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Heather Tallis

Heather Tallis

Lead Scientist

Heather Tallis is the first female lead scientist in the history of The Nature Conservancy, where she founded and directs the organization’s Human Dimensions Program (HDP), an initiative to bring human well-being considerations into conservation practice from the planning stage forward. HDP advances the use of ecological, social and economic sciences in conservation and natural resource decision-making. Heather’s current scientific inquiries focus on developing transferable analytical approaches for using information about nature’s benefits in specific policy contexts and for measuring the impacts of conservation management decisions on human well-being.

Heather has developed, planned and executed many innovative research programs at the Conservancy. Her recent initiatives include:

  • Using data and publicly available test scores to explore the connection between nature views and elementary school test scores.
  • Analyzing available data in the United States to identify which individual choices can have the biggest impact on water scarcity in drought-prone regions.
  • Expanding the definition of poverty beyond income, and moving beyond arbitrary poverty lines in the US and developing countries, to better inform economic and conservation programs.
  • Exploring landscape-level connections between wildlife, livestock, tourism, income, nutrition and tick-borne disease in Northern Kenya.
  • Incorporating ecosystem services in national planning.

Before joining the Conservancy in 2013, Heather was lead scientist at the Natural Capital Project, where she led the development of a pioneering software application (InVEST) that reveals the ecosystem service costs and benefits of land and water use decisions. At the Natural Capital Project, Heather also helped develop a new free software tool — RIOS — which uses biophysical, ecological and social data to help policymakers and others maximize the feasibility and effectiveness of watershed investments. RIOS will be used to design 40 new water funds in Latin America and Africa.

Beyond model development, Heather has worked with governments, corporations and non-government groups to use science about nature’s benefits to inform environmental impact assessment, national accounting, land use planning, payment for ecosystem service design, and monitoring. She has guided research with diverse stakeholders across Latin America as well as in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Tanzania and the United States. On the international stage, she holds leadership and expert advisory roles with the World Bank and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

She received an M.S. in chemical oceanography from the University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.S. in marine ecology from the University of Otago in New Zealand and a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Washington. Heather is co-editor of the book, Natural Capital: The Theory and Practice of Mapping Ecosystem Services, released by Oxford University Press in 2011.

Download Heather's CV


The Ponzi Scheme for Managing the Planet at Chicago Ideas 

Rethinking the Value of Forests for Clean Water, Free Time and Education a Boething Lecture



Diaz, S., Demissew, S., Carabias, J., Joly, C….Tallis, H. and 79 others. 2015. The IPBES Conceptual Framework-connecting nature and people. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 12: 1-16.


Bhagabati, N.K, Ricketts, T., Sulistyawan, T.B.S., Conte, M., Ennaanay, D., Hadian, O., McKenzie, E., Olwero, N., Rosenthal, A., Tallis, H., Wolny, S. 2014. Ecosystem services reinforce Sumatran tiger conservation in land use plans. Biological Conservation 169: 147-156.

Mooney, H., Tallis, H. 2014. Comment: Fauna in decline: global assessments. Science 345 (6199): 885.

Nelson, E., Kareiva, P., Ruckelshaus, M., Arkema, K., Geller, G., Girvetz, E., Goodrich, D., Matzek, V., Pinsky, M., Reid, W., Saunders, M., Semmens, D., Tallis, H. Climate change’s impacts on key ecosystem services and the human wellbeing they support in the United States. 2014. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: 483-493.

Tallis, H., Lubchenco, J. Adams, V.M., Adams-Hosking, C., Agostini, V.N., Andelman, S.J., Arkema, K., Balvanera, P., Ban, N., Beger, M., Bennett, E., Biggs, R., Blanchette, C., Boersma, P.D., Bottrill, M.C., Chaplin-Kramer, R., Coll, M., Corrigan, C., Cross, M.S., Daily, G., DeFries, R., DiFonzo, M.M.I., Ehrlich, A., Carmona, N.E., Ferreira, J., Foley, M., Francis, T., Fraschetti, S., Fuentes, M.M.P.B., Gaiser, E.E., and 210 additional co-authors. 2014. A call for inclusive conservation. Nature 515: 27-28.

Terrado, M., Acuna, V., Ennaanay, D., Tallis, H., Sabater, S. 2014. Impact of climate extremes on hydrological ecosystem services in a heavily humanized Mediterranean basin. Ecological Indicators 37: 199-209.


Ruckelshaus, M., McKenzie, E., Tallis, H., Guerry, A, Daily, G., Kareiva, P., Ricketts, T., Bhagabati, N., Wood, S.A., Bernhardt, J. 2013. Notes from the field: Lessons learned from using ecosystem service approaches to inform real-world decisions. Ecological Economics doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.07.009


Tallis, H., Mooney, H., Andelman, S., Balvanera, P., Cramer, W., Karp, D., Polasky, S., Reyers, B., Ricketts, T., Running, S., Thoenicke, K., Tietjen, B., Walz, A. 2012. A global system for monitoring ecosystem service change. BioScience 62: 977-986.

Tallis, H., Polasky, S., Lozano, J.S., Wolny, S. 2012. Inclusive wealth accounting for regulating ecosystem services. In Inclusive Wealth Report 2012: Measuring progress towards sustainability. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Reyers, B., Polasky, S., Tallis, H., Mooney, H., Larigauderie, A. 2012. Finding common ground for biodiversity and ecosystem services. BioScience 62(5): 503-507.

