Luke Anderson, MS Student

I (they/them or he/him) graduated from undergrad shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began with degrees in Anthropology and Nutritional Sciences from the University of Connecticut (UConn). Unsure of my next steps at the time but passionate about food systems and with experience doing community organizing with students and faculty around social justice issues on campus at UConn, I joined FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps service program. During my gap year as a FoodCorps service member in the city of Middletown, Connecticut, I continued engaging the community whenever I could, helping people access food assistance at the local farmers market, connecting the school food service department with local farmers to procure from, recording seasonal cooking demos for the local library, and enlisting gardeners in the broader community to help with the growing I was doing in my elementary school gardens. Teaching in those schools, my love for garden-based food and environmental education grew, and I truly enjoyed teaching my students about gardening, cooking, nutrition, and food systems as a whole from the lens of food justice. Being intentional about dissecting the complex reality of our global food system and confronting that it functions at the expense of many in a way that was digestible for elementary schoolers all amidst numerous uprisings against state violence, an ongoing pandemic, and an intensifying climate crisis forced me to personally delve into and grapple with concepts like abolitionism and decolonial theory. Situating myself in that history, I was very self-aware of my own position as a white settler named after my great-grandfather, a Swedish missionary in the Belgian Congo, and saw the importance of centering the history of the land we're currently on for my students. Ultimately, my loves for food and nature were born from my childhood connection to my grandmother's cooking, particularly her Swedish food around the holidays, and the relationships I developed with the bugs, plants, and outdoors while gardening and hiking with my mom where I grew up in northeastern Connecticut, but they've grown into so much more. I'm excited to continue deepening my understanding of agroecology and food sovereignty movements and to explore the role revolutionizing our food systems will need to have in our continuing work toward liberation for all on a healthy, thriving planet.


Sydney Blume, MS Student

Sydney (she/her) comes from the bayous of the Gulf Coast of Florida. She studied Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University with a research focus on community autonomy as resistance to global systems of power. Her research and work since has centered around the climate crisis: shifting power to address it and its underlying causes, organizing for just community adaptation, and supporting more resilient food production. Within that, she has co-founded a climate justice organization, managed a community garden, supported an autonomous youth agroecology project in Mexico, and was a founding board member of a composting co-op. This experience has directed her towards an interest in agroforestry as a nexus for climate mitigation, food sovereignty and food system resilience, and community autonomy. She wants to explore wild native food crops as well as how native agroforestry systems can increase food abundance and create new non-capitalist forms of exchange around food. In her free time, Sydney likes to explore and forage in the Appalachian forests, swim in rivers, ferment foods and beverages, cook up experimental foraged and grown foods, sing, craft, and rock climb.


Matt Bristol, MS Candidate

Before Matt joined UVM's Food Systems program, he worked for small organic vegetable farms and as a garden educator for two school-to-farm organizations in the Four Corners area of Colorado. There, he learned how to grow drought-resistant vegetables in the high desert, occasionally using indigenous planting and irrigating methods. Matt is intent on building food sovereignty, especially for people who have lost land or have been forcibly cut off from traditions of sustainability. He is also a documentary photographer.



Jamie Cohen, MS Candidate

In 2019 I graduated from Temple University with a B.A. in Anthropology with a concentration in Human Biology, and a minor in Classics. Originally planning to have a career in Archaeology, I attended an Archaeology field school in New Mexico, as well as a Bioarchaeology field school in Italy, where I excavated human skeletons in a medieval cemetery. Sudden changes during the pandemic led me to re-evaluate my goals to instead dedicate my career to helping society adopt sustainable practices under climate change. I am interested in Controlled Environment Agricultural systems in food deserts, actual deserts, and other environments hostile to conventional agriculture.



Molly Duff, MS Candidate

Molly Duff is a Master’s student in the University of Vermont’s Food Systems program. Growing up in Vermont, she developed her interests in food and place by connecting with the community-driven agriculture and commerce throughout the state. After graduating from the University of Vermont with degrees in Anthropology and French, she accepted a position in Benin, West Africa with the Peace Corps. As a volunteer, she focused on teaching English, as well as community development projects. This experience inspired an interest in local food systems on a global scale. Molly is eager to focus her time at UVM on studying Vermont’s food systems and the communities who work within and rely upon them.


