2016 Spring Fling


Who we are

Julie Grossman, Ph.D.

Julie Grossman

Principal Investigator

Julie is passionate about how science can help us better understand plant-soil interactions in agroecological systems, and how we can best co-create that knowledge together with farmers, students and society. Julie received her graduate training at the University of Minnesota in Agronomy and Plant Genetics with an emphasis in Agroecology in Spring 2003. She was an NSF postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, and then a faculty member at North Carolina State University in the Department of Soil Science, prior to joining the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota in 2014. At UMN, Julie is the Organic Program Coordinator for the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, and an affiliated faculty member of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change.

Location: 454 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108

Contact: 612-625-8597, jgross@umn.edu

Peyton Ginakes

Peyton Ginakes

Ph.D. Candidate

Peyton is originally from Jacksonville, Florida. She earned her BS in Environmental Science, Policy, & Management at UMN with a minor in Soil Science. Her past work assessed whether erosional processes sequester carbon in agricultural landscapes, as well as how system-level management differences between conventional and organic systems affect N2O emissions. She is now working on her PhD in Applied Plant Sciences, where she is investigating how legume cover crop management strategies using reduced tillage impact soil health and nutrient cycling, particularly for organic systems.

Outside of work, Peyton loves cooking, hiking, fiber arts, and (most of all) her dog, Franny.

Location: 452 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: ginak002@umn.edu

Liz Perkus

Liz Perkus

Masters Student

Liz grew up outside of Boston and has always loved plants and soil. She received her B.S. in Plant Science from Cornell, where she conducted research on plant available nitrogen under different organic management practices. She has a broad interest in agricultural systems and has worked in agroecology, pollination ecology, environmental education, and botanic gardens. She especially interested in farm scale nutrient cycling and innovative small farm management. She is currently working on two projects: one aimed at increasing vegetable production in Minnesota greenhouses in winter, and a second looking at cover cropping in high tunnels in the far north.

Location: 452 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108

Contact: eaperkus@umn.edu

Thanwalee (JiJY) Sooksa-nguan, Ph.D.

JiJY Thanwalee Sooksa-nguan

Researcher

JiJY is originally from Thailand. During her Ph.D. in Thailand, she was chosen as an exchange scholar to do her research at Cornell University. She spent a few years at Cornell University before moving to North Carolina State University as a visiting scientist. She is determining denitrification potential of soils in a long-term agricultural systems study in North Carolina using molecular genetics and microbiology approaches.

Location: 436 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108

Contact: tsooksan@umn.edu

Alex Liebman

Alex Liebman

Ph.D. Student

Alex is working on a PhD in agroecology after co-founding/operating Stone's Throw Urban Farm for several years. He graduated from Macalester College with a B.A. in biology in 2012. He also worked as a consultant with the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis developing beginning and immigrant farmer-training curriculum with their rural outreach staff. Alex is currently researching the contribution of different winter legume cover crops to soil organic matter pools to improve soil health and farmer productivity. He is also interested in the function, ecology, and evolution of soil microbes and their influence on agricultural production (and vice versa). Lastly he wants to explore how agro-ecological processes are linked to the political ecology of land-use and food distribution in the United States and abroad and the ways in which agronomic research is practiced, how scientific knowledge is disseminated, and how historical and ideological trends continue to shape the questions agronomic research asks today.

Not working? Alex is likely on the bicycle, making sounds with his saxophone, or engaged in mischievous behavior.

Location: 452 Alderman Hall 
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108

Contact: aliebman@umn.edu

Sharon Perrone

Sharon Perrone

Masters Student

Sharon is a New Jersey native who first became interested in agriculture while working for the Dickinson College Farm's inaugural summer crew in 2008.  She earned her BS in biochemistry & molecular biology and Italian studies in 2011 from the same school, after which she worked on a series of farms in Oregon prior to settling in Washington, D.C. to advocate for sustainable agriculture law and policy with a focus on soil health.  She is currently working on her M.S. in Applied Plant Sciences at the U of M with a focus in agroecology, cover cropping, and nutrient cycling.  Her broader interest is to integrate science-based minimum-input conservation practices into national agricultural extension, outreach, and policy; specifically, to prioritize soil health enhancing practices that contribute to both high yield as well as effective and healthy land management.

