Recent Global Food Security Fellows
Sabrina is originally from Carson City, NV, and received a BA in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame, and an MPhil in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Oxford. After working in Washington, DC, and the former Soviet Union in various capacities, she returned to the US to begin a PhD in Applied Plant Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Her current research aims to improve the use of cover crops in Minnesota by measuring their effects on nitrogen cycling in local corn-soybean systems. Her broader interests involve agronomic practices and systems which are environmentally sustainable and which improve the economic and social wellbeing of the food insecure, especially small-holder farmers around the world. During the 2017-2018 academic year, she will conduct research in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia focused on understanding information flows, decision-making, and current practices related to nutrient (fertilizer and manure) management in two of the country’s agricultural regions.
Melanie isa PhD candidate in philosophy working in the area of feminist epistemology. Her dissertation addresses the relationship between knowledge and solidarity by examining how the privileged respond to recognition of their ignorance-- especially when that response involves extracting knowledge from the people they want to help. caution against the assumption that, since ignorance plays a central role in sustaining systems of oppression, more knowledge will be the solution. This is because I am concerned that cultural and institutional tendencies to treat knowledge like a commodity generate unreliable knowledge about the world and our places in it at the same time as they reinforce oppressive systems. My current focus is on the assumptions about knowledge at stake in attempts to repair the harm caused by wild rice research and crop development at the University of Minnesota (https://www.cfans.umn.edu/
Dana Boyer holds a Masters degree in Engineering (MPhil) from the University of Cambridge and Bachelors degrees in Environmental Engineering (BS) and German Studies (BA) from the University of Connecticut. She is currently a PhD student in the Sustainable Cities Group in the Center for Science Technology and Environmental Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Pursuing an interdisciplinary degree combining policy, engineering, and industrial ecology, her work explores food provisioning in the context of urban development in India, China, and the United States. Her research analyzes urban food flows and the associated system-wide water and energy/greenhouse gas impacts from production all the way to consumption and waste management. The objective is to help cities ensure a sufficient supply of food, while minimizing environmental impact in the face of water and energy resource scarcity and concerns of greenhouse gas mitigation. Prior to Minnesota, Dana spent time working in India, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
Theresa Cira grew up in Cedarburg, Wisconsin before getting a B.S. in Entomology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Now a PhD candidate in the Department of Entomology, she sees the beauty, complexity, and abundance of insects as a source of endless wonder and exploration. Her dissertation research works to achieve more sustainable pest management through increased understanding of pest biology, surveys of all arthropods in agricultural systems, and exploration of alternative management tools. Through a minor in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Theresa is also exploring questions about how scientific research is applied to social and environmental problems via policy. Additionally, Theresa is passionate about communicating science to non-scientists and promoting interdisciplinary thinking and learning in higher education.
Department of American Studies
Research: “Climate-Smart” Seeds: Science, Property, and the Changing Landscape of International Agriculture (Sub-Saharan Africa)
Hannah Gray grew in in Ann Arbor, Michigan and took a gap year to study and live in Mönchengladbach, Germany through the Congress-Bundesstag Youth Exchange Program. She returned to the U.S. and obtained her B.A. in Biology with a concentration in Environmental Studies from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A six-month study abroad program based out of Chiang Mai, Thailand opened her eyes to the abundance of interdisciplinary work to be done in the fields of agroecology and natural resource management. Currently as a PhD candidate in the Department of Entomology, Hannah conducts research on insect predation in agrocological settings both in Minnesota and Brasília, Brazil. Her interests encompass alternative pest management practices, solutions for smallholder growers, and knowledge transfer between diverse stakeholders.
Matt hails from eastern Nebraska, where his previous work spanned the areas of community agriculture systems, plant pathology, and equitable rural development. He is now a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology studying efforts made by the USDA and regional NGOs to increase diversity in agriculture. His dissertation traces the parameters of rural community set by organizations that advocate for local governance over farming, agroecology, and food distribution. It asks whether food security can be made compatible with the notion of food sovereignty, and what kind of citizen-subjects might be cultivated in the process.
Department of Applied Economics
Research: To help us better understand the links between agricultural production, increasing global food demand, and carbon sequestration - the latter being a major consideration in tackling global warming.
Simi is an Indian-American feminist scholar and anthropologist from the Twin Cities. She received her B.A. in cultural anthropology and creative writing from the University of St. Thomas in 2011. Simi's work asks how Vietnamese-American foodways and food practices directly impact the relationship between refugeeism and disaster in New Orleans, emphasizing the significance of racial, social, and economic discourses that constitute citizenship through the exclusion of Vietnamese New Orlineans. Further, she asks how Vietnamese New Orleanians rearticulate the term “refugee” post-Katrina, Rita, and BP oil disaster, positioning it not as a transitory identity, but as an everyday experience that is centrally and repeatedly remade through the production, consumption, visibility, and distribution of Vietnamese New Orleanian food.
