University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences

Professor Jonathan Foley

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1993
Phone: 612-626-9553 Fax: 612-624-6264

Research Interests

  • interactions between humans and global environment systems
  • land use and agricultural practices and their effects on ecosystems
  • interactions among climate, ecosystems and freshwater systems
  • applications of modeling and remote sensing techniques to global sustainability issues



Jon Foley is the Director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of the Minnesota, where he also holds a McKnight Presidential Chair in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.

Dr. Foley's work focuses on the behavior of complex global environmental systems and their interactions with human societies. In particular, Foley's research group uses state-of-the-art computer models and satellite measurements to analyze changes in land use, ecosystems, climate and freshwater resources across regional and global scales. He and his students have contributed to our understanding of large-scale ecosystem processes, global patterns of land use, the behavior of the planet's water and carbon cycles, and the interactions between ecosystems and the atmosphere.

Foley joined the University of Minnesota in 2008, after spending 15 years on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin. He has won numerous awards and honors, including the National Science Foundation'sFaculty Early Career Development Award, the Samuel C. Johnson Distinguished Faculty Fellowship, the J.S. McDonnell Foundation's 21st Century Science Award, and the Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America. In 1997, President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He has also been named an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow.

Although originally from Maine, Foley considers the Upper Midwest his home. He can often be found enjoying many of region's pleasures (kayaking, bicycling, gardening or exploring the cities),usually with his two young daughters leading the way.

Selected Publications

Seufert, V., N. Ramankutty, J. Foley (2012). Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture, Nature 485, 229–232, doi:10.1038/nature11069.

Foley, J.A., N. Ramankutty, K.A. Brauman, E.S. Cassidy, J.S. Gerber, M. Johnston, N.D. Mueller, C. O’Connell, D.K. Ray, P.C. West, C. Balzer, E.M. Bennett, S.R. Carpenter, J. Hill, C. Monfreda, S. Polasky, J. Rockstrom, J. Sheehan, S. Siebert, D. Tilman and D.P.M. Zaks (2011). Solutions for a cultivated planet, Nature, doi:10.1038/nature10452.

Foley, J.A. (2011). Can we feed the world and sustain the planet? Scientific American, November 2011, 60-65.

West, P.C., Gibbs, H.K., C. Monfreda, J. Wagner, C. Barford, S. R. Carpenter, and J.A. Foley (2010). Trading carbon for food: global comparison of carbon stocks vs. crop yields on agricultural land, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1011078107, 46, 19645-19648.

Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, F. S. Chapin, III, E. Lambin, T. M. Lenton, M. Scheffer, C. Folke, H. Schellnhuber, B. Nykvist, C. A. De Wit, T. Hughes, S. van der Leeuw, H. Rodhe, S. Sörlin, P. K. Snyder, R. Costanza, U. Svedin, M. Falkenmark, L. Karlberg, R. W. Corell, V. J. Fabry, J. Hansen, B. Walker, D. Liverman, K. Richardson, P. Crutzen, and J. Foley. (2009). Planetary boundaries:exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society 14(2): 32.

Monfreda, C. N. Ramankutty and J.A. Foley (2008). Farming the planet: 2. Geographic distribution of crop areas, yields, physiological types, and net primary production in the year 2000, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 22, GB1022, doi:10.1029/2007/GB002947.

Ramankutty, N., A.T. Evan, C. Monfreda, and J.A. Foley (2008). Farming the planet: 1. Geographic distribution of global agricultural lands in the year 2000, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 22, GB1003, doi:10.1029/2007GB002952.

Foley, J.A., G.P. Asner, M.H. Costa, M.T. Coe, R. DeFries, H.K. Gibbs, E.A. Howard, S. Olson, J. Patz, N. Ramankutty and P. Snyder (2007). Amazonian revealed: forest degradation and loss of ecosystem goods and services in the Amazon Basin. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 5(1): 25-32.

Foley, J.A., C. Monfreda, N. Ramankutty and D. Zaks (2007). Our share of the planetary pie. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 0: 0705190104v1.

Patz, J.A., D Campbell-Lendrum, T. Holloway, and J.A Foley (2005). Impact of regional climate change on human health, Nature, 438, 310-317.

Foley, J.A., R. DeFries, G.P. Asner, C. Barford, G. Bonan, S.R. Carpenter, F.S. Chapin, M.T. Coe, G.C. Daily, H.K. Gibbs, J.H. Helkowski, T. Holloway, E.A. Howard, C.J. Kucharik, C. Monfreda, J.A. Patz, I.C. Prentice, N. Ramankutty, and P.K. Snyder (2005). Global Consequences of Land Use, Science, 309, 570 - 574.

Foley, J.A. Tipping points in the Tundra, Science, 310, 623-624.

Additional Links

Institute on the Environment