Elena Bennett is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Science in the Bieler School of Environment and Department of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University. She is a systems ecologist recognized primarily for her work on ecosystem services and multifunctional landscapes. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1994 with a degree in Biology and Environmental Studies, and earned her MSc (1999) and PhD (2002) from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She was a postdoctoral researcher with the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment from 2002 until 2005, when she joined the faculty at McGill University. She was an EWR Steacie Fellow (2017-2019) and a Guggenheim Fellow (2022), and has won multiple awards for graduate supervision and training, which she sees as among the most important of her responsibilities.

Research Interests

Research in the Bennett lab centers around questions about ecosystem services, the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. People have always depended on the services provided by ecosystems, including products such as food and freshwater; non-material benefits such as places for recreation and inspiration; and benefits obtained by regulation of ecosystem processes, such as flood control and climate regulation. A growing body of evidence indicates that most ecosystem management, which attempts to maximize one ecosystem service (ES) at a time, actually makes ecosystems vulnerable to substantial declines in other services or to increased likelihood of nonlinear, surprising changes in the provision of services. For this reason, recent studies have called for increased attention to managing multiple ES together. However, effective management of multiple ES is impeded by inadequate understanding of the interactions among ES and the slowly changing variables that appear to regulate these interactions. Research in the Bennett lab focuses on how different types of ecosystem services interact across the landscape over long time periods, and how we can manage landscapes to provide multiple ecosystem services. Current research topics include management for multifunctional landscapes, pathways to social-ecological transformations, and scenarios for thinking (and talking) about social-ecological futures.

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Primary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology

Secondary Section

Section 64: Human Environmental Sciences