Associate Director for Science and Planning, The Nature Conservancy
Kris Johnson, Ph.D. Associate Director for Science and Planning, The Nature Conservancy © The Nature Conservancy

Our People

Kris Johnson, Ph.D.

Deputy Director of Agriculture, North America

Minneapolis, MN

  • Areas of Expertise

    agriculture, conservation biology, ecosystem services, freshwater, floodplains, biodiversity


Kris Johnson is the Deputy Director of Agriculture for The Nature Conservancy’s North America Region. A skilled collaborator and respected scientist, Kris leads the joint design, implementation and assessment of the region’s two conservation agriculture strategies: Soil Health and Nutrients, and Sustainable Grazing Lands.

A sought-after speaker for industry events, Kris often gives presentations and serves on panels where he speaks about the vital role of conservation agriculture in achieving a sustainable food system. He is a member of the steering committee for the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, serves on the Science Advisory Council for Field to Market and is a board member of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.

Prior to joining the North America Agriculture Program, Kris was a senior scientist for TNC’s North America Water Program. In that role, he led collaborative scientific projects around the country that highlighted opportunities for improved river and watershed management to support communities and to sustain healthy and productive ecosystems.

Before joining TNC in 2012, Kris was the Sustainability Scientist at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. He received a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and completed an M.S. and Ph.D. in conservation biology at the University of Minnesota. Kris was a Fulbright Scholar, a MacArthur Scholar and remains a Senior Fellow in Sustainable Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota.

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Unearthing the Power of Working Lands Kris Johnson, TNC's deputy director of agriculture for North America, explains how important it is to collaborate with farmers and ranchers to unlock a host of natural solutions for people and nature.

Peer-Reviewed Papers

Prokopy, L.S., Gramig, B.M., Bower, A., Church, S.P.,  Ellison, B., Gassman, P.W., Genskow, K., Gucker, D., Hallett, S.G., Hill, J., Hunt, N., Johnson, K.A., Kaplan, I., Kelleher, J.P., Kok, H., Komp, M., Lammers, P., LaRose, S., Liebman, M., Margenot, A., Mulla, D., O’Donnell, M.J., Peimer, A.W., Reaves, E., Salazar, K., Schelly, C., Schilling, K., Secchi, S., Spaulding, A.D., Swenson, D., Thompson, A.W., Ulrich‑Schad, J.D. The urgency of transforming the Midwestern U.S. landscape into more than corn and soybean. Agriculture and Human Values. (2020).

Johnson, K.A., Wing, O.E.J., Bates, P.D., Fargione, J. Kroeger, T., Larson, W.D., Sampson, C.C., Smith, A. A Benefit-Cost Analysis of Floodplain Land Acquisition for U.S. Flood Damage Reduction. 2019 Nature Sustainability 3: 56–62 (2020)

Antolini, F., Tate, E., Dalzell, B., Young, N., Johnson, K.A., Hawthorne, P.L. Flood Risk Reduction from Agricultural Best Management Practices.  Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 2019 JAWRA: 1-19

Keeler, B., Dalzell, B., Gourevitch, J., Hawthorne, P., Johnson, K.A., Noe, R. 2019. Putting people on the map: focus on endpoints for improved ecosystem service prioritizationFrontiers in Ecology & Environment doi:10.1002/fee.2004

Johnson, K.A., Piazza, B.P., Fore, J.D., Motew, M. 2018. Prioritizing floodplains to restore the health of the Mississippi River BasinSolutions Journal, Volume 9, Issue 3, July 2018.

Smith, A., Sampson, C., Neal, J. Bates, P., Trigg, M., Freer, J., Porter, R., Kappes, M., Simpson, A., Jongman, B., Johnson, K.A. 2018. Modeling and mapping of global flood hazard layers. In: Schumann, G., Bates, P., Apel, H., Aronica G.T. (Eds.) Global Flood Hazard: Applications in Modeling, Mapping and Forecasting, American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C.

Wing, O., Bates, P., Fargione, J., Johnson, K.A., Sampson, C., Smith, A. 2018. Estimates of present and future flood risk in the conterminous U.S. Environ. Res. Lett. 13 034023.

Wing, O., Bates, P., Sampson, C., Smith, A. Johnson, K.A., Erickson, T.A. 2017. Validation of a 30m resolution flood hazard model of the conterminous United States. Water Resour. Res. 53 7968–7986.

Johnson, K.A., Dalzell, B., Donahue, M., Gourevitch, J., Johnson, D., Karlovits, G., Keeler, B., and Smith, J. 2016. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands provide ecosystem service benefits that exceed land rental payment costs. Ecosystem Services. 18: 175-185.

Polasky, S. and Johnson, K.A. 2014. Are investments to promote biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services aligned? In: Helm, D. and Hepburn, C. (Eds.) Nature in the Balance: the Economics of Biodiversity, Oxford University Press, UK.

Johnson, K.A., Polasky, S., Nelson, E., Pennington, D. 2012. Uncertainty in ecosystem services valuation and implications for assessing land use tradeoffs: an agricultural case study from the Minnesota River Basin. Ecological Economics 79: 71-79.

Johnson, K.A., Dana, G., Jordan, N., Draeger, K.J., Kapuscinski, A., Schmitt Olabisi, L.K., Reich, P.B., 2012. Using participatory scenarios to stimulate social learning for collaborative sustainable development. Ecology and Society 17(2): 9.

Keeler, B., Polasky, S., Brauman, K.A., Johnson, K.A., Finlay, J.C., O’Neill, A., Kovacs, K., Dalzell, B. 2012. Linking water quality and well-being for improved assessment and valuation of ecosystem services. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (45): 18619-18624.

Polasky, S., Nelson, E., Pennington, D., Johnson, K.A. 2011. The impact of land-use change on ecosystem services, biodiversity, and returns to landowners: a case study in the state of Minnesota. Environment and Resource Economics 48: 219-242.

Schmitt Olabisi, L.K., Kapuscinski, A.R., Johnson, K.A., Reich, P.B., Stenquist, B., Draeger, K.J. 2010. Using scenario visioning and participatory system dynamics modeling to investigate the future: lessons from Minnesota 2050. Sustainability 2: 2686-2706.

Schmitt Olabisi, L.K, P.B. Reich, K.A. Johnson, A.R. Kapuscinski, S. Suh, E. Wilson. 2009. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions for climate stabilization: framing regional options. Environmental Science and Technology 43: 1696-1703.

Johnson, K.A. and Nelson, K.C. 2004. Common property and conservation: the potential for communal forest management within a national park in Mexico. Human Ecology 32(6): 703-733.