The Agroecology Extension (AX) Summer Research Fellowship is a fully paid, 10-week research and outreach experience open to undergraduates from across the US. UVM provides the project, mentorship, and research sites. You bring your enthusiasm and willingness to get engaged under the Vermont summer sun!

Application Process

Applications are accepted through UVM’s Office of Fellowships, Opportunities, and Undergraduate Research (FOUR) Internal Undergraduate Research Funding website. The application deadline for 2023 AX Fellowships has passed.

Program Details

The AX Fellowship is collaboration between UVM Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and coordinated by the Institute for Agroecology located on UVM’s main campus in Burlington, VT. Fellows will be matched with mentors engaged in various applied research and outreach projects including in pest management, vegetable/berry farming, fruit tree farming, ecological landscape design, environmental science, and sustainable cropping systems. The AX Summer Research Fellowship is uniquely tailored for students looking to deepen their knowledge of sustainable agricultural approaches, developing transdisciplinary research and outreach skills, and engaging with extension in Vermont.

Program Goals

  • Provide students with transdisciplinary experiential learning focused on developing adaptable research, leadership, and outreach skills
  • Help prepare students for careers and graduate education in agroecology and extension
  • Match students with UVM faculty and staff working within Vermont’s multifaceted landscape Support and contribute to new and ongoing Extension outreach projects dedicated to UVM’s Land Grant mission

While we are a largely white-led program in a predominantly white state, we work diligently to address topics of power and privilege in agroecology and extension. To do this, we collaborate with a broad and diverse network of researchers, farmers, organizational leaders, and academics. We invite them into the program to address complex contemporary issues through the lens of agroecology. In partnering with UVM Center for Cultural PluralismUVM Identity Centers and the Living Well Program, we further facilitate students’ connections with campus resources focused on wellbeing and belonging.

Tiered Mentorship

The AX fellows will build on the sustainable leadership skills developed as a part of the Agroecology Enrichment and Leadership Program through their integration into the week-long AgroTek Summer Academy. Fellows will apply their learning through the mentoring by faculty, post-docs, and graduate students, as well as by being mentors to the middle/high school student participants in AgroTek. Check out more about AgroTek on UVM Extension's TV program, 'Across the Fence' Click here for that video!

Aspects of a sustainable leadership model that AX Fellows will apply in AgroTek include the following:

  • The intentional overlap of AX Fellowship and AgroTek Summer Academy enables both programs to support and affect each other.
  • In facilitating conversations during the academy week, AX Fellows will provide the AgroTek team with much-needed support.
  • Mentors will build relationships by discussing share interests, challenges, educational trajectory, etc. with their mentees.
  • AX Fellows will provide their teams with supportive ideas and foster a sense of direction as teams complete their work.

Fellowship Project Mentors

Victor Izzo and Maryam Nouri Aiin

The Vermont Entomology Participatory Action Research Team (VEPART) is a transdisciplinary research team dedicated to using Participatory Action Research (PAR) methods to synthesize and integrate grower input at all phases of the research process. VEPART works with a multitude of growers in various crop systems to develop appropriate IPM tactics for northeastern organic growers, and ultimately a more sustainable approach to pest management. They conduct agroecological PAR and outreach in support of agricultural and food systems initiatives in the urban or peri-urban fringe of Burlington, as well as throughout Vermont. VEPART also teams up with the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Grower’s Association to run a pest monitoring program at UVM’s Horticultural Research and Education Center to provide local vegetable and berry growers weekly, Vermont-specific, information on the population dynamics of important pests throughout the growing season. Read more about VEPART here.

Kris Stepenuck

Kris Stepenuck

The Lake Champlain Sea Grant Institute develops and delivers science-based information to benefit the environment and economies of the Lake Champlain basin. The fellows working with Lake Champlain Sea Grant will assist in ongoing outreach and research initiatives. This will include, but is not limited to talking with beachgoers at beaches around Lake Champlain to assess their knowledge of cyanobacteria blooms and beach closings; educating members of the public about Lake Champlain aboard the new UVM research vessel and at locations throughout the watershed, including along the causeway at the bike ferry; providing watershed education to youth during summer camp programs which may be held on or alongside the lake, in a classroom, or in and alongside streams; and developing educational materials to support outreach efforts of Lake Champlain Sea Grant. Read more about Dr. Stepenuck's research here.

Stephanie Hurley and Katie Horner

The Ecological Landscape Design Laboratory studies soil health and water quality at urban farms and gardens, from a biophysical perspective as well as from a human perspective. Our research lab is studying the intersection of two fields: urban agroecology (UAE) and green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). We are seeking applicants for a unique opportunity to help investigate whether UAE has the potential to be envisioned as a green infrastructure to improve water management in cities. Urban farms and gardens that use eco-friendly and socially beneficial practices also have the potential to serve as places for sustainable surface water management, by providing stormwater infiltration and mitigating climate change. We will evaluate water quality from various urban, food-producing gardens and farms, measure soil health including accumulation of phosphorus from compost applications, survey farmers and gardeners to learn about their perceptions about healthy soils and how to achieve them, and share outcomes with local farmers and gardeners. Read more about the Hurley Lab here.

Terence Bradshaw and Bethany Pelletier

The UVM Fruit Program works with apple and grape growers in Vermont to improve production through improved crop, pest, and business management. Our work takes place both at the UVM Horticulture Research and Education Center (HREC) and on commercial farms. In 2023, we will work with grape growers who are implementing alternative practices influenced by organic and biodynamic systems to evaluate their effectiveness and to improve disease management. We will also be monitoring pests in regional apple orchards and generation reports for growers to use in their integrated pest management programs. Fellows will assist with vineyard and orchard management at the HREC; conduct disease assessments in local vineyards; and monitor pests in regional orchards. Fellows can expect substantial interaction with Farmer Training Program and other summer students, Fruit Program graduate students, and local producers. Read more about the UVM Fruit Program here

Eric Bishop von Wettberg and Niloofar Layegh Nikravesh

The crop genetic heritage laboratory group aims to preserve crop genetic diversity, introduce new crops to Vermont, and improve the sustainability of crop rotations and cropping systems. The fellows working with the crop genetic heritage laboratory will study the performance of kernza, a perennial cereal grain crop developed by our partners at the Land Institute, growing alone or as an intercrop with alfalfa. This perennial cropping system has great potential to sequester carbon into agricultural soils and to provide stable and sustainable grain yields without annual soil tillage. Fellows will work with partners performing parallel trials in Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas, through the New Roots for Restoration NSF-supported Biology Integration Institute, and participate in weekly virtual professional development activities. Field-based activities that fellows will lead include assessments of soil biological diversity, soil physical structure, and weed diversity. Read more about the crop genetic heritage laboratory here