Amy Finley, MS Candidate

I spent almost every day after school from grades three through eight sitting in the back of my mother's classroom, watching her teach Home Economics to high school students. That's where my passion for food -- and in hindsight, my interest in the relationship between cooking and Food Systems -- began. Before starting graduate work at UVM, however, I took a circuitous path through the worlds of science/technology policy, cheffing, food writing, restaurant leadership, and marketing, with layovers in Paris to earn a Grande Diplome in classical cooking, and in Burgundy, France, where I lived on a farm while traveling the country to investigate the geographical underpinnings of French regional cooking. I am particularly interested in the role cooking and food agency will have to play in connecting the average citizen to the transformation of our collective food systems, and will be working with Amy Trubek and Lizzie Pope on their ongoing research. I am originally from San Diego, California, and excited to finally experience "weather."


Maeve Forbes, AMP Student

Maeve (she/her) is from the little beach town of Wells, Maine and is finishing her Undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies here at UVM while beginning the Food Systems Masters program. She is passionate about food sovereignty, and policy in relation to the American as well as the global food system.As an undergraduate she was the Chair of the UVM Student Government Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, an undergraduate research assistant for a project in Evolutionary Plant Based Mixtures, and the Co-Manager of Rally Cat’s Cupboard, the food pantry here on campus. Her favorite hobbies outside of school include skiing, reading, knitting, and watching documentaries with her roommates. She will continue running the pantry throughout her masters program and is available to help anyone through email or the Cupboard instagram page.


Ellen Friedrich, MS Candidate

I grew up in rural Northeast Iowa, where I delighted in the natural world and developed a deep interest in the diversity and potential of humanity. I went on to double major in Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Iowa State University where I began to more thoughtfully reckon with the implications that our food systems have for environmental and human wellbeing. I developed a sense of call to work for food systems that better promoted the flourishing of both humanity and the larger complex and diverse ecosystems to which we which we belong. After graduating, I spent a year working at a farm and agricultural school in Madagascar that provided training to young farmers from across the country. I later moved to Northern Minnesota where I worked with a tribal government as they sought to revitalize their traditional food ways and reclaim their food sovereignty. Most recently, I’ve been working with farmers in Iowa, helping to encourage and support the implementation of conservation practices that promote the health of the land and address water quality issues. I come to the UVM Food Systems MS program eager to further explore how we can realize changes and improvements in our food systems so as to better promote ecosystem health, build resiliency, and sustainably meet human needs. Lately, I have been especially interested in the land management side of our agricultural systems and how we can promote soil health and regeneration of landscape health.



Michelle Leonetti, MS Candidate

I first became interested in food through the lens of nutrition during my Nutritional Sciences degree at Cornell University. After graduating, I became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and went on to work as a Regulatory & Food Labeling Specialist for large food manufacturers and grocery distributers where I was exposed firsthand to the sustainability challenges in the food supply chain. Overtime, my interest began to shift from the health of humans to the health of the planet and how they are interconnected. My goal is to help reform global food production and distribution and reconnect people to where their food comes from. I am particularly interested in the important role that plant-based diets play in improving the sustainability of the food system.



Malarie McGalliard, MS Student

Malarie is a Food Systems Graduate Student from the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Business Administration + Marketing at North Carolina State University, Malarie possessed a desire to give back to the community by joining AmeriCorps State & National. After two years of service at MANNA FoodBank in Asheville, NC Malarie was inspired to continue working at the food bank for 4 more years where she spent time involving, educating, and uniting people in the work of ending hunger across Western North Carolina. During her time as a food banker, Malarie helped to spearhead the design and implementation of a mobile food pantry that has circulated over 2.6 million pounds of food to nearly 110,000 neighbors in need across 16 counties. Her passion for finding innovative solutions that strengthen the food security net sparked a curiosity to further explore food systems, and has planted a seed for a life-long career in public service. After completing her graduate studies, Malarie envisions working alongside community leaders to build sustainable food systems geared towards empowering individuals to make healthy choices. Outside of academics Malarie enjoys hiking, kayaking, live music and spending time with friends and family.


