Press Releases

Jeff Hicks joins The Water Institute as Director of Product Strategy

Nov 18, 2022

BATON ROUGE, La. (Nov. 18, 2022) – Jeff Hicks has joined The Water Institute as Director of Product Strategy where he will help widen the applications of The Water Institute’s applied research.

“I will be leading an internal team and coordinating with partners to expand the Institute’s impact. We will be leveraging applied research from across all focus areas to develop innovative tools that can reach a wider group of decisionmakers who can benefit from the Institute’s deep expertise,” Hicks said.

Hicks co-founded Fernleaf in 2014 as a private company spinoff of the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) at the University of North Carolina Asheville in order to expand the reach of the center’s applied research in municipal climate resilience and make it commercially available to local and regional governments nationwide.

“The Water Institute and Fernleaf have been supporting each other for years now and I’m looking forward to strengthening and deepening that relationship as both organizations move toward developing tools that can be applied to communities across our nation,” said Matt Hutchins, Fernleaf Chief Executive Officer.

“I am very excited to have Jeff join the Institute,” said Hugh Roberts, the Institute Chief Operating Officer. “As the Director of Product Strategy, Jeff’s focus will be on the development of web-applications and open-source tools to widen the reach of research methods and findings, as well as make processes scalable and replicable. Having Jeff play this new role at the Institute will be additionally important to deepening collaboration with Fernleaf and other partners in the climate resilience space and beyond.”

Fernleaf works closely with NEMAC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop NOAA’s Steps to Resilience framework. Through this work, Hicks served as senior advisor for the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit and its featured tool, Climate Explorer, a freely available way for individuals and communities to see decision-relevant climate projection data specific to their location. Hicks also led development of the climate projection tools used across the U.S. Forest Service for national forest system land management plans.

In addition to federal efforts, Fernleaf works with communities around the United States to implement the Steps to Resilience process, with climate resilience plans supported through the company’s vulnerability assessment software, AccelAdapt. As part of that work, Fernleaf and The Water Institute collaborated on resilience planning in Houston, TX, Charleston, SC, and Jacksonville, Fla.

Prior to co-founding Fernleaf, Hicks was a software engineer with Locus Technologies and a geospatial software engineer with NEMAC. He received his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.