CEFS Graduate Student Fellowships

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The Center for Environmental Farming Systems Graduate Fellows Program was developed to provide financial support and recognition for the future leaders, researchers and contributors in sustainable agriculture and local food systems while they pursue academic research to further the field of study.

CEFS Graduate Fellows Program at NC State University
CEFS Graduate Fellows Program at NC A&T State University

2020 Cohort – NC State

Cindy Flowers

Sara Kidd | Master’s Student | Agricultural and Extension Education | NC State University

Sara is finishing up her Master’s degree in Agricultural and Extension Education at NC State and hopes to pursue a PhD in Sustainable Agriculture or Agroecology. Before NC State, she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from The University of North Carolina at Wilmington and also has an Associates degree in Sustainable Agriculture from Lenoir Community College. Her research is currently focused on investigating the need for apprenticeship programs for military veterans interested in agriculture and farming careers in NC.  When she’s not studying you can find her working on her small farm in Nash County where she raises livestock including pastured poultry and pigs as well as Katahdin hair sheep.

Stephanie Sosinski | Master’s Student | Crop and Soil Sciences | NC State University

Stephanie is pursuing her MS degree in Crop Science while working as the research technician for the Forage and Grassland Program.  Her research project focuses on nitrogen management in a crabgrass hay-production system, evaluating the effects of nitrogen application rate and source (synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and poultry litter) on forage productivity, nutritive value, and weed competition. The overall objectives of this research project are to: 1) evaluate plant and soil responses to nitrogen fertilizer rate and source in a crabgrass hay-production system and 2) assess the effects of nitrogen fertilization on weed competition for crabgrass during the establishment phase.  This information will be critical towards providing livestock producers and Extension Agents with general nutrient management guidelines for crabgrass hay production that are best suited for North Carolina growing conditions.

Emilia Cordero Oceguera | Ph.D. Student | Sociology and Anthropology | NC State University

Migrant farmworker women from Mexico play a crucial role in North Carolina’s food system. They contribute through their agricultural work and knowledge, as well as their food practices —when they shop for food, cook, and garden. Emilia’s dissertation research employs a participatory community-based methodology and brings together her interest in agroecology and the food practices of immigrant communities. She earned her Master’s in Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley by examining the agroecological knowledge of indigenous peasant communities in central Ecuador. Emilia is certified in Ecological Horticulture by the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Systems (CASFS) at UC Santa Cruz and has been a farming apprentice in Mexico and Bolivia. At NC State, Emilia is a member of the Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Student Association (SAGSA) and instructor of the Food and Society course in the Sociology Department. She also volunteers at farmworker support organizations in rural North Carolina. With her research, Emilia seeks to provide evidence for the need of a sustainable and socially just food system.

Lais Bastos Martins | Ph.D. Student | Crop and Soil Sciences | NC State University

Lais is a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University and her research focuses on breeding winter cover crops and understanding cover crop seed marketing. She is passionate about collaborative work and bringing people from different backgrounds towards a common goal. In her research, she works in the Cover Crop Breeding Network (www.covercropbreeding.com) as the winter pea lead and is investigating how different winter pea lines (potential new cultivars) perform across the U.S. and which areas are similar enough that the same cultivar could be used. She is also researching the genetic basis of winter pea resistance to Ascochyta blight, a disease that affects peas everywhere they are grown, but especially in NC. One of the things she likes the most in her Ph.D. is having collaborators across multiple states and knowing that her research will improve cover crop options for farmers. Before she started her Ph.D. Lais completed her M.S. at NC State researching multiple disease resistance in corn.

Amanda Lay | Master’s Student | Horticultural Science | NC State University

Amanda Lay is a North Carolina native and is passionate about the production systems that we use to grow fresh produce. Her research focuses on pre-plant fertilizer in strawberry production. Pre-plant fertilizer is applied before strawberries are planted and supports their growth through the winter. Her research investigates different rates of standard fertilizer and low nitrogen organic fertilizer. The project tracks pre-plant nitrogen movement in the soil, yield, and studies berry quality after harvest. Amanda’s career goal is to continue research in production systems, making them more efficient for farmers and safer for the environment.

2019 Cohort – NC State

Cindy Flowers

Hannah Levenson | Ph.D. Candidate | Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. David Tarpy

Pollinators are facing pressures from a wide range of factors – such as habitat loss, increased monoculture, and pathogens – which can lead to severe population declines. To combat this, providing pollinators with planted habitat has become an increasingly popular conservation method; however, there are still many knowledge gaps on the impact of this conservation method. Hannah’s research evaluates these impacts by surveying native bee populations at planted habitat across the state over time, which will result in the most detailed survey of native bees in NC to date. Additionally, Hannah is evaluating pollinator health at the habitats as well as the effect the presence of this habitat has on nearby crop pollination and the resulting yield. Results from this research will fill important knowledge gaps and aid in making future conservation decisions.

Timothy Clark | Ph.D. Candidate | Department of Sociology and Anthropology| NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Stefano B. Longo

Timothy is a PhD candidate in Sociology at North Carolina State University. His dissertation research examines the disparate effects of economic development on labor and ecology in aquatic food systems and communities. His work connects supply chain management to other issues of social justice, such as food security and community economic well-being. At NC State, Timothy also teaches several courses in the sociology department and volunteers his time with the Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Student Association (SAGSA). In addition to the university, Timothy has worked and volunteered with urban and semi-urban organic farms for several years, which allowed him to cultivate passions for gardening and sustainable food production. In the coming years, he hopes to learn more about local seafood supply chains and the potential for increasing ties across them so as to encourage sustainable food system growth. Timothy also earned his Master’s in Sustainability Studies at Texas State University, where he studied how city governments implement policies related to sustainability, social equity, and food security.

