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Challenge Team

The Tulane University Nitrogen Reduction Challenge team is comprised of a unique group of experts and nationally recognized industry leaders in Social Innovation, Water Resources Law and Policy and in Coastal Research.

Leah Berger JensenLeah Berger Jensen, MPH
Director, Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge
Principal/Owner, The Berger Group

A consultant to Tulane University, Leah Berger Jensen is the principal and owner of The Berger Group, LLC, a consulting firm dedicated to creating healthy, vibrant communities. The Berger Group provides expertise and professional services in areas of: 1) Clinical Sites & Community Health Centers, 2) Public Health & Community Health, and 3) Leadership & Organizational Development, all grounded in a framework of health equity, collective impact, capacity building, and social justice.  

As the director for the Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge Ms. Jensen is responsible for internal logistics, as well as external affairs for project, educating about hypoxia, the Dead Zone and its impact upon the Gulf Coast and world communities. This includes leading promotion, recruitment and education efforts for the Challenge across diverse sectors, including innovation and entrepreneurship, agriculture, science, and technology. She interfaces with local and regional partners across the south, as well as supporters at the national level including the EPA, USDA, and White House's Office of Science of Technology. 

Prior to founding The Berger Group, Ms. Jensen worked at Tulane University School of Medicine (TUSOM) for seven years where her efforts led to the development and founding of five health centers and TUSOM’s Office of Community Affairs and Health Policy, serving as it’s Executive Director. She concurrently served as Co-Executive Director of the Ruth U. Fertel/Tulane Community Health Center, where she developed and managed a brand new, state-of-the-art clinic dedicated to providing high-quality, cost-effective care to under-resourced and uninsured families.

Over the years Ms. Jensen has been honored for her work, including selection as one of New Orleans' CityBusiness "Women of the Year", New Orleans "Top 40 Under 40", the nation's "100 Great Disruptive Heroes" for her pioneering work in the health care delivery system, and participation in New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute (NORLI) and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. She serves as a Board Member for Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine's Alumni Association and is on the Advisory Committee for Louisiana Healthcare Connections.

Ms. Jensen received her Bachelor of Arts from Connecticut College in both Cultural Anthropology and Gender and Women Studies. She attended the School for International Training in Kenya with a focus in Development, Health, and Society, and received her Master of Public Health from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in 2004 with a focus in International Health and Development.


Robert Kröger Ph.D.Robert Kröger, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer, Covington Civil and Environmental

Robert "Robbie" Kröger is the Technical Advisor to Tulane University for the Nitrogen Reduction Challenge. Dr. Kröger is the Chief Scientific Officer for Covington Civil and Environmental and is currently one of the lead scientists for the MS Coastal Restoration Team in charge of science strategy for coastal restoration in lieu of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. 

Prior to Covington, Robbie spent nine months serving as the Science Coordinator for the RESTORE Council serving as the science liaison and standing up the science component of the Gulf wide restoration strategy. Robbie also served as a professor at Mississippi State University for six years, where he established himself as one of the nation's lead researchers and extension specialists in water quality improvement in agriculture. He has engaged multiple state and federal agencies, and NGO organizations up and down the MS River Basin, at multiple administrative levels. Robbie understands agriculture, the forces driving conservation implementation, and the understanding of how the two systems integrate to the benefit of both.


Julie ZonaJulie Zona

Julie Zona joins the Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge development team with over six years of experience developing and managing large scale competitions. Most recently, Julie was contracted as the Challenge Manager for the soon-to-be-announced U.S. Department of Energy sponsored Wave Energy Prize, promoting the development of more efficient offshore wave energy conversion devices for use as an alternate energy source in coastal regions. She also served as the Challenge Manager for the DARPA sponsored $1M FANG competition, and was the Director of Team Development and Relations for the $10M Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE at the grand challenge focused X PRIZE Foundation for four years prior to her involvement in the two-year DARPA program.

Before her competition work, Ms. Zona spent over 15 years in the automotive industry. She began her career in environmental management at Mayco Plastics, and then moved to Chrysler Corporation where she turned her focus to product development. With a career spanning nearly 14 years at Chrysler, she held a variety of positions including roles in manufacturing, vehicle development, product planning/strategy, marketing and program management. 


Mark S. DavisMark S. Davis, JD, MLT
Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Institute on
Water Resources Law and Policy, Tulane University Law School

Mark Davis is a Senior Research Fellow at Tulane University Law School and Director of the Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at the law school. The mission of the institute is to foster an appreciation of the importance of water resources and the vital roles that law and policy play in their management and stewardship.

Prior to coming to Tulane, Mr. Davis served for fourteen years as Executive Director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, a broad based organization committed to the stewardship of Louisiana's coast.

Mr. Davis has a BS and JD from Indiana University and an MLT from Georgetown University.


Michael J. BlumMichael J. Blum, Ph.D.
Eugenie Schwartz Professor of River & Coastal Studies and
Director of the Tulane-Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, Tulane University

Dr. Michael Blum is the Eugenie Schwartz Professor of River & Coastal Studies in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and the Director of the Tulane-Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research (CBR). Mike's expertise is in molecular population genetics, molecular ecology, and the ecology of river and coastal ecosystems. For the past six years, he has been leading a federally funded research consortium focusing on water quality and aquatic conservation in the State of Hawai'i. While serving as the Arnold Early Career Professor in Earth and Ecological Science, Mike worked closely with academic, government and industry partners to advance coastal remediation and recovery following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He has also collaborated on federally funded projects with colleagues at Tulane and partner institutions to develop New Orleans as an urban long-term research area to understand socioeconomic and human health drivers of biological diversity. 

As Director of the CBR, Mike ably represents Tulane on advisory panels with authority or responsibility in the environmental sciences, including the Academic Liaison Group of The Water Institute of the Gulf. He is also leading a major initiative to establish a new riverfront campus and center of excellence for cross-cutting scholarship on energy, environment and sustainability. By addressing long-standing and future needs for environmental innovation, the initiative will contribute to the revitalization of post-Katrina New Orleans, and more broadly, to the resilience and well being of coastal ecosystems and communities on the Gulf and worldwide.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 504-865-4000