April Mcilwaine, MS Candidate

April grew up in rural Vermont where she developed an appreciation for home grown food and the natural ecosystems out her doorstep. She attended SUNY Purchase for her undergraduate degree in Biology and received the Women in Tech award for her evolutionary biology focused senior project research. After graduation she moved to New York City where she worked in a biotechnology lab as a research intern. Wanting to have more connection to the outdoors she joined a farm-based non-profit as an educator, teaching on a 1.5 acre, soil based, rooftop farm in the heart of Brooklyn. Working in this position, the prominent role that food had at the intersection of economics, health, culture, and the environment was truly illuminated for her. She looks forward creating avenues for increased access to fresh local food in Vermont and beyond!


David Moloo, MS Student

Born and raised in the Sacramento Valley, I have always been surrounded by agriculture and interested in food production. During college, I worked for conventional, organic, and regenerative organic farms that produced a wide variety of crops. I realized the importance of regenerating our soils rather than merely sustaining them. In 2020, I graduated from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Agricultural and Environmental Plant Science. Upon graduation, I was hired by a food company to work in their agricultural operations department. My primary role was working with their grower network to determine a set of growing practices for a rare corn variety. At this job I was exposed to the distribution, retail, and policy side of food systems that I had not experienced before. During my time at UVM, I hope to learn how food production, policies, and distribution affect our environment, health, and communities.



LuAnna Nesbitt, MS Student

As a graduate from Appstate’s Sustainable Development Program, LuAnna has developed a deep passion for community development, social and environmental justice, and sustainable agriculture and living. LuAnna grew up in Asheville, NC, on her family’s small vegetable and dairy farm, with her eight siblings. She has a past in farming and enjoys the dirt under her nails and the ongoing learning and creativity that comes with regenerative agriculture and using the plants around us for answers. Having worked as a facilitator at High Country Forest Wild, an outdoor forest school for kids for the past year, she has been continuously learning from the wild and imagination that surrounds her. The knowledge she has gained from the forest has encouraged her to pursue community engagement and development work, focused in rural regenerative agriculture and native food forests. This past semester, she co-facilitated a course in the Sustainable Development Department at Appalachian State University, called All We Can Save. This course focused on the anthology All We Can Save, and brought forth student input towards hope, resiliency, and solutions within a feminist approach to climate change and climate justice. She has acted as a member and organizer of the Climate Action Collaborative, an environmental justice group in Boone, NC, for the past two years. She has participated in many community forums, meetings, events, and all of which have demonstrated to her how important community is to fighting climate change. She was a member of the Town of Boone’s Sustainability Committee, where a group of community members discuss, encourage, educate, and propose sustainable acts for the town. Alongside these things, she has a passion for cooking, food, potlucks and sharing time with others. She spends most of her time in the kitchen experimenting, running trails, foraging, singing songs, climbing rocks, and exploring the woods. Appalachia is her first home, but she is excited to make UVM and Burlington her new home!


Patrick Shafer, MS Candidate

I graduated from Temple University in 2017 with a B.A. in Advertising and a focus in brand strategy. I had never seriously considered a career in food, regardless of my life-long love of cooking, but I quickly switched paths when offered a chance opportunity to train as a line cook at my favorite nationally-ranked restaurant. I was instantly hooked on professional food production and began training to learn technique in cooking, and then baking. In the last three years I’ve explored an array of paths in our local food systems - including food education in Philadelphia public schools, farmer’s market management, food distribution methods, and large-scale milling/bakery operations. I hope to tie up these experiences in the UVM Food Systems graduate program, during which I’ll be working with UVM Dining as an Innovation Fellow. I’m thrilled to be involved in the operations of a university food system, and I plan on using this experience to inform strategy of my long-term goals in local food systems.


