Alan Townsend was named director of the North American Nitrogen Center (NANC), one of five centers around the world that together comprise the core structure of the SCOPE and IGBP sanctioned International Nitrogen Initiative (INI). Nitrogen is essential for life, and our ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into synthetic fertilizers is a mainstay of agricultural productivity, and thus of our ability to feed billions of people. Yet the global nitrogen cycle is also being changed at scale and pace that exceeds any other major biogeochemical element, with a growing litany of environmental and health consequences. Thus, the North American Nitrogen Center and the INI are dedicated to optimizing the use of nitrogen in food production, while minimizing the negative effects of nitrogen on human health and the environment as a result of both food and energy production. Core activities of the INI include scientific assessment, development of solutions to solve a wide variety of nitrogen-related problems, and interactions with policymakers to implement these solutions.