EarthLab Executive Director Ben Packard.
EarthLab Executive Director Ben Packard.

The University of Washington is pleased to welcome Ben Packard as the Harriet Bullitt Endowed Executive Director of EarthLab. EarthLab is the UW-wide initiative that harnesses the power of collaboration to tackle thorny environmental challenges including climate change, ocean health, natural hazards and healthy ecosystems. Key to EarthLab’s success will be building relationships between the University and public, private and nonprofit sectors.

“I am excited about the ambition of EarthLab to be a catalyzing force outside of the UW, the openness to create a new model for change and the willingness to build something different on the strong foundation of work already happening at UW,” says Packard, who most recently served as global managing director of corporate engagement at The Nature Conservancy. “It’s an incredible opportunity.”

As the inaugural executive director, Packard will be responsible for determining the early success and impact of EarthLab, working strategically within and beyond the University to promote new learning and action to address environmental challenges. He will help build the relationships that enable EarthLab to bring the exceptional research and science at the University to bear on a range of environmental matters.

Before his tenure at The Nature Conservancy, Packard led the internationally recognized environmental sustainability efforts at Starbucks. His experience has allowed him to work across sectors, building new and often unexpected partnerships that lead to unique strategies for problem-solving. Packard has a track record of using innovative approaches to address complex environmental challenges and offer robust solutions.

“I was immediately thrilled to see Ben put his name forward,” says Lisa Graumlich, dean and Mary Laird Wood Professor at the College of the Environment. “When I think about the traits that will make the EarthLab director successful, they are numerous and not always found in the same person. Ben is that rare example of someone who can take his passion and build the right bridges to unlock innovative thinking around environmental solutions. He is just the person to launch this effort.”

Packard looks forward to joining with UW faculty, staff and students to come up with systemic solutions that demand deeper collaboration across sectors and disciplines than we even know today. Beyond that, he is eager to lead an endeavor that has not been tried before.

“I am very excited about what the UW can do to drive change in how we interact with our environment and build something that has lasting impact. The academic sector has a lot to offer in this realm,” Packard says.