Emma Spence, MS Candidate

From my early days spent playing with earthworms in the garden, I have always been fascinated by the interaction of man and environment. My bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Anthropology led me into the world of food systems, situated at the intersection of human behavior and ecology. Since then, I have explored the interest from various angles, studying Permaculture in Brazil, managing a campus garden, and interning on a joint sustainable farm/non-profit where I got to help plan and execute a farm festival to celebrate the local food scene. Later, I transitioned to the opposite end of the food chain as Americorps VISTA for Gather Baltimore, a small non-profit working to increase access to healthy food in Baltimore City by rescuing and redistributing produce otherwise destined to become waste. Through this experience, I became extremely interested in food security and public nutrition, and I hope to delve deep into these topics at UVM. I have spent the last several years working in academic research and am very excited to get my hands dirty again as I dive back into the world of food systems!


Maggie Torness, MS Student

Maggie (she/her) grew up on the Great Plains of South Dakota. During her undergraduate study at the University of Vermont, she spent a summer working for a farm at the Intervale and became involved with the Slow Food Movement. Later on, she attended a Slow Food Youth event at the World Expo in Milan, Italy, which inspired her to explore sustainable food systems back on her homelands. This led her on a wild journey learning about regenerative agriculture, foraging, indigenous history, ecology, and climate change. At the nexus of this information, she became greatly inspired by the intersection of sustainable food systems and conservation on the Great Plains, particularly with the restoration of bison. She wants to better understand the food system at large and explore how communities in the Dakotas might be able to transition from food systems that dismantle the grassland ecosystem to those that restore it. In her free time, Maggie loves walking in the woods with her dog, playing guitar and writing songs, and having deep conversations with good friends over good food.


Eurydice Aboagye, PhD Student

Looking at food with an interdisciplinary perspective became obvious to me when I began my job teaching food safety to workers in Ghanaian food industry and hospitality. With a Masters in food science (food microbiology focus) from the university of Ghana, I had previously only worked with students and individuals in a similar field. These workers were however from diverse fields including construction, engineering, as well as many who had no formal education. Food safety was however a key part of what they did everyday and they needed to understand its principles as much as anyone else within the food continuum. I am excited to start my PhD this fall at UVM and look forward to broadening my perspective about the people and processes that affect food safety. Beyond this program, I hope to return to academia back home in Ghana where I can design new course modules that will make the otherwise technical and sometimes complex principles of food safety accessible and comprehensible to anyone regardless of their background. I will be working with Dr. Andrea Etter on the mechanisms of persistence of Listeria monocytogenes, a highly stress tolerant foodborne pathogen which causes severe illness, including septicemia and meningitis in immunocompromised persons, as well as miscarriages or stillbirths in pregnant women.


Amaya Carrasco, PhD Student

Amaya has combined experiences working in the local and central government of her country, Ecuador, in areas of international cooperation, development, climate change, public policy and project evaluation. Among her relevant career milestones, Amaya was the founding director of International Cooperation at the Consortium of Provincial Governments of Ecuador. Also, as part of the National Secretariat of Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment, she was in charge of promoting and evaluating the National Plan of Climate Change. She also has experience working with grassroots organizations, NGOs and academic organizations in the fields of sustainability, climate change, food justice, urban agriculture, wellbeing and agroecology. During the last four years she has also acquired hands on experience in urban farms, school gardens and roof-top farms in the US. Amaya is mentored by Dr. Ernesto Méndez and a member of UVM’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC). With the supervision of Dr. Mendez, Amaya is involved in the Collaborative Crop Research Program’s (CCRP) Agroecology Support Project, which seeks to strengthen agroecological knowledge and capacities in Africa and South America. She is a lawyer from International University SEK (Ecuador). She has a MA in International Cooperation and Development at University of Valencia (Spain) & MS in Leadership for Sustainability at the University of Vermont (US). Amaya also has graduate level studies in Public Policy (Australian National University, Australia) and Leadership, Climate Change and Cities (Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, Ecuador), Finally, she has a certification in Urban Agriculture (Harris-Stowe University, US). Passionate about contributing to create sustainable food systems, wellbeing and food rights. For more information, please visit


