
Mission, Vision, and Core Values
We build partnerships to synergize and sustain excellence in the interdisciplinary research, teaching, and service that make the University of Wisconsin-Madison a world leader in addressing environmental challenges.
We strive to create sustainable communities across complex institutional landscapes for enhancing the quality of life and the environment in Wisconsin and the world.
The Nelson Institute:
- Facilitates and promotes interdisciplinary scholarship that aims to understand and address societal problems related to environment and sustainability
- Values and is committed to a liberal arts and professional education, built on the premise that complex environmental issues can best be understood through familiarity with diverse perspectives, and integration of the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities
- Values and is committed to fostering and sustaining community partnerships in education, research, and service at the local to international levels
- Acts as a catalyst and model for interdisciplinary collaboration on environmental initiatives across departments, schools, and colleges, and including governmental, private, and non-profit entities
- Advances environmental stewardship and social justice through the coordination of activities and events that focus on environmental and racial justice, decolonizing relationships with Native communities, and diversifying the constituency for environmental issues and action