Tallis, H. Lester, S.E., Ruckelshaus, M., Plummer, M., McLeod, K., Guerry, A., Andelman, S., Caldwell, M., Conte, M., Copps, S., Fox, D., Fujita, R., Gaines, S.D., Gelfenbaum, G., Gold, B., Kareiva, P., Kim, C., Lee, K., Papenfus, M., Redman, S., Silliman, B., Wainger, L., White, C. 2012. New metrics for managing and sustaining the ocean’s bounty. Marine Policy 36:303-306.

Kim, C.K., Papenfus, M., Toft, J.E., Halpern, B.S., Tallis, H. 2012. Catching the right wave: Evaluating wave energy resources and trade-offs with competing marine and coastal uses. PLoS One 11: e47598. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047598.

Guerry, A.D., Ruckelshaus, M.H., Arkema, K., Bernhardt, J.R., Guannel, G., Kim, C.K., Marsik, M., Papenfus, M., Toft, J.E., Verutes, G., Wood, S.A., Beck, M., Chan, F., Chan, K.M.A., Gelfenbaum, G., Gold, B.D., Halpern, B.S., Labiosa, W.B., Lester, S.E., Levin, P.S., McField, M., Pinsky, M.L., Plummer, M., Polasky, S., Ruggiero, P., Sutherland, D.A., Tallis, H., Day, A., Spencer, J. 2012. Modelling Benefits from Nature: Using ecosystem services to inform coastal and marine spatial planning. International Journal of Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Management, 1-15.


Lester, S.E., McLeod, K.L., Tallis, H., Ruckelshaus, M., Halpern, B.S., Levin, P.S., Chavez, F.P., Pomeroy, C., McCay, B.J., Costello, C., Gaines, S.D., Mace, A.J., Barth, J.A., Fluharty, D.L., Parrish, J.K. 2010. Science in support of ecosystem-based management for the US West Coast and beyond. Biological Conservation 143: 576-587.


Tallis, H., Polasky, S. 2009. Mapping and valuing ecosystem services as an approach for conservation and natural-resource management. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1162: 265-283.

Tallis, H., Levin, P.S., Ruckelshaus, M., Lester, S.E., McLeod, K.L., Fluharty, D.L., Halpern, B.S. 2009. The many faces of ecosystem-based management: Making the process work today in real places. Marine Policy 34: 340-348.

Tallis, H. 2009. Kelp and rivers subsidize rocky intertidal communities in the Pacific Northwest. Marine Ecology Progress Series 389: 85-96.

Fox, H.E., Kareiva, P., Silliman, B., Hitt, J., Lytle, D.A., Halpern, B.S., Hawkes, C.V., Lawler, J., Neel, M., Olden, J.D., Schlaepfer, M.A., Smith, K., Tallis, H. 2009. Why do we fly? Ecologists’ sins of emission. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7(6): 294-296. doi:10.1890/09.WB.019

Goldman, R.L., Tallis, H. 2009. A critical analysis of ecosystem services as a tool in conservation projects: The possible perils, the promises and the partnerships. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1162: 63-78.

Tallis, H., Ruesink, J.L., Dumbauld, B., Hacker, S., Wisehart, L.M. 2009. Oysters and aquaculture practices affect eelgrass density and productivity in a Pacific Northwest Estuary. Journal of Shellfish Research 28(2): 251-261.

Tallis, H., Goldman, R., Uhl, M., Brosi, B. 2009. Ecosystem services and human needs: How the world’s two largest conservation organizations integrate conservation and development. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7(1): 12-20.

Nelson, E., Mendoza, G., Regetz, J., Polasky, S., Tallis, H., Cameron, D., Chan, K., Daily, G., Goldstein, J., Kareiva, P., Lonsdorf, E., Naidoo, R., Ricketts, T., Shaw, R. 2009. Modeling multiple ecosystem services and tradeoffs. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7(1): 4-11.


Tallis, H., Kareiva, P., Marvier, M., Chang, A. 2008. An ecosystem services framework to support both practical conservation and economic development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 105(28): 9457-9646.

Goldman, R.L., Tallis, H., Kareiva, P., Daily, G. 2008. Field evidence that ecosystem service projects support biodiversity and diversify options. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 105(27): 9445-9448.

Tallis, H., Ferdaña, Z., and Gray, E. 2008. Linking terrestrial and marine conservation planning and threats analysis. Conservation Biology 22:120.

Richardson, N. F., Ruesink, J.L., Naeem, S., Hacker, S.D., Tallis, H.M., Dumbauld, B.R. and Wisehart, L.M. 2008. Bacterial abundance and aerobic microbial activity across natural and oyster aquaculture habitats during summer conditions in a northeastern Pacific estuary. Hydrobiologia 596: 269-278.

Fischer, J., Brosi, B., Daily, G.C., Ehrlich, P.R., Goldman, R., Goldstein, J., Lindenmayer, D.B., Manning, A.D., Mooney, H.A., Pejchar, L., Ranganathan, J., Tallis, H. 2008. Should agricultural policies encourage land sparing or wildlife-friendly farming? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6: doi;10.1890/070019.

Heather Tallis

Lead Scientist

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