Ayana Curran-Howes, PhD Student

I have a BA in Biology from William Jewell College, and a MS in Environment and Sustainability and a Museum Studies Certificate from from the University of Michigan. Previously, I conducted community based ecological restoration at a conservation nonprofit in Kansas City, Heartland Conservation Alliance. With my newfound focus on food systems I have worked for the Sustainability Food Systems Initiative, Matthaei Botanical Gardens with heritage seeds, and the Washtenaw County Health Department addressing local food access.

My research addresses the agrarian question in the context of the US's industrial, militarized food system that is based upon the compounding exploitation of the environment, animals, and low-income and migrant workers. Using a political ecology lens, I explore how small-scale, systemically marginalized producers thrive amidst this landscape and ways scholar-activists can support grassroots transitions to agroecology. My research is as much about the methodological process, based on reciprocity, co-learning, and co-authorship, as it is about discerning and acting upon the results. I want to work on undoing the trauma caused by capitalism and policing of farmers and farmworkers, creating an anti-racist food system that values cultural food ways and food sovereignty. Beyond UVM, I hope to work to design, curate, and conduct research in outdoor "living museums" (e.g., farms deploying agritourism, botanical gardens, public parks) alongside farmers to educate and instigate this agroecological transition.


Zack Goldstein, PhD Student

Zack Goldstein is a Food Systems PhD student interested in interdisciplinary and policy-relevant research related to food and agriculture. At UVM, Zack will work with Dr. Meredith Niles to examine producer and consumer attitudes surrounding dairy producer climate adaptation practices. Before moving to Vermont, Zack lived in Washington, DC and worked as a Policy and Data Visualization Associate with the National Journal covering environmental, agricultural, and infrastructure policy. Zack attended Brown University, where he graduated with a BA in Public Policy and Philosophy and examined food systems through coursework, academic research, and internships. At Brown, he worked as a Research Assistant on a project related to fisheries and seafood policy in the US, and wrote a Public Policy Senior Honors Thesis assessing the impact of US Department of Agriculture farm program eligibility requirements on farm structure and consolidation. Zack enjoys board games, playing saxophone and piano, and cooking and baking. He is originally from Long Island, New York.


Carolyn Hricko, PhD Candidate

Growing up in a rural farming community taught me to appreciate the complex relationships between our environment, communities and dinner tables. My hope and aim is to inform and develop policies that recognize these complexities and bring sustainability and health to the forefront. My research interests include the interactions between diet, health, agriculture and the environment, and the roles of agroecology and ecological economics in supporting a more just, sustainable food system. Prior to joining UVM, I managed the food systems policy program at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. My areas of focus included the environmental and health impacts of industrial food animal production, institutional food procurement reform, dietary guidelines and nutrition policies, impacts of industrial agriculture on immigrant workers, diet and climate connections, and the Farm Bill. Before my time at Johns Hopkins, I worked with USAID as a strategic policy and program management specialist for the South and Central Asia region. Although I’m a small-town Mainer at heart, I’ve spent time living and working in Montana, Guatemala, Alaska, India, Kyrgyzstan and places in between. I developed a passion for health, environment and agriculture at an early age, which was further fueled by time volunteering as a ski patroller and EMT, working in outdoor education, land use planning and food service, studying plant physiology, and gardening with my family and community. When I’m not studying or teaching, you can probably find me skiing and running with my husband, hiking with my dog, fishing and canoeing with my family in Maine, or teaching yoga. I earned my Master of Public Health degree in Global Environmental Sustainability and Public Health with a certificate in Food Systems, the Environment, and Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and my bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry from Bowdoin College.


Tung-Lin Liu, PhD Student

Tung-Lin Liu is a Ph.D. student in the University of Vermont’s Food Systems program. His interest in Food Systems began during his time studying Gastronomy at Boston University. There he had the opportunity to apply system thinking and computational tools to the understanding of social patterns in food production and consumption. At UVM, he hopes to expand his current work and explore the future of food and computing.




