Dr. Meredith Niles is an Associate Professor in the Food Systems program and the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont. She completed her BA in politics with honors in environmental studies at The Catholic University of America, a PhD in Ecology at the University of California at Davis and was a post-doctorate fellow in Sustainability Science at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
Meredith thrives conducting applied research that can help bring together diverse stakeholders- whether on a farm or working with policymakers- to help solve pressing problems facing our world's food system. Meredith is an interdisciplinary food systems scientist that works at the interface of social-ecological food systems. Her research focuses on achieving sustainable food security in two primary areas:
1) Farmer Decision-Making and Sustainable Production: Her long-standing research focuses on understanding farmer decision-making and the barriers for farmers to adopt more sustainable management practices to facilitate sustainable food security and improved health and environmental outcomes. This work examines farmer’s adoption of climate mitigation and adaptation practices, water management practices, nutrient management, and cover crop adoption.
2) Food and Nutritional Security During Crises. Global health (e.g. COVID-19) and environmental crises (e.g. climate change) have and will profoundly impact food and nutritional security. Meredith is the director and one of the founders of the National Food Access and COVID research Team (NFACT), and has studied the effect of climate change on diet and food security globally.
She utilizes multiple methodological approaches, primarily quantitative, and integrates social and ecological datasets for richer understanding of complex social-ecological system challenges. Currently she has a number of ongoing research projects related to food systems, health and environment from the perspective of people, behavior and policy.
Prior to her academic career, Meredith worked for the United States Department of State in HIV/AIDS public health and for several non-profit organizations. She has also worked in various consulting projects for farmer organizations, the food industry, and non-profit groups, most recently examining potential agricultural carbon offset markets for reduced fertilizer use.
Meredith is a passionate advocate for open access research to make research more publicly available to maximize the potential of science and its benefits for society. To help realize this goal she has served on the Board of Directors for the Public Library of Science (PLOS) since 2014, one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific publishers.
Meredith has received notable honors including the Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award from the American Institute of Biological Sciences (2010), Board Member of the Year from the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (2013), and the Next Generation Leadership Award from the Right to Research Coalition.