Principal Investigator

Amélie Gaudin
Amélie Gaudin 

2015-present: Assistant Professor of Agroecology, Department of Plant Sciences
2016- present: Faculty, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab


Graduate Students

Caitlin Peterson, PhD student (GGE), NSF Fellow

Field level resilience and ecosystems services provision from integrated crop and livestock systems in Brazil

Caitlin PetersonEmail:


  • MSc – International Agricultural Development, Ecology emphasis (University of California, Davis – in progress)
  • BSc – Biology (Stetson University, 2011)

Research Interests: I apply ecological principles to the study of agricultural systems with the goal of examining sustainability, resilience, and productivity. In particular, I am interested in the effects of a farming system’s complexity – in terms of spatial, temporal, and biological diversity – on its ability to withstand climatic variability and extreme weather events. I look at soil-plant-water interactions, plant physiological responses, nutrient cycling and soil fertility in conventional and alternative farming systems to compare the stability, productivity, and environmental impacts of each system. Additionally, I am interested in applications of integrated crop-livestock systems in Latin America and elsewhere in the global tropics for the purposes of sustainable land management and agricultural development.

Jennifer Schmidt, PhD student (Hort&Agronomy), UCD Graduate Fellow, Plant Science GSR award

Impact of maize domestication and breeding on rhizosphere eco-physiology and resource acquisition

EmJennifer Schmidtail:


  • PhD – Plant Sciences, Horticulture and Agronomy (University of California, Davis – Fall 2015)
  • BA –Environmental Analysis, sustainable agriculture (Pomona College, 2014)

Research Interests: I am interested in rhizosphere processes as applied to sustainable agriculture. Complex interactions between plant roots and biotic as well as abiotic soil components have a tremendous, but often underappreciated, influence on the food we grow. My work focuses on how domestication and breeding have affected the maize rhizosphere, particularly their effects on response to limited nutrient availability. A better understanding of changes that impact nutrient limitation response can be applied to low-input agricultural systems. More broadly, I am also interested in other areas of sustainable agriculture such as cover cropping, crop rotation systems, and soil nutrient cycling.

Leah Renwick, PhD student (Hort&Agronomy- MSc IAD), NSF Fellow, Plant Science GSR award

Farming for resilience: how do crop diversity and tillage impact yield and soil functionning under drought? 

Email: llrenwick@ucdavis.eduL. Renwick


  • MSc – Horticulture and Agronomy, International Agricultural Development (University of California, Davis, Fall 2015)
  • BA– Spanish, Conservation and Resource Studies Minor (Agroecology) (University of California, Berkeley, 2014)

Research Interests: I am interested in improving understanding of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in agriculture through the application of ecological principles to the study of soil-plant-microbe cropping systems. In light of agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and predicted changes in climate that include warmer temperatures and more frequent and intense drought and heavy rainfall events, it is my goal to evaluate the potential of climate-smart management practices to reduce cropping system vulnerability to unfavorable climatic conditions. I am particularly interested in the impact of cropping system diversification, both temporal and spatial, and tillage practices on production, crop physiology and development, and soil health, water availability, and microbial ecology.

Cynthia Crézé, PhD student (SBG), Plant Science GSR award

Cover crops: Benefits, tradeoffs and optimization for California almond production systems

Cynthia CrézéEmail:


  • MSc – Bioresource Engineering (McGill University, Canada, 2015)
  • BS.C– Agricultural and Environmental Sciences – Specializations in Ecological Agriculture and Agrology (McGill University, Canada, 2014)

Research Interests: I am investigating the benefits and tradeoffs of cover cropping in almond orchards. Herbicides and mechanical control are commonly used to maintain bare orchard floors in California. However, these controlling methods lead to the simplification of plant-related ecosystem functions and create soil-related agronomic and environmental issues including dust, poor water infiltration and retention, and reduced nutrient availability. Through a systems-based approach, my study will evaluate how temporal, taxonomic and functional diversity in cover crop mixtures support agroforestry ecosystem services, particularly relating to soil health. The overall performance of cover crop mixtures will be assessed to determine their capacity to support stakeholders in achieving multiple management objectives.

Junior Specialist 

Kelsey Brewer 

Potential of integrated crop livestock system for California agriculture 

Kelsey BrewerEmail: 


  • BA – Plant Sciences (Plant Physiology emphasis) and Soil Science Minor (University of California, Davis, 2016)

Research Interests: My research interest focuses on the ecosystem service benefits of carbon farming and the degree to which those benefits can be enhanced with livestock integration into annual and perennial cropping systems. While exploring the means of large-scale sequestration, through animal-integrated cropping systems, my research aims to monitor how this increase in soil carbon content effects other components of soil quality and ecology. In analyzing and quantifying how animal integration impacts these soil health and structure metrics, it is my goal to better understand how other variables can be managed to best increase the productivity of our agricultural soils while mitigating climate change.