Maya Moore, PhD Candidate

Maya has been working in the conservation and development field, mainly in Madagascar but also in Thailand and Guatemala, for nearly 15 years. She holds degrees in Biology and Sustainable International Development. Having grown up in Northern Maine, she looks forward to joining the UVM community this fall and returning to New England with her family and three dogs. She is predominantly interested in seeking out interdisciplinary answers to the challenges of food security in the face of climate change, as it relates to human well-being and tropical biodiversity protection. Her broad research questions pertain to the ways in which smallholder farmers are experiencing and perceiving climate change, how this is impacting their land management decisions, and how this affects conservation strategy in the tropics where agricultural pressure is the leading cause of deforestation. Other interests include sustainability, organizational development, climate and food justice movements. She loves to travel, experience different cultures and try the food!


Michelle Nikfarjam, PhD Student

I obtained my B.S. in Sustainable Food and Farming from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where I worked for three seasons as a farmer and coordinated several food justice and agroecology projects. At UMass, I co-founded the UMass Edible Forest Garden, a ¾ acre landscape dedicated to teaching students and community members about regenerative and climate-resilient agriculture. Engaging in food production and agroecology so directly inspired me to think more deeply about issues of food sovereignty and equity. I became keen to explore these issues globally leading me to pursue my M.A in International Studies from the University of Oregon. My thesis examined the synergistic role that civil society organizations and grassroots movements play in addressing barriers to agroecological production among small, marginal and tribal producers in Rajasthan, India. Most recently, I completed a year-long tenure as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow at the Congressional Hunger Center. As a fellow, I worked with Project Bread, a state-wide anti-hunger organization in Massachusetts, conducting research on COVID’s impact on federal child nutrition programs. I then was placed at the Alliance to End Hunger, a 100-member anti-hunger coalition in Washington DC, where my work contributed to their “Hunger is an Equity Issue” campaign.

I hope to bring all these interests and experiences together at UVM as I direct my focus towards issues of gender, agroecology and food sovereignty in the Middle East. I’m interested in exploring how small-scale food producers, particularly women, engage across different scales and landscapes of agriculture and development while resisting prevailing, regional trends which favor monoculture and cash crops and how to best support their efforts to do so. I also hope to explore how women farmers engage in policy processes -- from that of the local level to transnational spaces such as the UN and the power dynamics therein. I plan to conduct my project in Tajikistan, however, I hope I can eventually return to my family’s homeland in the south of Iran to work with farmers there.

In my work, I believe it is important to employ a feminist political ecology framework approached through the intersectional relationship of class, race, gender, and the environment. As an aspiring scholar-activist, I hope to learn more about participatory action research (PAR) that has the power to build farmers’ production capacities, foster more sustainable and equitable approaches to agriculture, and fully engage communities in the co-production of knowledge for food system transformation. I’m excited to join the vibrant Food Systems community at UVM while continuing to farm and garden, do research and most importantly, learn new things about this work every day.


Nick Rose, PhD Candidate

As a community nutrition educator for the largest food co-op in the nation, I enjoyed the unique challenges of explaining the complex science of nutrition to the general public through teaching, writing, and community outreach – with a mission of helping others make conscious food choices for improved personal and planetary health. Over the past decade, the nutrition community has become more mindful of the food system, and there has been a remarkable shift in consumers’ level of interest in topics such as animal welfare, social justice, food additives, and the environmental impacts of food production practices. This increased awareness has motivated me to return to graduate school to learn about the latest research on sustainable agriculture, and to contribute to the growing body of research exploring how food production practices can impact the nutritional benefits of different foods. I believe that improving the food system has great potential to transform public health, and I’m inspired to study food systems and public health at UVM, where I can collaborate with others in identifying innovative strategies to support healthy eating patterns for all.


