The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

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Support the University of Wisconsin to help continue the tradition of excellence in teaching, research, and public service.

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The Earth is changing and there’s no going back. Two thirds of the world’s surface has been brought under human use and production. Global temperatures have risen steadily for more than 100 years. By the middle of the century, we will share the planet with 9 billion people, two thirds of whom will live in cities. In the age of such momentous change – “The Anthropocene” – we can either shrink away from the challenges that lie ahead or instead learn to adapt our societies, to mitigate undesirable change, and to imagine new environments and economies.

Named for Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson (former Senator and Governor from Wisconsin), the Nelson Institute has been an incubator, laboratory, and model of collaborative education, research, and public service for nearly 50 years.

Interdisciplinary by design, the Nelson Institute gathers the best and brightest from all corners of the university – scientists, engineers, heath and legal experts along with economists, historians, ethicists and political scholars, and more.  It also reaches beyond the campus to build partnerships with stakeholders in government, business, the nonprofit sector, and other academic institutions.  We are particularly proud of our engagement and partnerships with the Sovereign Tribal Nations of Wisconsin.

The year 2020 will bring two major milestones: the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the 50th anniversary of the Nelson Institute.

With your support, the Nelson Institute will continue to revolutionize environmental studies and practice the Wisconsin Idea to 2020 and beyond.  The new environmental citizens we are educating and training include:

  • Those who seek not only to conserve the Earth’s last best places, but to also create the next best places
  • Those whose source of knowledge and action emerges from outside the walls of the academy, within diverse communities
  • Those who understand that that the environment is at work all around us, even and especially in cities
  • Those with skills drawn not only from the Earth sciences but from the traditions of social science and the humanities: history, ethics, culture.
  • Those who know to integrate business with the environment

Teaching environmental skills for a changing world, integrating diverse areas of research and discovery, translating complex scholarship into intuitive action, and engaging and starting from public priorities and concerns (such as jobs, food, and justice) benefit not just our students, but the people of the state and the world.

Have questions or would like more information?  Contact Ann Swenson, the Nelson Institute’s Director of Advancement and Donor Relations at

Priority Programs and Funds

  • Director’s Annual Fund
  • Nelson Institute Academic Programs Fund
  • Earth Day Event Fund

Centers and Institutes

  • Give to Center for Climatic Research Fund
  • Give to Land Tenure Center Fund
  • Give to Nelson Institute Culture, History, and Environment Fund
  • Give to Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) Incubator Fund

Special Programs and Funds

  • Give to Community Environmental Scholars Program Fund
  • Give to Energy Analysis and Policy Program Fund
  • Give to Environmental Conservation Program Fund
  • Give to Faculty Discretionary Fund - Environment and Health Research
  • Give to Faculty Discretionary Fund - Tropical Land-Use Change and Globalization
  • Give to Nelson Institute Environment and Resources Fund
Show all 8 Special Programs and Funds