Staff Profile

aderby's picture

Abigail Derby Lewis

Interim Action Director

Keller Science Action Center
Environmental Conservation

Abigail is the Conservation Tools Program Director in the Keller Science Action Center, a division dedicated to translating museum science into lasting results for conservation and cultural understanding. Her work as a conservation ecologist focuses on landscape conservation planning and climate change adaptation for urban nature. She is a Commissioner for the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission and Co-Chairs the Chicago Wilderness Climate Committee.

I began my professional career as a biological anthropologist studying primate behavior and comparative ecology. This path allowed me to live and work in some of the most biodiverse and threatened regions in the world, and fostered a profound and personal interest to become involved in applied research initiatives that contribute to sustainable management and environmental policy in a meaningful way. The transition to working on climate change impacts to biodiversity in the Chicago Wilderness region was a natural progression that grew from my graduate work on human-wildlife interactions. A main goal of my current work is to help build and renew positive relationships between people and the environment as sustainable partnerships that communities are empowered to create and continue.

Recent Blog Posts

Additional Information


Ph.D. Stony Brook University, New York, Biological Anthropology, Ecology

M.S. Stony Brook University, New York, Biological Anthropology

B.A. University of Wisconsin, Madison, Anthropology, Environmental Studies


Professional: Past and present climate change; Historical and current interactions between humans and the environment; Climate change impacts to biodiversity; Landscape and ecosystem-based approaches to mitigation and adaptation; Comparative ecology; Climate science education.

Personal: Being outdoors in any capacity (hiking, biking, kayaking, camping); Gardening and native landscaping; Supporting the local live music scene; Creative cooking; Travel, travel, travel.



Selected recent publications:

Brandt, L., Derby Lewis, A., Scott, L., Fahey, B., Darling, L. and Swanston, C. (2017) Adapting urban forests to climate change in the Chicago Region. Arborist News. December 2017: 34-38

Caldwell, I. and Derby Lewis, A. (2017) Working together for Monarchs. Illinois Audubon Spring 2017: 21-22

Bouman, M., Derby Lewis, A., Hasle, E., Lambrushi, M., Johnston, M., Stotz., D., and Winter, A. (2017). Urban Monarch Conservation Guidebook

Brandt, L., Derby Lewis, A., Fahey, B., Scott, L., Darling, L. and Swanston, C. (2016) Framework for adapting urban forests to climate change, Environmental Science and Policy (66) DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2016.06.005

Swanston, C., Janowiak, M., Brandt, L., Butler, P., Handler, S., Shannon, P.D., Derby Lewis, A., Hall, K., Fahey, R., Scott, L., Kerber, A., Miesbauer, J., and Darling, L. (2016). Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate Change Tools and Approaches for Land Managers, 2nd edition. Forest Service, Northern Research Station, General Technical Report NRS-87-2 Major Revision.

Hirsch, J. Derby Lewis, A. Lugalia-Hollen, R., Kim,L.S., Sommers, S. and Winter, A. (2016) Our climate, our change: using visual and interactive practices to expand participation and leadership in climate action. In: (Eds. P.C. Godfrey, D. Torres) Emergent Possibilities for Global Sustainability: Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender (Routledge Advances in Climate Change Research).

Derby Lewis, A., Moseley, R.K., Hall, K.R., and Hellmann, J.J. (2015) Conservation of urban biodiversity under climate change: climate-smart management for Chicago green spaces. In: (Ed. W. F. Leal) Handbook of Climate Change Adaptation. Springer.

Larsen, A., Derby Lewis, A, Lyandres, O. Chen, T., Frank, K. (2014) Developing a Community of Climate-Informed Conservation Practitioners to Protect a Priority Coastal Landscape in Illinois and Wisconsin. Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessments, Final Report.

Herman, B., Packard, S., Pollack, C., Houseal, G., Sinn, S., O’Leary, C., Fant, J., Derby Lewis, A., Wagenius, S., Gustafson, D., Hufford,K., Allison, B., Shaw, K., Haines, S. and Daniels, C. (2014) Decisions, decisions, how to source plant material for native plant restoration projects. Ecological Rest. 32(3): 236-238.

Derby Lewis, A., Hall, K.R., Hellmann, J.J. (2012) Advancing Adaptation in the City of Chicago: Climate Considerations for Management of Natural Areas.

Work experience

Senior Conservation Ecologist, Keller Science Action Center, Division of Science and Education, The Field Museum, March 2010-present

Editor of Chicago Wilderness Climate Change Newsletter, 2010-2014

Field Course Instructor, Primate Behavioral Ecology and Conservation, Ometepe Biological Station, Nicaragua, May-June 2009

Undergrad Research Adviser, Student Summer Research Program, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL, 2009

Adjunct Professor, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL Biological Science Department, 2008-2009                     

Adjunct Professor, St. Francis University, Joliet, IL Biology Department, 2009

Adjunct Professor, Kendall College, Environmental Sciences, Chicago, IL, 2008-2009

Adjunct Professor, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, IL June-August 2006

Project leader and student advisor, School for International Training Ecuador, Comparative Ecology and Conservation course, 2005

Project leader, Lemur Survey of Marojejy National Park, Madagascar, 2006

Researcher, University of Hamburg Plant Nutritional Analysis Lab, Germany, 2006

Researcher, New York Consortium for Evolutionary Anthropology Genetics Lab, 2006

Researcher, Yasuní National Park, Ecuador. Dissertation title: How ecology and demography affect primate folivore biomass in Yasuní National Park, Ecuador, 2003-2005

Director, Mondika Research Site, Central African Republic, Africa, 2002

Researcher, Primate population census, Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary Thailand, Asia, 2001

Researcher, Jozani-Pete Forest, Zanzibar, Africa, 1997 RECENT PROJECTS - A Monarch's View of the City: Developing a multi-city landscape conservation design ( - Urban Ecology Field Lab, an undergraduate summer course ( - Urban tree canopy climate vulnerability assessment in the Chicago Wilderness Region - Implementation of a coastal vulnerability assessment, adaptation strategies, and adaptive risk management metrics for coastal ravines in Illinois and Wisconsin - Integration of climate change and green infrastructure in urban areas - Climate Considerations Guidebook for urban resource managers - Chicago Community Climate Action Toolkit ( - Climate Change and Biodiversity Adaptation: Update to the Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan (

Professional affiliations

Affiliations (2010-2018)

  • American Society of Adaptation Professionals                                                                            
  • Chicago Wilderness Climate Committee (Co-Chair)                                                       
  • Collaboratory for Climate Adaptation Advisory Board, University of Notre Dame                                           
  • Field Museum Women in Science Steering Committee                                                                                       
  • Field Museum Parents in the Workplace Working Group (Co-Chair)                                                                                      
  • Field Museum Science and Education Advisory Group (Chair)                                                
  • Glenview Environmental Review Committee       
  • Great Lakes Advisory Board, Science and Information Subcommittee
  • Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessments Advisory Board
  • Great Lakes Climate Adaptation Conference Planning Committee                                                                    
  • Illinois Nature Preserves Commissioner                                                                                      
  • Illinois and Indiana Sea Grant Advisory Committee
  • Illinois Wildlife Action Team Board
  • MIT Climate Co-Lab Catalyst Team
  • National Adaptation Forum 2019 Steering Committee
  • Scientists Concerned for Yasuní National Park Committee                                                   
  • Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts Science Advisory Board