2018 Cohort – N.C. A&T

Cindy Flowers

Cindy N. Flowers | College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences | NC A&T

Cindy N. Flowers is a lifelong North Carolina resident with a passion for the growing NC’s local food system, food equity and helping people eat well. She has worked in the local and regional grocery food business for over a decade as well as on small farms and organizations promoting sustainable farming. Cindy is an advocate for small producers and began her degree because of her love for promoting participants in her community’s Small Business Center. Cindy holds a certificate in Sustainable Livestock Management from Central Carolina Community College. Cindy’s current research at NC A&T is retail price seasonality among common food items to find cost-saving trends for consumers on a budget. She enjoys raising heritage ducks and geese and is a proud parent to her toddler, Everette.

Janet Osawere

Janet Osawere | MS Student | Agribusiness and Food Industry Management | NC A&T

My interest focuses on Agricultural Economics, Finance & Marketing, Farm Management, Natural Resource and Environmental Economics. I am currently working on farm financial analysis for small-scale farmers. My research topic is titled “Farm financial analysis for small-scale, organic mixed vegetable operations.”  This focuses on preparing farm financial statements and guiding small-scale, organic mixed vegetable farmers to better understand the importance of having farm financial statements for their farm operations. In 2015, I graduated with a first class in Agricultural Economics, Bowen University, Nigeria. At Bowen University, my research focused on the effect of price fluctuation on the retail marketing of tomatoes. I analyzed the behavior of prices over a period of 5 years with a focus on identifying the causes of tomato price fluctuation, the behavior of prices and how it affects the retail marketers.

Yaqeen Salatneh

Yaqeen Salatneh | Ph.D. Student | Computational Science and Engineering | NC A&T

My name is Yaqeen Salatneh and I’m originally from Palestine. When I finished high school, I chose to study computer engineering at An-Najah National University in Palestine. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. Then I moved to Greensboro, North Carolina and finished my Master’s degree in Computational Science and Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University in December 2017.  Currently, I am a Ph.D. student in Computational Science and Engineering.  My research study focuses on identifing weeds from crops using image processing analysis for organic small farms.  During my time at North Carolina A&T State University, I took many courses that have given me the skill set to be successful in this field. Being a Computer Engineer major, I found a passion for Digital Image Processing Analysis.

2018 Cohort – NC State University

Jordan Cox-O'Neill

Jordan Cox-O’Neill | Ph.D. Student | Animal Science | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Carrie Pickworth

Jordan’s research pertains to grazing stocker cattle on winter cover crops following corn grain harvest to provide economic and environmental benefits for crop farmers. This systems approach is targeted to best utilize available resources while maintaining overall sustainability. Animal performance, soil health, corn grain yield, and cover crop forage production will be monitored during the grazing and crop production process and an economic analysis will be performed. She hopes this project validates the importance and beneficial gain of diversifying farms through crop-livestock integration. Her diverse disciplinary project attempts to analyze the whole system in an effort to provide valuable information to farmers and ranchers as they make important operation decisions.

Jinlong Han

Jinlong Han | Ph.D. Student | Plant Pathology | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Dorith Rotenberg

Tomato spotted wilt orthotospovirus (TSWV) is transmitted by minute insects called thrips. Jinlong’s research is focused on the interaction between TSWV and western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), which is one of the most widely distributed and efficient transmitters of TSWV worldwide and locally in North Carolina. The initial infection of thrips gut tissue by TSWV is prerequisite for successful virus transmission to plants. Jinlong will investigate the biological response of gut tissue before and after virus infection at gene level and to identify which molecules within thrips gut tissue will interact with viruses for initiating the infection process. The ultimate goal of this research is to integrate the latest findings in virus-insect interaction with all other practical controls for developing and optimizing the alternative, sustainable strategies.

Tim Kloppe

Tim Kloppe | Ph.D. Student | Plant Pathology | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Christina Cowger

Diversion from GAP guidelines caused a loss in fungicide efficacy and a breakdown of resistance in wheat production systems against the common fungal, powdery mildew disease in North Carolina and across the world. A very recent breakdown of a highly effective and durable resistance mechanism has led Tim to characterize the molecular-genetic relationship of wheat and the causal agent of the disease, Blumeria graminis f.sp. tritici (Bgt). He expends his research on the detection of the genes involved in this relationship by (1) collecting strains from Bgt-populations worldwide, (2) quantifying the potential of those strains to break plant resistance in machine-aided infection assays, (3) analyzing the DNA of those strains and (4) comparing those genetic signatures with the phenomenon of broken resistance.

Eliot Lee

Eliot Lee | MBA Candidate | Jenkins Graduate School of Management | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Dunning

CEFS Compass Group USA Graduate Fellow

Eliot’s studies are focused on understanding the current state of local, sustainable food value chains in the region to provide recommendations and possible solutions to developing more equitable and efficient processes. He will be supporting Compass Group’s efforts to drive compliance in product specification and sustainability initiatives. Prior to graduate school, he was an intern on the Small Farm Unit at CEFS’ Field Research, Education, and Outreach Facility at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro.