Christopher Schell named chapter lead author on National Nature Assessment

May 02, 2024
A photo of Christopher Schell demonstrating a trailcam on a tree.

Photo by Anastasiia Sapon

Christopher Schell, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), has been selected as the chapter lead for the forthcoming National Nature Assessment (NNA1). This first-ever assessment, coordinated by the United States Global Change Research Program, will provide a holistic picture of the United States’ lands, waters, wildlife, and ecosystems and the benefits they provide across our society. 

Schell was selected by the NNA1 steering committee and the Department of the Interior to lead the Nature and Equity chapter, which will address issues that intersect with equitable and just access to nature and the environment. He will spearhead the chapter alongside Federal Coordinating Lead Author Brenda Rashleigh, assistant center director for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

An urban ecologist who studies the social-ecological factors affecting wildlife and people in cities, Schell’s landmark research has revealed the interconnectedness of urban development, human-wildlife interactions, the biodiversity crisis, and environmental justice to emphasize that the collective roots of these issues lie in environmental racism. From wildlife behavior to biodiversity, Schell and his colleagues interrogate how societal inequities contribute to disrupting nature, for people and wildlife alike. 

As chapter lead author, Schell will guide a team of global experts from universities, research institutes, NGOs, and government agencies as they delve further into the widening “nature gap” perpetuated across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic strata, review the past and present processes disproportionately affecting nature access, and provide recommendations based in environmental justice praxis. Additional co-authors include UC Berkeley professor Rachel Morello-Frosch, former postdoctoral researcher Max Lambert, incoming postdoctoral researcher Diego Ellis-Soto, and UC Davis professor Beth Rose Middleton Manning, PhD ’08 ESPM. The author team also includes Indigenous Knowledge holders (Dr. Jade Begay, Indigenous Rights and Climate Policy Expert) with place-based knowledge reflecting local experiences with nature.

“I am honored to work with an esteemed community of scholars, educators, and practitioners that speak truth to power on the issues of justice, equity, and nature,” Schell said. “We hope that our chapter will help illuminate our shared kinship with the environment, biodiversity, and each other so that all peoples may understand the significance of ensuring access to a healthy planet for generations to come.”

Over the next two years, Schell and the other NNA1 co-authors will assess the benefits nature provides to society and consider how these benefits might change in the future. Opportunities for public input and engagement are expected to open summer 2024 and fall 2025, and a final report is expected to be released in late 2026.

Learn more about the NNA1 process and authors at the U.S. Global Change Research Program website.