Location: 430 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: perro043@umn.edu

Emily Swanson

Emily Swanson

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Emily grew up in rural southern Minnesota where her curiosity of all things natural began. She is currently working on a B.S. in Local and Organic Food Systems in the College of Food Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences. She assists the graduate students and staff with cleaning and organizing of lab equipment and any other general tasks. After graduation, she is excited to spend her life with plants and getting her hands dirty.

Location: 455 Alderman Hall 
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: swan2100@umn.edu

Anne Pfeiffer

Anne Pfeiffer

Organic Program Associate and Field Technician

Anne Pfeiffer received her MS in Horticulture at the University of WI-Madison in 2014. She has previously worked with University of WI Extension and University of WI -Madison on projects related to organic vegetable systems, urban agriculture, food access and security, and systemic capacity building in the areas of local food supply chain development and value-added processing.  Anne has farmed in Minnesota and Maine with commercial vegetable and dairy businesses supplying CSA, farmer’s markets, retail, and restaurants.  At the University of Minnesota, Anne provides scientific and technical support for organic agriculture research within the Department of Horticultural Science and the college of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Management (CFANS).  She also oversees research projects related to organic production and works to share research results through educational and outreach activities.

Location: 436 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: 612-626-2217apfeiffe@umn.edu

Vivian Wauters

Vivian Wauters

Ph.D. Student

A native of California, Vivian earned her BA and MA in Linguistics from UC Berkeley, Subsequently, Vivian spent four years working on small-scale vegetable farms in California and Minnesota, and became interested in the intersection of ecological health and agricultural production. She currently in her first year as a doctoral student in Applied Plant Sciences, where she is focusing on agroecology, cover cropping, and soil health. She will be working on a project that looks at the possibilities of incorporating summer crops into vegetable production.

Location: 452 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: vwauters@umn.edu

Charlotte Thurston

Charlotte Thurston

Masters student

Charlotte grew up in mid-coast Maine, exploring the woods and her father's garden. She received her B.S. in Plant Science from Cornell University in 2011, where she did undergraduate research in invasive species ecology in temperate forests. In subsequent years she worked for AmeriCorps, as an environmental educator, a landscaper, and on an organic farm in Oregon. She joins the Grossman lab as a Masters student in Applied Plant Science, where she is exploring the effect of cold stress and rhizobia origin on nitrogen fixation in cover crop legumes. She will also be working with farmers to implement on-farm trials of winter-hardy cover crops in high tunnels. Broadly, she is interested in small-scale organic agricultural research and practices, especially connecting research with farmers and the public in order to further soil health and sustainable production.

In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and vigorous outdoor pursuits.

Location: 358 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: thurs058@umn.edu

Michelle Dobbratz

Michelle Dobbratz

Masters Student

Michelle is originally from Wisconsin, where she earned her BS in Agronomy and minors in Global Health and Environmental Studies. As an undergraduate, she worked with invasive species in natural and managed systems. Her current research focuses on understanding the effects of tillage strategies in perennial cover cropping systems. She spends her free time engaging with community stakeholders to better understand local needs with regards to food system changes.

Location:  325 Soil Science Building
1529 Gortner Ave St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: dobbr001@umn.edu

Siwook Hwang

Siwook Hwang

Both Siwook and his name (pronounced “shoe-k”) come from South Korea. Currently, Siwook is a junior Biology student at Kalamazoo College, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His interest in agriculture was sparked while studying abroad in Thailand, where he had a chance to visit many agricultural communities in the Northern region. 

Siwook is joining the Grossman Lab as part of his Senior Individualized Project at Kalamazoo College, and will be working with Liz to study soil microbial communities under different cover crop management. He hopes to use this opportunity as a way to broaden his understanding about the field of agricultural sciences.

