Melody Brown Burkins

Academic Appointments

Director, Institute of Arctic Studies
Senior Associate Director, John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding
Adjunct Professor, Department of Environmental Studies

Melody Brown Burkins, Ph.D. (Guarini '95 '98) is the Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies, Associate Director in the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth. With over 30 years of experience as a polar scientist working in academe, government, and governance, she is an advocate for policy-engaged scholarship across disciplines, experiential education, and the support of global science and diplomacy initiatives advancing sustainability, inclusion, and gender equality in the Arctic and around the world. 

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A "science diplomat" for Arctic and global issues, Dr. Burkins is a Special Advisor and Assembly Representative to the UArctic global network, an elected member of the Founding Governing Board of the International Science Council (ISC), and Chair of the U.S. National Academies’ Board on International Scientific Organizations (BISO). She is also Past Chair of the U.S. National Committee for Geological Sciences (USNC-GS) and serves on the UN Office of Disaster Risk Reduction Global Assessment Report (UNDRR-GAR) Advisory Board and 15-Member UNESCO Global Independent Expert Group on Universities and the 2030 Agenda (EGU2030)

Her work to advance science policy and diplomacy in the North and globally informs her teaching at Dartmouth (ENVS80: The Practice of Science Policy and Diplomacy), where she challenges students to consider how we ensure the most robust, inclusive & ethical knowledge systems are applied to pressing global challenges, be it climate change or poverty alleviation. She brings these same ideas to her role as faculty advisor to the Dartmouth Science, Technology, and Engineering Policy Society (STEPS). She is also honored to advise the undergraduate student group, Aurora, who have come together to celebrate Alaskan culture and connect Dartmouth students to Arctic career opportunities and alumni networks. Committed to the support of next generation thought-leaders in sustainability and inclusion, she believes the work requires prioritizing and incentivizing academic reciprocity and collaboration, respecting Indigenous Peoples' rights and diverse knowledge systems, and promoting efforts by knowledge holders to advance the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and thriving communities.

Born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, Dr. Burkins' strong personal and professional connections to the North also inform her work to connect Dartmouth students and faculty with opportunities for Arctic scholarship, cooperation, and engagement. She is the College liaison to the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS), collaborates with the UArctic Institute for Arctic Policy and serves as Vice Lead of the UArctic Model Arctic Council Thematic Network (TN), founding member of the UArctic Gender in Arctic Knowledge Production TN, and a partner in the UArctic Science Diplmacy TN. In 2018, she had the honor of serving as a formal UArctic Observer to the SDWG and SAO Arctic Council meetings in Rovaniemi, Finland.

Burkins is also an advocate for US-Canada collaborations and programs in the Arctic and globally. In 2017, she worked with Alaskan and Canadian colleagues to host the first US-Canada Arctic Science Diplomacy and Leadership Workshop and, in 2018, created an innovative Arctic science diplomacy workshop with McGill's Science & Policy Exchange. She has also served as a science policy advisor to the first Fulbright Arctic Initiative meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut, in 2015. She enjoys sharing the experience of developing and leading effective science policy and diplomacy collaborations with colleagues and students at Dartmouth and around the world in talks, webinars, workshops, and panel discussions. 

Burkins' early career as a polar geoscientist expanded to science policy and diplomacy when she was awarded the 1999-2000 AAAS Congressional Science and Technology Policy Fellowship sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Geological Society of America (GSA). Drawn to policy-making and informed advocacy, she worked briefly as a AAAS Congressional Fellow in Washington, D.C., before accepting a formal position as the energy and environment policy advisor to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont. In that role, she helped advance federal policies for sustainable energy, forestry, agriculture, and conservation practices. Returning north in 2002 with a young family, she spent over a decade at the University of Vermont (UVM) in a diversity of leadership and management roles. This included serving as director of the Northeastern States Research Cooperative, executive director of the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative, associate dean in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, UVM director of federal relations, interim director of the UVM supercomputing facility, and senior director for research and strategic initiatives - including the UVM Transdisciplinary Research Initiatve (TRI) - from 2003-2014. She was the recipient of a 2013 HERS Fellowship for women leaders in higher education and co-edited a book of invited essays, Holistic Engineering Education: Beyond Technology (Springer, 2010), about the future of more inclusive engineering education and practice.

