Elena Bennett awarded prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship

Fellows include more than 125 Nobel laureates, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award 
Elena Bennett is McGill’s Canadian Research Chair in Sustainability ScienceTom DiSandolo

Elena Bennett has been named a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow. Bennett, the Canadian Research Chair in Sustainability Science, is one of 180 new Guggenheim Fellows, representing 51 scholarly disciplines and artistic fields.

The prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships are intended for mid-career individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts and exhibit great promise for their future endeavours.

Marco Amabili, Canada Research Chair in Mechanical Vibrations in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

“Now that the past two years are hopefully behind all of us, it is a special joy to celebrate the Guggenheim Foundation’s new class of Fellows,” said Edward Hirsch, President of the Guggenheim Foundation and 1985 Fellow in Poetry. “This year marks the Foundation’s 97th annual Fellowship competition. Our long experience tells us what an impact these annual grants will have to change people’s lives. The work supported by the Foundation will aid in our collective effort to better understand the new world we’re in, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. It is an honour for the Foundation to help the Fellows carry out their visionary work.”

Focus on ecosystem services

“I’m honestly thrilled,” said Bennett, who is jointly appointed in the Bieler School of Environment and the Department of Natural Resource Sciences. “The idea of the Guggenheim Fellowship is to help fellows find the swaths of time that are so rare for all of us in our busy lives these days and that are required to think deeply about hard topics and undertake novel and exciting projects.

“I’ve wanted for a while to write a book that explores the notion that the world could be better because people are in it (rather than better despite people being here). But I’ve never been able to make the time for it, and there is a lot of learning involved about the logistics of book writing (as opposed to manuscript writing, which I’m more familiar with),” Bennett told the Reporter. “Luckily for me, the stars seem to be aligning because I was also recently invited to be part of the first cohort of participants in the Wrigley Storymakers program. This program, the brainchild of Joe Arvai, organized by Liz Neeley of Liminal Creations, and taught in part by Pulitzer Prize winner Ed Yong, is designed to help its fellows develop a creative storytelling project that involves narrative persuasion.”

Research in the Bennett lab centers around questions about ecosystem services, and the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. Bennett’s areas of expertise include sustainable use and management of biodiversity and ecosystem services; multi-functional landscapes; human impacts on biogeochemical cycles; management of tradeoffs among ecosystem services, especially agricultural production and water quality; global food security, agriculture and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; land use change and water quality; and urban ecology.

Stellar company

Created and initially funded in 1925 by Senator Simon and Olga Guggenheim in memory of their son John Simon Guggenheim, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has sought since its inception to “further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions.”

Since its establishment, the foundation has granted nearly $400 million in Fellowships to more than 18,000 individuals, including more than 125 Nobel laureates, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award and other internationally recognized honours.

Read the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation press release