Former UnitedHealth Group executive Lois Quam has been named chief operating officer of the international conservation group Nature Conservancy.
Quam left UnitedHealth in 2007 after a 17-year career to work on clean energy and technology business development at the investment firm Piper Jaffray. She most recently served as a special adviser to the U.S. State Department, focusing on global health and public-private partnerships.
She said she's excited to return to conservation work.
"The work to protect the land and water that all life depends on is just about the most important thing I can think of doing," she said in an interview. "I'm very excited to get back into this."
Quam said traveling several years ago to arctic Norway to visit relatives allowed her to see climate change impacts first-hand, and she said arctic explorer and Minnesota climate change activist Will Steger also influenced her decision to begin working toward environmental causes.
She said pressures on land and water are growing across the globe as more people move from rural areas to urban centers and that climate change is adding to the strain on natural resources.
The Nature Conservancy is based in Arlington, Va., and has offices in 50 states and 38 countries working on environmental protection and land stewardship issues. Besides climate change, the organization's efforts range from addressing the loss of coral reefs to protecting migratory birds.