Deborah Neher

I am a soil ecologist with formal training in plant population ecology and plant pathology. I view nature as a model and am a question-driven researcher using population and community ecology approaches. My recent research focuses on biological communities in compost and their role in disease suppression by natural mechanisms. Through my career, I have published on topics of biological indicators of soil, ecotoxicology and biotechnology risk assessment, climate change and soil biological crusts, plant pathology and sustainable agriculture.


Soil Ecology and Biological Indicators Laboratory (SEBIL)


Google Scholar

Neher, D.A., Limoges, M., Weicht, T.R., Sharma, M., Millner, P.D., and Donnelly, C. 2020. Bacterial community dynamics distinguish poultry compost from dairy compost and non-amended soils planted with spinach. Microorganisms 2020, 8(10), 1601;  (OpenAccess)

Porterfield, K.K.†, Joblin, R., Neher, D.A., Curtis, M., Dvorak, S., Rizzo, D.M., Faulkner, J.W. and Roy, E.D. 2020. Upcycling phosphorus recovered from anaerobically digested dairy manure to support production for vegetables and flowers. Sustainability 12:1139. doi: 10.3390/su12031139 

O’Brien, B.J.†, Neher, D.A., and Roy, E.D. 2019. Nutrient and pathogen suppression properties of anaerobic digestates from dairy manure and food waste feedstocks. Waste and Biomass Valorization doi:10.1007/s12649-019-00906-4

Neher, D.A. and Barbercheck, M.E. 2019. Soil microarthropods and soil health: Intersection of decomposition and pest suppression. Special issue on “Elucidating the Role of Soil Arthropods in Soil Health”, Insects 10(12):414. doi: 10.3390/insects10120414

Andrews, T.†, Neher, D.A., Weicht, T.R., and Barlow, J.W. 2019. Mammary microbiome of lactating organic dairy cows varies by time, tissue site, and infection status. PloS ONE 14(11): e0225001. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225001

Neher, D.A., Weicht, T.R., Bates, S.T., Leff, J.W., and Fierer, N. (2013) Changes in bacterial and fungal communities across compost recipes, preparation methods, and composting times. PloS ONE 8 (11): e79512.

Awards and Recognition

Soil Ecology Society, Service Award, 2017

Ecological Society of America, Soil Ecology Section announces new Deborah A. Neher Career Award, 2015

HW Vogelmann Award for Excellence in Research & Scholarship, UVM, 2009

Associations and Affiliations

Chair, Department of Plant and Soil Science, UVM (2004-2018)

Gund Institute For the Environment Affiliate

Organization of Nematologists of Tropical America, President (2017-2018)

Soil Ecology Society (1993-present)

Society of Nematologists (1996-present)

Ecological Society of America (1986-present)

Deborah Neher

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Soil Ecology, biological indicators of soil, plant-soil interactions, epidemiology of root pathogens


  • Ph.D. Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis 1990
  • M.S. Plant Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign,1986
  • B.S. Environmental Science, McPherson College, KS 1984


  • (802) 656-0474
Office Location:

350 Jeffords Hall

Office Hours:

By appointment

Courses Taught

PSS 301 Plant Science Colloquium 

PSS 281 Professional Development: Eco Ag/ Sust Lndsc Hrt  

PSS 268 / NR 268 Soil Ecology

PSS 154. Composting Ecology & Mgmt.