Abigail Derby Lewis

Senior Conservation Ecologist

Keller Science Action Center
Science Focus

    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.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.

    Education and Work

    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 StudiesSenior 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 (www.fieldmuseum.org/monarchs) - Urban Ecology Field Lab, an undergraduate summer course (https://www.fieldmuseum.org/urban-ecology-field-lab) - 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 (http://climatechicago.fieldmuseum.org/) - Climate Change and Biodiversity Adaptation: Update to the Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan (http://climatechicagowilderness.org/)


    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 www.isa-arbor.com

    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 www.fieldmuseum.org/monarchs

    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.  https://adapt.nd.edu/resources/1019Affiliations (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

    Research Sketch

    My research focuses on examining climate change impacts to biodiversity in urban landscapes and landscape conservation planning. The application of this work includes 1) developing adaptation strategies for natural communities through collaborations with scientists, natural resource managers, and community leaders, 2) creating effective methods of communicating climate science to diverse audiences, 3) promoting the role that natural habitats play in responding to climate change and 4) understanding the role cities can play in wildlife conservation. My background of research, teaching, and training in the fields of anthropology, ecology and evolution, and climate science enables me to take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of climate change impacts to both natural and human communities, as well as communicate this information across a broad range of audiences.