Toddi Steelman served as Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University from 2018 to 2023.

During her initial term, she oversaw the launch of two new majors to help advance climate, earth science, and environmental literacy among undergraduate students; invested in efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within the school; secured philanthropic support for new faculty hiring; expanded the school’s engagement with other schools and units at Duke and external partners; and oversaw changes to the school’s research and business management infrastructure to better support research activities. She led the school’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to significant damage sustained at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C., from Hurricane Florence in 2018. 

Steelman also played a leading role in the planning and development of the Duke Climate Commitment, which unites the university’s education, research, operations, and public service missions to address the climate crisis.

Prior to being named dean of the Nicholas School in 2018, she served as the first permanent executive director of the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability, after serving 11 years on the faculty in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. She also was a faculty member in the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado a Denver from 1997 to 2001.

Working at the intersection of science, policy, and decision making, her expertise in environmental and resource policy is well recognized nationally and internationally. Her research focuses on understanding community response to wildfire, and how communities and agencies interact for more effective wildfire management on large, interjurisdictionally complex wildfires. She has brought her expertise to bear in a variety of venues including the Royal Society (UK), National Academy of Sciences (US) and as an invited keynote speaker in Canada, Germany, Australia, and the United States.

Steelman’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and Canadian Tri Agencies as well as a variety of federal and state agencies. She has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and is the author of four books and opinion and editorial pieces in Nature, The Hill, the Los Angeles Times, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.  She is immediate past president of the International Association of Wildland Fire.

She holds a Ph.D. from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, a Master in Public Affairs from Princeton University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies from West Virginia University.

School Division

Environmental Sciences & Policy


  • Ph.D., Duke University (1996)