His other interests include outdoor experiential education, rock climbing, and making sure that his thermos is always full of coffee.

Victoria Hoeppner

Victoria Hoeppner

Former Undergraduate Research Assistant

Tori is majoring in Local and Organic Food Systems, focusing on creating low-input and sustainable food systems that benefit and sustain all members involved. Once she graduates this Spring, Tori hopes to join Food Corps, an organization dedicated to introducing real food to children in school. She is also interested in the link between horticulture and mental health. In the future, she would like to establish a care farm as a form of nature therapy to aid in the recovery of individuals with a mental illnesses.

Contact: hoepp012@umn.edu

Rachel Brann

Rachel Brann

Former Undergraduate Student

Rachel grew up in Naperville, Illinois and moved to Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota. She is finishing her undergraduate degree in Horticulture with an emphasis on Organic and Local Production with a minor in Sustainability Systems. Rachel is working with Thanwalee (JiJY) to analyze soil samples from Frogtown Farm for present rhizobium species to help guide their future cover cropping efforts.

She enjoys spending time outdoors gardening and camping, as well as reading.

Contact: brann067@umn.edu

Annie Doberstein

Annie Doberstein

Former Masters Student Research Assistant

Grossman lab dates: June-August 2015

Experience: Plated rhizobial nodules from cover cropping systems, helped identify bacterial rhizobial stains, analyzed soil extracts from organic systems for nitrate & ammonium quantification, prepared media for laboratory use, assisted graduate students in field research.
I am now: working for WinField - Land O Lakes as a Technical Marketing Specialist in Shoreview, MN.

Dan Raskin

Dan Raskin

Masters Student

Dan grew up in suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. He earned his B.A. in Environmental Studies at Bard College. After graduating, he worked on farms in California and North Carolina before taking a position at University of Massachusetts Amherst’s extension IPM program. He is currently working on his M.S. at the U of MN in the Applied Plant Sciences, researching legume root contributions to soil organic nitrogen pools, and their availability to subsequent crops.

As an agroecologist-in-training, Dan is motivated by the potential of research to promote ecologically sustainable agricultural practices. As an activist passionate about radical political economy, he is motivated and inspired by all efforts to build equity, democracy, and resilience into our social institutions, food-related and otherwise.

He is also an amateur naturalist and electronic musician/sound mangler.

Location: 358 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108

Contact: raski024@umn.edu

Yordanose Solomone

Yordanose Solomone

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Yordanose grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is currently working on her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences. She is studying Environmental Science. She is has done research with grad student Peyton Ginakes researching the Effect of cover crop mulches on soil moisture and temperature in organic strip-tilled squash production. She hopes to do more work in the future with interdisciplinary environmental problems pertaining such as food security and public health as they relate to the complex natural environment.

In her free time you will find Yordanose doing photography, video editing, attending a variety of music and film festivals and attempting to regularly update her blog online.

Contact: solom190@umn.edu

Bruna De Bacco Lopes

Bruna De Bacco Lopes

MAST Student Research Assistant

Bruna is from Brazil and earned her BS in Agronomy in 2014. After that, she came up to US as a MAST student (exchange program of UofM) and worked as a trainee on a vegetable farm in Minnesota. She moved to the Cities and started working as Research Assistant at the UofM in the Soybean Breeding Project. Currently, she is a visitor student at the U and research assistant in the Grossman lab. Her interests are soil conservation and commodities trading.

Location: 455 Alderman Hall 
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: bdebacco@umn.edu

Kaleiilima Holt

Kaleiilima Holt

Research Assistant

Originally from Hawaii, Kalei’s interest in agriculture stems from her deep interest in the environment and conservation. She received her BS from the University of Minnesota in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, with minors in Soil Science, Forest Ecosystem Management and Conservation, and Corporate Environmental Management. In an undergraduate research opportunity, she looked at how fertilizer and amendment additions influence a soil’s elemental composition and storage, with a focus on phosphorus.  After graduation, she worked as a Jr. Scientist studying the biogeochemistry of mercury in boreal peatlands. These experiences, along with her heritage and travels, have made her curious about how agriculture can be used to address both the social and environmental implications of food security, especially in indigenous communities and developing countries. Kalei’s curiosity is also sparked by yoga, cooking and being a foodie, and being outside.

