About the Nelson Institute

One of the great challenges of our time is to satisfy humanity's needs and desires while protecting the natural resources and environmental conditions upon which all life – including our own – depends.

The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a response to this challenge. We build partnerships and seek sustainable paths to improve the quality of life and the environment in Wisconsin and around the world.

A pioneer in interdisciplinary environmental studies, the Nelson Institute has been an incubator, laboratory, and model of collaborative education, inquiry, and public service for 40 years. We offer nine degree and certificate programs, conduct environmental research through four interdisciplinary centers, and advance the Wisconsin Idea – the university’s long tradition of service through outreach – by organizing community programs and public events.

Armed with a diversity of perspectives and expertise, the Nelson Institute tackles local concerns like the health of Madison's lakes, global issues like climate change, and much in between.

Our institute was established in 1970 as a result of the same growing concern about the future of the planet that prompted Gaylord Nelson to conceive the first Earth Day. Fittingly, it was renamed in his honor in 2002. His legacy is our inspiration.