Curator of the Anthropocene
Nicole Heller is a Museum Fellow and Curator of the Anthropocene for Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Heller received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in Biological Sciences in 2005, and a B.A. from Princeton University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 1995. She conducted postdoctoral research in the Environmental Studies Department at University of California, Santa Cruz.
Heller’s primary research is concerned with the challenge of promoting biodiversity in the face of global changes associated with the Anthropocene, including climate change, species introductions, habitat loss, and other forms of human-driven alterations of ecosystems. Heller’s dissertation research focused on the ecology of a globally dispersed ant: the Argentine ant. Her work shed light on their social organization and interactions with climate, and how these factors combine to determine the ants' rate of spread and impact on ecological communities.
For the last 10 years, Heller has been working at the intersection of scientific research and conservation practice to pioneer climate-change-adaptation approaches in open space and protected areas. Her research has produced novel theory for biodiversity stewardship, challenging traditional norms of practice, and she developed conservation planning tools designed to accommodate global changes and the inherent resilience and autonomy of ecosystems.
Heller is an affiliated researcher with the Terrestrial Biodiversity and Climate Change Collaborative, Resilient Silicon Valley, Switzer Foundation, and the Amah Mutsun Land Trust. Prior to joining Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Heller served as the Director of Conservation Science at Peninsula Open Space Trust; the Climate Adaptation Scientist at Pepperwood's Dwight Center for Conservation Science; and a Research Scientist at Climate Central. She has also held Visiting Assistant Professor appointments at Duke University and Franklin & Marshall College.
Heller’s secondary focus of research and practice is on effective communication about environmental challenges. She was awarded a Google Science Communication Fellowship for this work. While at Climate Central, Heller was the lead scientist on a variety of climate-change media investigations, which included a series aired on the PBS NewsHour. At Duke University, Heller directed an Art and Science Initiative that included curating an art exhibit; this also doubled as a psychology laboratory to experiment with how message-framing and imagery influenced people’s memory and engagement. In addition, Heller has collaborated with a variety of artists on projects that explore climate-change social action, supported by Invoking the Pause. Her research has been published in academic and popular presses.
Keeley, A., Basson, G., Cameron, D.R., Heller, N.E, Huber, P., Schloss, C., Thorne, J. and Merenlender, A. (2018). Making habitat connectivity a reality. Conservation Biology. 10.1111/cobi.13158.
Annika T H Keeley, David D Ackerly, D Richard Cameron, Nicole E Heller, Patrick R Huber, Carrie A Schloss, James H Thorne and Adina M Merenlender. 2018. New concepts, models, and assessments of climate-wise connectivity. Environmental Research Letters: 13 (7)
NE Heller and TA Matza, Anthropocene in a Jar, Future Remains: A cabinet of curiosities for the anthropocene edited by G. Mittman, M. Armireo, and R. Emmet. University of Chicago Press, 2018
Chiew, K. J Hashemi, LK Gans, L Lerebours, NJ Clement, MT Vu, G Sapiro, NE. Heller, and RA Adcock. Motivational context and individual differences influence exploration and learning of a real-life spatial environment. PlosOne 13(3): e0193506.