Post Doctoral Fellows 

Vanessa Brisson, UCD/LBNL 

Rhizosphere microbiome recruitment in maize: impacts of breeding and selection on P solubilizers


Vanessa BrissonEducation:

  • PhD – Civil and Environmental Engineering (University of California, Berkeley – 2015)
  • MSc – Biomedical Engineering (Carnegie Mellon University – 2003)
  • BS – Chemical Engineering (Carnegie Mellon University – 2001)

Research Interests: I am interested in understanding the recruitment and development of rhizosphere microbial communities.  A better understanding of the rhizosphere microbiome will enable targeted strategies to develop growth supporting microbial communities and allow for lower input, more sustainable agriculture.  Part of my work focuses on the recruitment of rhizosphere microorganisms by different maize cultivars along an evolutionary gradient under stress conditions, particularly in response low levels of bioavailable phosphate.  More generally, I am interested in environmental microbiology and harnessing microorganisms to do useful work.

Meng Li  

Breeding for healthy soils: importance of rhizosphere microbes and functions


Meng LiEducation:

  • PhD – Weed Sciences, Department of Crop Sciences (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Spring 2017)
  • MSc – Rhizosphere Ecology, Department of Plant Nutrition (China Agricultural University, Fall 2012)
  • BSc – Plant Nutrition, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences (China Agricultural University, 2010))

Research Interests: I am interested in understanding ecosystem services that rhizosphere processes can provide to agricultural systems. In particular, my work will be focusing on rhizosphere functioning as affected by management in irrigated tomato. My goal is to conduct multiscale experimental and quantitative approaches to understand the impact of different aspects of rhizosphere ecology on soil nutrient cycling, rhizosphere microbial activities and their linkages to crop productivity under optimal and stress conditions. I am also interested in areas of sustainable agriculture, including intercropping systems and integrated weed management.

Emad Jahanzad 

Potential of whole orchard recycling and organic amendements to build sustainability and resilience of Almond production 


Emad JahanzadEducation:

  • PhD- Plant and Soil Sciences- Soil fertility and plant nutrition – University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Fall 2015)
  • MSc- Agronomy- Plant ecology and sustainable agriculture – University of Tehran (2008)
  • BSc – Agronomy and plant breeding – Roudhen University (2000)

Research Interests: I am interested in studying specific soil management practices which can improve sustainability of crop production and increasing their resiliency in response to a changing climate. In one of my research projects, I am studying the potential of whole orchard recycling in almond production systems to mitigate global emissions of carbon through sequestration and increase soil health. I am also interested in integrating cover crops into cropping systems in order to increase crop diversity and several ecosystems services offered by them, and to minimize off-farm inputs and nutrient losses by increasing nutrient cycling and use efficiency.     

Undergraduate students

Rebekah Velasco, Student assistant 2016-2018. 

Rebekah VelascoI am an undergraduate student in International Agricultural Development and am interested in exploring and supporting the ecological sustainability of farms as well as the practical impacts on farmers in the developing world. While maintaining an overall systems based perspective, the research I am a part of seeks to understand the nuances of soil and plant health in these systems in order to improve and preserve those ecosystem benefits that influence output. Direct participation with farmers is a central focus of our research efforts in order to improve livelihoods while working within their environment.

Gone but not forgotten

  • Graduate students

Emily Webster, MsC student (Hort&Agronomy – IAD) 2015-2017: Impact of pasture management on soil health and functioning in Nicaragua

  • Undergraduate Students and Interns

Joshua Garcia, Student assistant & McNair Scholar 2015-2017. Impact of an Antarctic rhizobacterium on root growth and productivity

Anna Azimi, SAFS Major 2016-2017. Soil health and resilience of vegetable cropping systems – OFRF project  

Kaylie Marr, MsC student plan II, Hort&Agronomy. Summer 2015 Irrigation strategies to optimize soil functions and resource use efficiency in organic tomato and corn. With Caitlin Peterson 

Hanna Ibiapina de Jesus, Thais Soares, Interns Brazil Scientific Mobility program worked on various projects.  

  • Visiting scholars

Christos Vasilikiotis,  Assistant professor, Perrotis College/American Farm School, Greece.  Survey of almond root colonization by mycorrhizae. 

Join us!