Carmen Ugarte
Research Specialist in Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Biology
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Ugarte’s research focuses on understanding the effects of soil management practices on soil quality and function. She is especially interested in studying the dynamics of soil food webs and their influence on soil ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, carbon storage, and the regulation of population densities of deleterious soil organisms. Our ability to gain insight on these relationships and processes is fundamental to improving soil management and ensuring sustainability of our natural resources. Her work includes basic and applied research at different scales (e.g., experimental and replicated trials, on-farm research) at the regional and national levels in agronomic and natural systems.

Michelle Wander
Professor of Soil Fertility and Ecology
Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program Director
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Wander works with farmers, educators, and policymakers to quantify the benefits of diversified and organic production, precision conservation and woody perennial polycultures, and determine how standards, voluntary marketing, and decision support tools can encourage soil stewardship. She studies the influence of management (tillage and cover crops, perennials, organic farming systems; crop rotation and fertilization) on soils, organic matter and system performance with emphasis on nutrient cycling, plant-soil relations, roots and physical protection of organic matter, soil conservation and alternative methods for soil testing. Her work includes: the valuation of standards and metrics for ecosystem services and agricultural sustainability as well as work in urban and rural settings to advance nutrient testing, budgeting, life cycle analysis, conservation assessment tools used by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Martin Bohn
Associate Professor of Maize Breeding and Genetics
Department of Crop Sciences
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Martin grew up in the “Ruhrgebiet”, the industrial rustbelt of West Germany. He had no ties to agriculture. However, he studied agronomy at the Universities of Bonn and Hohenheim in Germany (1985-1992), because of his interest in biology, the applied sciences, and motivated by the growing ecological movement in Europe. Martin spent a year working on a very diverse dairy family farm, growing wheat, barley, rye, corn, hay, and vegetables and learned how to milk cows and help them birth their calves (10/1987-9/1988). He completed his MSc at the University of Hohenheim and continued his studies with a PhD. in plant breeding and genetics (1992-1997). For his thesis research, Martin spent two years in Mexico, working at the “International Center for Wheat and Maize Improvement” (CIMMYT) (1992-1994). After his habilitation (i.e., only with this highest academic degree it is possible to become a professor in Germany) (1997-2002), Martin received the call to take over the faculty position in maize breeding and genetics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2002-present). Martin’s maize breeding program focuses on developing improved maize germplasm that contributes to an economically efficient and sustainable maize production under restricted and “organic” growing conditions. He develops and employs innovative high-throughput phenotyping tools, quantitative genetic theory, and deep genomic information to study the genetic basis of biotic and abiotic stress responses, root development, and grain processing in maize.