Heller, NE, J Krietler, DA Ackerly, SB Weiss, A Recinos, R Branciforte, LE Flint, AL Flint and LE Micheli (2015). Targeting climate diversity in conservation planning to build resilience to climate change. Ecosphere 64: 65
Lawler, J, D Ackerly, C Albano, M Anderson, M Cross, S Dobrowski, J Gill, NE Heller, R Pressey, E Sanderson, and S Weiss. (2015). The theory behind, and challenges of, conserving nature’s stage in a time of rapid change. Conservation Biology 29: 618-629
Comer, PJ, RL Pressey, ML Hunter, Jr, C Schloss, S Buttrick, NE Heller, J Tirpak, DP Faith, M Cross, and M Shaffer (2015). Incorporating geodiversity into conservation decisions. Conservation Biology 29: 692-701
Chornesky, EA, DD Ackerly, P Beier, FW Davis, LE Flint, JJ Lawler, PB Moyle, MA Mortiz, M Scoonover, P Alvarez, K Byrd, NE Heller, ER Micheli, and SB Weiss (2015). Adapting California’s Ecosystems to a Changing Climate. Bioscience 65: 247-262
Heller, NE and RJ Hobbs (2014) Development of a natural practice to adapt conservation goals to global change. Conservation Biology 28: 696 – 704
Martin L, JE Quinn, EC Ellis, MR Shaw, MA Dorning, LM Hallett, NE Heller, RJ Hobbs, CE Kraft, E Law, NL Michel, M Perring, PD Shirey, and R Wiederholt (2014). Conservation Opportunities Across the World’s Anthromes. Diversity and Distributions 20: 745 - 755
Safford, H, G Hayward, NE Heller and J Wiens (2012) Historical Ecology, Climate Change, and Resource Management: Can the past still inform the future?, in Historical Environmental Variation in Conservation and Natural Resource Management, Wiley-Blackwell
Shackelford, N, RJ Hobbs, NE Heller, L Hallett and T Seastedt (2013). Finding a middle-ground: the native/non-native debate, Biological Conservation 158: 55–62
Gordon, DM and NE Heller (2013) The invasive Argentine ant Linepithema humile (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Northern California reserves: from foraging behavior to local spread. Myrmecological News 19: 103 – 110.
Fitzgerald, K, NE Heller, and DM Gordon (2012) Modeling the spread of the Argentine ant into natural areas: Habitat suitability and spread from neighboring sites. Ecological Modelling 247: 262 – 272
Gordon, DM and NE Heller. (2012) Seeing the forest and the trees: a commentary on supercolonies. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 23 (5): 934-934
Mastrandrea, MD, NE Heller, TL Root, and SH Schneider (2010) Bridging the gap: Linking climate-impacts research with adaptation planning and management, Climatic Change 100:87–101
Heller, NE and ES Zavaleta (2009) Biodiversity management in the face of climate change: a review of 22 years of recommendations. Biological Conservation 142: 14 – 32
Zavaleta ES and NE Heller (2009) Responses of Communities and Ecosystems to Global Changes, in The Princeton Guide to Ecology. Eds Simon Levin et al., Princeton University Press.
Heller, NE, JW Shors, NJ Sanders, and DM Gordon (2008) Rainfall facilitates the spread, and time alters the impact, of the Invasive Argentine Ant. Oecologia 155: 385 – 395
Heller, NE, KK Ingram, and DM Gordon (2008) Nest connectivity and colony structure in unicolonial Argentine Ants. Insectes Sociaux 55, 397 – 403.
Chan, KAM, RM Pringle, J Ranganathan, C Boggs, I Chan, P Ehrlich, NE Heller, D MacMynowski, K Al-Khafaji (2007). When Agendas Collide: Human welfare and conservation goals. Conservation Biology 21:59 - 68
Heller, NE and DM Gordon (2006). Seasonal spatial dynamics and causes of nest movement in colonies of the invasive Argentine Ant (Linepithema humile). Ecological Entomology 31: 499 – 510
Heller, NE, NJ Sanders NJ, and DM Gordon (2006). Linking spatial and temporal scales in a study
of an Argentine Ant invasion. Biological Invasions 8: 501- 507.
Heller, NE (2004). Colony structure in introduced and native populations of the invasive
Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile. Insectes Sociaux 51: 378 – 386.
Sanders, NJ, NJ Gotelli, NE Heller, and DM Gordon (2003) Community disassembly by an invasive ant species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100: 2474 – 2477.
Reviews, White Papers
Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority and Conservation Biology Institute. 2017. Coyote Valley Landscape Linkage: A Vision for a Resilient, Multi-benefit Landscape. Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, San José, CA. 74p
Heller NE (2009) Pitfalls and Promises of Species Distribution Modeling for Predicting Future Invasions. California Invasive Plant Council Symposium Proceedings, Vol 13, 2009
Heller NE (2009) Book Review: Invasive Species Management: A handbook of principles and techniques. Myrmecological News 13
Bloomfield J., S. Hamburg, N. Heller, A. May, J. Obra, S. Showell (1997) Seasons of Change: Global Warming and New England’s White Mountains. Environmental Defense Fund.
Re-Imagining the Environment, Wegner Art Gallery, Duke University (2014)