Krizzia Soto-Villanueva, PhD Student

I grew up in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico and graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras with a BA in Anthropology, Archaeology, and Foreign Languages. During my early academic career, I was focused on Bioarchaeology and had the privilege of digging in the Andes. Back at home, I focused on queer archaeological theory and wrote my undergraduate thesis on Indigenous Caribbean lithics. As I learned more about global politics and the anthropology of food, I became interested in jíbaro agricultural practices and colonial foodways. My research interests include food policy, food sovereignty movements in colonized lands, and agroecology. I am also interested in learning more about spatial analysis, migrant foodways, and agricultural policy at UVM.


Leslie Spencer, PhD Student

I graduated from Tufts University in 2021 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Food Systems and Nutrition. During my undergrad, I co-led the Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative - a group of students, staff, faculty, and community partners that works to rescue and redistribute surplus food from campus dining halls to sites in Greater Boston. Some of my previous academic work includes studying orchid bees in Costa Rican forests, predicting the pollinator-friendliness of coffee farming landscapes with spatial models, surveying native bee and wildflower communities in prairies with the Minnesota Agriculture for Pollinators Project, and planting urban pollinator gardens and holding outreach events with the Tufts Pollinator Initiative. I have also worked on research projects related to the population ecology of butterflies and native bees. As a Food Systems PhD student and Gund Graduate Fellow at UVM, I am excited to work at the intersection of agroecology and ecological landscape design/planning with Drs. Stephanie Hurley and Taylor Ricketts. In my spare time, you'll find me out in a garden, on my road bike, and working on becoming a better naturalist.


Sarra Talib, PhD Student

Over the past decade, my academic and professional pursuits have been centred around a personal mission to better understand and contribute to the sustainable development of our global food systems. As a practitioner, I have had the opportunity (i.e. challenge) to identify inefficiencies along the food value chain in different parts of the world (including North Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey) and have attempted to address them with innovative, sustainable solutions such as the unique blending of tailored finance and technical assistance. In parallel, I have led a number of collaborative strategic initiatives, bringing together key players from the public, private, and civil society sectors to promote effective policy dialogue and improve food security. As a student of sustainable international development, I have been particularly interested in exploring innovative yet pragmatic ways to improve our food systems in order to optimise human health and wellbeing while respecting our planetary boundaries. I am excited to dive deeper into this critical discussion through my research at UVM, and will endeavour to answer the transdisciplinary question: What does a truly sustainable plate (diet) look like? I have a BA in Economics and an MS in Development Management, and over twelve years of international experience in programme management, strategic business development, and advisory, with a strong focus on capacity development, innovation, and sustainability in the agri-food sector. For more, please visit


Josiah (Josh) Taylor, PhD Candidate

I completed a B.A. in cultural anthropology and environmental studies at Colby College.  Then I apprenticed in organic farming in Canada, and recently completed a M.Ed. at the University of New Brunswick, compiling interviews with Wolastoq First Nation Elders, archiving their narratives, focusing on community and family food systems. Enjoying time in nature, I’ve been studying and teaching about botany, gardening, ecology, and health, working with schools, ages pre-K – 12.  Additionally I have been researching with William Woys Weaver, working to preserve endangered, historic food plant varieties through propagation and dissemination.  In 2015 the teaching garden I founded in Pennsylvania won 2nd best educational and community garden in the U.S. by America in Bloom.  While at UVM, I am excited to study school nutrition programs, and farm to school and community food education projects, with goals of advancing health, engagement, and community vitality.


Master skill sets for work in Food Systems

The transdisciplinary nature of our program prepares students for work across all sectors: public, private and nonprofit. They will obtain important and relevant skills and knowledge such as:

  • Ability to understand and implement multiple research methodologies
  • Ability to perform critical analysis of complex issues and make policy recommendations
  • Experience in public speaking
  • Experience writing for a range of audiences, from scholarly reports to blog posts
  • Exposure to agroecological methods and practices
  • Exposure to ecological and life sciences perspectives on food systems
  • Exposure to cultural, historical and economic perspectives on food systems
  • Analysis of global food supply chains and alternative food movements
  • Methods of sustainable agriculture