Nilsestuen legacy event addresses climate change impact and adaptation in rural communities

March 11, 2021 - The University of Wisconsin-River Falls will host the ninth annual Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Event on Wednesday, March 31, featuring a keynote address by Steven Boss, professor of environmental dynamics and sustainability in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas. The program will begin online at 4:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Boss’ talk, "Far Field Effects of Sea Level Rise: We Are All Coastal," will focus on the societal impacts of climate change on wealth transfer in the Heartland. Following the keynote, a panel of discussants will share their perspectives: Randy Romanski, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP); Paul Dietmann, senior lending specialist with Compeer Financial; and Rachel Bouressa, a Waupaca County farmer who serves on the National Farmers Union Climate Change Policy Advisory Panel.

Boss holds a B.S. in geology from Bemidji State University, an M.S. in geology from Utah State University, and a Ph.D. in marine sciences from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. From 2002-15, he served as director of the interdisciplinary doctoral program in Environmental Dynamics at the University of Arkansas. Boss was the architect of sustainability curricula at the University of Arkansas and from 2010-15 also served as director of Sustainability Academic Programs. He considers himself an interdisciplinary scientist and has ongoing research interests in natural resource dynamics, global agriculture, global fisheries, and equity and inclusion in the geosciences.

Earth's climate is warming, and sea level worldwide is rising. As the Earth warms, so too does the ocean, causing the ocean volume to expand and raise sea level. A warming Earth melts mountain glaciers and polar ice caps, raising sea level. Rising sea level has immediate and obvious impacts to the coastal United States; however, sea level and its impacts reach deep into the United States Heartland remote from the coasts. The rising sea level induces population displacement and migration from coastal areas to the continental interior. Capital flows from the continental interior to the coastal zone represent a large transfer of public wealth from largely impoverished counties of interior states to generally more affluent counties of the coasts. This talk examines the societal impacts of that wealth transfer on continental interior communities.

Nilsestuen, who earned his undergraduate degree at UW-River Falls, was the Wisconsin secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at the time of his death in July 2010. He is remembered as a proud steward of sustainable agriculture and a leader in the national cooperative movement who strove to balance the needs of sustainable land use with the maximization of agricultural production. Nilsestuen worked to find common ground on topics like the power of cooperatives, farmland conservation, the future of rural America and the increased pressure on agriculture to feed the world. The inaugural Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Event, "Feeding the World, Sustaining the Land, Inspiring Cooperative Action," was held in March 2012.

The Rod Nilsestuen Fund was established by friends, family, and colleagues, and several land conservation and cooperative organizations, and is part of the Ralph K. Morris Foundation, an organization that shares Nilsestuen's dedication to cooperatives and leadership development.   

Register for the event online at

For more information, email Agricultural Economics Assistant Professor Albert Boaitey at

Contact Us

University Communications
and Marketing
120 North Hall
Phone: 715-425-3771
Fax: 715-425-4486