Location: 455 Alderman Hall 
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: holt0711@umn.edu

Samuel Voss

Samuel Voss

Former Undergraduate Research Assistant

I was a part of the Grossman lab from December 2014 - May 2015. Primarily worked on MNWOW and MNCOMM projects with Liz. Investigated soil-plant relationships, soil substrate effects on growth, environmental condition effects, and basic vegetable cultivation techniques in greenhouse environment. 

Only going to school as a half-time student right now at UMN - Plant Science Major, Chemistry Minor.

I am employed in Dr. Robert Blanchette's lab studying wood decay fungi and helping establish a current phylogeny of the Ganoderma family. 

Also, I am working part-time at Mississippi Mushrooms growing delectable mushrooms.

Contact: vossx209@umn.edu

Victoria Hoffman

Victoria Hoffman

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Vick is finishing up a Food Systems degree in Organic and Local Food Production and picked up minors in both Nutrition Studies and Sustainability Studies along the way. She is most interested in how managed agricultural landscapes affect the health of natural ecosystems and how that ultimately influences human health. After her summer with the Grossman Lab, she hopes to obtain a teaching certificate in Environmental Education while focusing on the dynamic between agroecology and community engagement within urban environments and local food systems- or whatever will let her hang out outdoors all day. 

Location: 455 Alderman Hall 
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: hoff0672@umn.edu

Mohamed Said Ibrahim

Mohamed Said Ibrahim

Visiting Scholar

Said is a graduate student currently doing his master thesis with the Grossman lab on labile soil organic matter, to complete the MSc of Agroecology program at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. He has a BSc in Organic Agriculture. Said is working to learn and explore different approaches and methodsto produce and dispose sustainably. Also interested in waste recycling, and urban farming.

Location: 452 Alderman Hall 
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108
Contact: ibrah151@umn.edu

Elayna Shapiro

Elayna Shapiro

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Elayna grew up in Golden Valley, Minnesota. She is currently working on her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences. She is majoring in Nutrition with a minor in Food Systems. She is working closely with Peyton Ginakes researching the effects of different suppression techniques on Kura clover to determine its usefulness as a cover crop.

Elayna is interested in issues pertaining to food accessibility, sustainable agriculture, and public health. She is also working with Real Food Challenge to source more sustainable and community based food to campus dining halls. She enjoys gardening, hiking, and going to concerts.

Location: 455 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave. St. Paul, MN 55108

Contact: shapi148@umn.edu

Caitlin Barnhart

Caitlin Barnhart

Former Undergraduate Research Assistant

I was a member of the Grossman lab from August through December 2015. The experience allowed me time working in Peyton’s squash fields, helping Liz with her high tunnels, and doing a lot of soil preparation in the lab. I received my Bachelors of Science degree in Food Systems, and a minor in Sustainable Agriculture in December 2015. After graduating I was promoted to a full time position with Spark-Y Youth Action Labs. Through Spark-Y I am now working with the Minnesota Internship Center High School teaching science classes at the Downtown campus, and integrating a new aquaponic elective course into the curriculum.

Contact: barnh034@umn.edu

Lindsey Miller

Lindsey Miller

Former Undergraduate Research Assistant

I was with the lab from August 2014-April 2015.

I worked with Peyton doing soil testing, Liz doing stand counts, and wrote inventories for both clean and dirty labs.

I am currently working for Julie Weisenhorn in the Extension Program. She is creating a plant database for the U (Plant Elements of Design) and I'm photographing plants around the state for this database.

Contact: mill5997@umn.edu