Harshada is a doctoral student at the Applied Economics department of the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include community development and access driven development. Harshada has a Master's in Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. She has a background in journalism. When she is not working on her research she enjoys hiking, trying out new recipes, writing poetry, and catching up with friends & family. She is from Mumbai, India.
Alex Liebman is pursing a PhD in agroecology in the Applied Plant Sciences program within the Department of Horticultural Sciences. He received a B.A. in biology from Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota in 2012. He uses the lens of agroecology – in its biological, political, and economic dimensions – to explore nutrient cycling in agroecosystems and its relation to food sovereignty and ecological conservation. By employing a variety of laboratory and conceptual methods, he researches aboveground-belowground relationships in agroecosystems and their implications for nutrient cycling. He is currently working on a project quantifying the contribution of leguminous cover crops to soil organic matter pool. In fall 2016 he will be researching the effects of pasture diversification in grazed agroforestry systems on soil carbon in Colombia as a U.S. Borlaug Global Food Security Fellow. Lastly, he is developing an interdisciplinary component to his work that studies how agro-ecological processes and farmer livelihoods are linked to the political ecology of land-use. He specifically wants to explore the ways in which agronomic research is practiced, how scientific knowledge about agriculture is disseminated, and how historical and ideological trends shape the questions agronomic research asks today.
I am originally from D.R. Congo (DRC) and currently a second year Ph.D. student in Soil Science at the UoM St Paul Campus. My research is about the study of the “impact of climate, topography, and farming system on the dynamic soil properties in Central DRC” for possible regional agricultural sustainability. After my B.S. in Soil Science in DRC, I worked as an extension agent for 10 years in DRC before my M.Sc. degree in farm management at the OSU in Columbus/Ohio. I am married and father of 4 children.
James is originally from Elizabeth, New Jersey and tries to return to visit family as much as possible. As an undergraduate, he received his BA from Rutgers University and returned to Rutgers to complete an MA in history in 2016. In between those degree, he worked full-time for more than six years at a supermarket in suburban NJ where he helped to manage a produce department. He is currently pursuing a PhD in modern US history and working on a dissertation that explores the history of supermarkets in American cities beginning in the 1960s.
I am a third-year Ph.D. student in the Land and Atmospheric Science program. Previously, I also received my B.S. in Biology, with minors in Social Justice and Global Studies, from UMN in 2012. It was during my undergraduate time - and specifically in HECUA and environmental justice courses. I am passionate about conducting research that creates knowledge to support the development of equitable and sustainable food systems. My current research focuses on how urban agriculture interacts with the physical and cultural environment in which it is located. This project is embedded in Minneapolis/St. Paul and utilizes participatory research to explore ecosystem services (such as soil health, biodiversity, crop production, etc.) and develop long-term community-university collaboration networks. I'm also involved in urban agriculture outside of school; I help coordinate the FairShare Farm Community Garden in Southeast Como and am on the board of the Twin Cities Agricultural Land Trust. When I'm not enjoying time in gardens or digging in the soil, I'm enjoying time with my family - especially helping my parents around the house - and biking, cooking, and going to wayyyyyy to many theater productions.
Justine Oesterle usually goes by JJ. She received her B.A in Environmental Science and Minor in Spanish at Pitzer College, Claremont, CA. At Pitzer, she managed The Grove House; a student run locally sourced café and meeting place for a variety of student groups. Her academic work at Pitzer focused on soils and sustainable agriculture, including ecological and social issues. After graduation, Justine worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where she wrote programs to analyze and validate OCO-2 satellite data. Justine moved back to Minnesota in the summer of 2015 to pursue her interests in urban agriculture and work at Urban Organics, an aquaponics facility, and Urban Oasis, a non-profit in St. Paul. In the spring, she started as a full time Masters student in the UMN’s Natural Resource Science and Management Program. Justine is involved in projects at the UMN focused on innovative urban farming techniques and measuring the larger scale impact of local producers and vendors in the Twin Cities. She is currently working on developing a verification system for regenerative poultry production in Northfield, MN, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as well as, conducting surveys at farmers markets city wide with a group she helped start called the Data Harvest. In addition to getting her Masters, Justine teaches high school life sciences at a charter school with Spark-Y, a non-profit that empowers youth through science education and aquaponics.
Maggie is a PhD student in the Department of Entomology studying resin use in honey bees and stingless bees. Before coming to the University of Minnesota, Maggie graduated with a BS in biology from the University of Puget Sound, and then spent four years working as an extension educator at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in Chiapas, Mexico. In her doctoral research, Maggie studies the role of antimicrobial resins in supporting honey bee and stingless bee health. Drawing from her own background in beekeeping and building on collaborations established through her time at ECOSUR, Maggie's goal is to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration between the honey bee and stingless bee research communities to address shared bee health issues.
Department of Philosophy
Research: Food security is a right for all individuals. An individual’s well-being should not be barred by food insecurity.
My dissertation makes a theoretical argument for the above statements and goes on to provide a guide to action informed by that theory. My food accessibility research in Bolivia is a practical case study of the implementation of this philosophical theory.