When Jennifer Molnar was 12 years old her family departed New Jersey on a 16,000-mile roadtrip that cut west across the northern half of the country and back east across the southern half. They camped in national parks. They watched the landscape change—deciduous forest gave way to Great Plains, which ascended slowly, then precipitously, to become the Rockies. Her father, a high school science teacher, answered questions about the natural world wherever they stopped. “I was curious about how natural things worked, how they changed,” said Molnar (F&ES ’04).
This curiosity led to an undergraduate degree in environmental engineering and a job right out of college in environmental remediation. From this, she shifted into the nonprofit conservation sector “to be more proactive,” said Molnar. “Instead of getting pollution out of the ground after the fact, I thought, what if we stop it from getting there in the first place?”
Now Lead Scientist at The Nature Conservancy and the Managing Director of its Center for Sustainability Science, Molnar is focused on bridging the gap between conservation science and business-decision making, an area in which Molnar has particularly deep knowledge. She recently joined CBEY as an Executive Fellow and will share her work experience, advise students on career options, give lectures, as well as collaborate with students and faculty on Conservancy projects.
“While many companies are interested in understanding and building nature into their business practices, they often do not have the tools and research to turn ideas into implementation,” said Molnar. “We are working with companies to address this need, while also helping to protect nature and its services.”
One such example is the Conservancy’s work with The Dow Chemical Company. For the past six years, Molnar has been the lead scientist on the collaboration with Dow, researching and examining how the company can incorporate the value of ecosystem services into its core business. This effort has progressed from small pilots on a single site to a company-wide initiative. Just over a year ago, Dow announced its next 10-year sustainability goals, including a Valuing Nature Goal in which the company committed to an assessment of nature in all of its projects.
“The experience of going from an individual pilot to that scale has been inspiration for me,” said Molnar. The experience and learnings from this collaboration have helped inform the launch of the Center for Sustainability Science, which is seeking to drive system change by developing actionable, science-based solutions with businesses and policy makers.
We are pleased and honored to welcome Molnar back to F&ES as an Executive Fellow. We encourage you to say hello (and to take a look at her stunning photography)!