Research interests and current research
Broadly I am interested in how we can reintroduce ecological processes into agroecosystems to reduce reliance on off-farm inputs. These inputs can environmental consequences (i.e. nitrate water pollution) and can also be expensive for farmers. With a systems-oriented approach to managing agroecosystems I aim to bring improved resilience to agriculture, particularly in the face of climate change. Maintaining consistent yield will be increasingly important with the increasing variability in environmental conditions. This consistent yield is important for individual farm viability as well as global food security. Most recently I’ve been looking at how cover crop diversity may promote multiple ecosystem services including reduced weed pressure, increased nitrogen fixation by legumes, and improved biomass production for soil health benefits. Cover crops have incredible potential to serve many different goals on farms. Developing knowledge about the most beneficial management strategies as well as potential tradeoffs is key to helping farmers integrate cover crops into their farming systems.
I believe that participatory research has great potential, incorporating the extensive experience and knowledge of farmers with the theory and rigor of the scientific process. I have appreciated the opportunities to establish experimental plots on farms under realistic conditions. The insights from farmers inevitably broaden my thinking about research questions and potential next steps. I see my work through two lenses. First, my research contributes to the scientific community and advances our fundamental understanding of agroecosystems. Second, and equally, this knowledge should be designed to be applied. After all, agroecosystems are one of the largest managed ecosystems in the world. The impact of this work ultimately depends on the successful application of this knowledge by farmers on their land. Our research approaches should recognize that reality and integrate farmer input at the beginning of the process, not just the end.