Burkins' work in both academic and policy leadership roles has led to multiple international appointments by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In 2016, she was the first woman to chair a U.S. delegation to an International Geological Congress (34th IGC, South Africa) and created the first majority-female delegation of U.S. geoscience leaders. In 2016, she served on the global ICSU-ISSC Strategy Working Group to connect scientific organizations across the natural, physical, and social sciences and create the first International Science Council. She has also served as an scholar-delegate for Dartmouth in the advancement of Arctic scholarship and cooperation, representing the College at the 2015 UArctic Council Meeting in Buryatia, Russia, the 2018 UArctic Congress in Rovaniemi, Finland, the 2019 UArctic Council Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, the 2019 UArctic Board Meeting in Hanover, New Hampshire, the 2020 UArctic Extraordinary Assembly in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the 2021 Virtual UArctic Assembly hosted in Iceland.

Burkins also believes in the importance of service to her community and state. She served on the State of Vermont’s first Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) committee in 2014, the Board of Vermont's Energy Action Network (EAN) from 2012 to 2015, the Board of Trustees for Vermont's oldest secondary school, Thetford Academy from 2017-2021, and the Advisory Council of Emerge Vermont, encouraging women's political leadership and voice (2015-present).

Burkins earned her B.S. in geology at Yale and both her M.S. and Ph.D. at Dartmouth, focusing her doctoral studies on earth and ecosystem studies in the Antarctic Dry Valleys. She lives in East Thetford, Vermont, with her husband, two sons, and their happy dog.

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Department(s): 
Environmental Studies
Center(s): 
The John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding
Education: 
Ph.D. Dartmouth
M.S. Dartmouth
B.S. Yale

Selected works and activities

Editorial Oversight Committee, ISC-Nature Working Scientist Podcasts on Diversity in Science

Member, UNESCO Global Independent Expert Group on Universities and the 2030 Agenda (EGU2030)

Invited Participant and Moderator, Circling the Arctic: Security and the Rule of Law in a Changing North, Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law & Annenberg Public Policy Center, 2020

Founding Member, UArctic Gender in the Arctic Knowledge Production Thematic Network, 2020

Advisory Board, Global Assessment Report (GAR), United Nations' Office of Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), 2020

Governing Board Member, International Science Council (ISC), 2018-present

Chair, U.S. National Academies’ Board on International Scientific Organizations (BISO), 2019-present

Past Chair, U.S. National Committee for Geological Sciences (USNC-GS)

Invited Participant and SPIDER Advisory Board Member, Global Meeting of the Foreign Ministries Science & Technology Advice Network (FMSTAN) and Science Policy in Diplomacy and External Relations (SPIDER) Network, Vienna, Austria, November 25-26, 2019.

Invited Participant & Speaker: 2019 STRINGS Workshop: Steering Research and Innovation for Global Goals, University of Sussex; London, November 2019

Invited Speaker for Women’s Equality Day, U.S. Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (US-CRREL), August 30, 2019.

Invited Speaker, “Inclusive Science Diplomacy,” American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Center for Science and Diplomacy and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) “Train the Trainers” Science Diplomacy and Leadership Workshop, Trieste, Italy, August 27-29, 2019.

Invited Participant, “Sustainability Science 2.0” Workshop of the US Global Hub for Future Earth and Science and Technology for Sustainability Program of the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics, George Mason University, Arlington, VA, June 21, 2019.

Invited Panelist & SPIDER Advisory Board Member, "STI Diplomacy for the Sustainable Development Goals," International Forum for Science and Technology Diplomacy (IFSTD), Muscat, Oman, February 9-13, 2019

UArctic Observer to the Arctic Council Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) and Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) Meetings, Rovaniemi, Finland, 29 October–2 November 2018

Lead Organizer & Host, "Science and Diplomacy in the Arctic" Leadership Conference and Model Arctic Council Simulation, John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, June 26-30, 2017

Vice Lead, UArctic Model Arctic Council Thematic Network (2017-present); Member, UArctic Science Diplomacy Thematic Network (2018-present)

Interview: "Geology & Diplomacy," The Foreign Policy Project Podcast, January 12, 2017

Global Engagement to Advance Inclusion, Equity, and Sustainability