Associate Professor

Dr. Meredith Niles is an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont and also teaches and advises in the food systems program.  She completed her BA in politics with honors in environmental studies at The Catholic University of America, a PhD in Ecology at the University of California at Davis and was a post-doctorate fellow in Sustainability Science at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Meredith thrives conducting applied research that can help bring together diverse stakeholders- whether on a farm or working with policymakers- to help solve pressing problems facing our world's food system.  Meredith is an interdisciplinary food systems scientist that works at the interface of social-ecological food systems. Meredith’s research focus is primarily in advancing efforts to achieve sustainable food security and improve health and environmental outcomes from food systems. Her primary areas of focus include farmer decision-making and sustainable food production and food and nutritional security during crises, including climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to her academic career, Meredith worked for the United States Department of State in HIV/AIDS public health and for several non-profit organizations.  Meredith is a passionate advocate for open access research to make research more publicly available to maximize the potential of science and its benefits for society. To help realize this goal she currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Public Library of Science (PLOS), one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific publishers.

At UVM, Meredith teaches an undergraduate course in U.S. food policy and politics and a graduate course in Food Systems Science and Policy.  Her teaching is grounded in engaged, hands-on methods, especially to understand and participate in the policy process. Meredith is deeply committed to ensuring my academic research is available to the public and stakeholders to meet a land-grant mission, and publish in open access journals, develop research and policy briefs, and archive my research in publicly available repositories.

Research and/or Creative Works

Meredith has two primary areas of interest related to sustainable food security, which overlap with several current and future research efforts:

  1. Ensuring Sustainable Food Production: Meredith works with farmers and farm organizations to understand why farmers adopt best management and sustainable practices.  She has worked in this area since her PhD, and has examined farmer’s adoption of climate adaptation and mitigation practices, water management, nitrogen and manure management, and cover crops.
  2. Food Access and Security in a Changing World: Meredith’s previous and current work examines how climate change will affect food access, especially for low-income populations, women and children.  This work includes frequently linking survey data with climate change data to explore how food security and diet diversity have been affected by climate change and extreme events.  More recently, Meredith is leading a national effort to examine the food access and food security impacts of COVID-19. Currently, she directs the National Food Access and COVID research Team (NFACT), a national research consortium of more than 18 study sites in 16 states (www.nfactresearch.org)

Research Briefs:

Meredith and her team are committed to translating research into policy briefs that are actionable and usually precede academic publications for more rapid decision-making.  Links to her research briefs include:

Publications

  • Rodríguez-Cruz, L.A. , Álvarez-Berríos, N., Niles, M.T. Social-ecological interactions in a disaster context: Puerto Rican farmer households’ food security after Hurricane Maria.  Environmental Research Letters.
  • Niles, M.T., et al. A multi-site analysis of the prevalence of food security in the United States, before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Current Developments in Nutrition. Volume 5, Issue 12, December 2021, nzab135.
  • Ryschawy, J., Kelly, S., Gaudin, A., Garrett, R., Niles, M.T. 2021. Moving niche agroecological initiatives to the mainstream: A case-study of sheep-vineyard integration in California. Land Use Policy.  109:105680.
  • Nicholson, C., Emery, B.F., Niles, M.T. 2021. Global relationships between crop diversity and nutritional stability.  Nature Communications.   12: 5310.
  • Bertmann, F., Rogomentich, K.* , Belarmino, E.H., Niles, M.T. 2021. The Food Bank and Food Pantries Help Food Insecure Participants Maintain Fruit and Vegetable Intake During COVID-19. Frontiers in Nutrition  8, 510.
  • Rodriguez-Cruz, L. †, Moore, M. †, Niles, M.T. 2021. Puerto Rican Farmers’ Obstacles Towards Recovery and Adaptation Strategies after Hurricane Maria: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Understanding Adaptive Capacity.  Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 5:22.
  • Snider, M.A., Ziegler, S.E., Darby, H.M., Soder, K.J., Brito, A.F., Beidler, B., Flack, S., Greenwood, S.L., Niles, M.T. 2021. An overview of organic, grassfed dairy farm management and factors related to higher milk production. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 1-9.
  • Clements, R., Birthisel, S.K., Daigneault, A., Gallandt, E., Johnson, D., Wentworth, T., Niles, M.T.  (2021). Climate change in the context of whole-farming systems: opportunities for improved outreach. Climatic Change. 166: 40.
  • Niles, M.T., Wirkkala Brassard, K. †, Belarmino, E.H., Bertmann F. (2021). Home food procurement impacts food security and diet quality during COVID-19.  BMC Public Health.  21: 945.
  • Emery, B.F., Niles M.T., Danforth, C.M., Dodds, P.S. (2021). Local information sources received the most attention from Puerto Ricans during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.  PLOS One. 16(6): e0251704. 
  • Niles, M.T., Rudnick, J., Lubell, M., Cramer, L., (2021).  Linking Household and Community Social Capital to Smallholder Food Security.  Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.
  • Muller, M.F., Penny, G., Niles, M.T., Ricciardi, V., Chiarelli, D.D., Davis, K.F., Dell’Angelo, J., d’Odorico, P., Rosa, L., Rulli, M.S., Mueller, N.D. (2021). Impact of transnational land acquisitions on local food security and diet diversity.  Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. 118: e2020535118.
  • Rodriguez-Cruz, L.A.  and Niles, M.T. (2021). Awareness of climate change’s impacts and motivation to adapt are not enough to drive action: A look at Puerto Rican farmers after Hurricane Maria.  PLOS One. 16(1): e0244512.
  • Roy, E., Hammond-Wagner, C., † Niles, M.T. (2021). Hot spots of opportunity for improved cropland nitrogen management across the United States. Environmental Research Letters.  16: 035004.
  • Niles M.T., Emery, B.F. , Wiltshire, S., Fischer, B., Ricketts, T., Brown, M. (2021). Climate impacts associated with reduced diet diversity in children across nineteen countries.  Environmental Research Letters. 16: 015010.

Awards and Recognition

Associations and Affiliations

  • Board of Directors, Public Library of Science
  • Board of Directors, Rural Vermont
  • Associations- Ecological Society of America, Agronomy Soil and Crop Science Societies

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

  • Food Systems Sustainability
  • Food Policy
  • Food Security
  • Farmer Behavior
  • Social-Ecological Systems

Education

  • PhD, Ecology, University of California, Davis, 2014
  • BA, Political Science, Honors in Environmental Studies, The Catholic University of America, 2005

Contact

Phone:
  • 802-656-4337
Office Location:

355 MLS Carrigan Wing

Office Hours:

by appointment

Courses Taught