Dr. Blesh is an Assistant Professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan and part of the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative. Through her work she explores the potential for agroecological management to improve the sustainability of food production. She uses interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research approaches to measure and assess environmental, agronomic, and social outcomes of a diverse range of agri-food systems, drawing on theories and methods from disciplines such as agroecology, biogeochemistry, ecosystem ecology, soil science, rural sociology, and political ecology. Practicing interdisciplinarity, thinking systemically, and integrating multiple perspectives are all fundamental components of her scholarship.
Alison’s dissertation research focuses on the impact of cover crop mixture litter chemistry on soil N retention and losses on working grain farms in Michigan. She also uses a coupled human and natural systems framework to study farmer adaptation strategies to overcoming constraints to cover crop adoption in the Midwest. Before joining the Blesh Lab in 2016, Alison completed her Master’s at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (Syracuse, NY), where she studied ecosystem services of commercial short-rotation shrub willow biomass. Alison also studied nutrient cycling in suburban rain gardens while working on her B.S. in Earth and Environmental Science and Political Science from Furman University (Greenville, SC).
Anne Elise Stratton
Anne Elise is a PhD candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Blesh Lab. Her research aims to make connections between agroecological management, soil fertility, and crop nutrient profiles in Santa Catarina, Brazil. Before coming to Michigan, Anne Elise developed sustainable agriculture manuals for fundraising and technical staff at EcoLogic, a Boston-based nonprofit with projects in Central America. She received her B.S. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Tufts University in Somerville, MA, in 2015. Her Senior Honors Thesis examined agroecosystem resilience in the eastern lowlands of Guatemala, linking cornfield management by indigenous smallholders with protein composition of corn for local consumption.
Santiago is a third year Conservation Ecology Master’s student, and is conducting a research thesis in the Blesh Lab focused on belowground traits and interactions of cover crop mixtures. Before coming to Michigan he studied environmental chemistry at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and then worked as a chemist for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s Feed and Fertilizer Lab. He also interned with Colorado Springs Food Rescue, a small nonprofit focused on reducing food waste while promoting food security. In addition to agricultural and soil ecology, Santiago’s interests include movies, music, playing guitar, and exploring Ann Arbor.
Zihao (Howie) Chen
Howie is a first-year Master’s student who is interested in the impacts of cover crops on soil fertility in agricultural systems. He received his B.S. in Horticulture and Crop Production from the University of Maryland in 2018. His undergraduate studies included molecular genetics work with Arabidopsis as well as agroecological research on cover crops and soil.
Beth received a M.S. in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.S. in Biology from Palm Beach Atlantic University. After spending a number of years fending off ghost crabs, sand fleas, sharks, and humidity while conducting research in coastal North Carolina, she returned to her home state of Michigan to join the Blesh Lab team. Though her research background is rooted in coastal ecology, Beth maintains diverse interests and has long been fascinated by all-things-food, including local food production and the development of sustainable food systems.
Blesh Lab Alumni
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2015-2017
As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, Vivian collaborated on an interdisciplinary project investigating relationships between policy, agricultural practices, and social-ecological resilience of food systems for the family farming sector in Brazil. She is currently a P.R.I.M.E. Research Fellow, funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Marie Curie Program of the European Commission. In 2018, Vivian will join Wageningen University for an Ecological Design of Foodscapes postdoc position, which includes the opportunity to transition to a tenure track faculty position within Wageningen.
M.S. 2018 (SEAS Conservation Ecology)
M.S. 2018 (SEAS Conservation Ecology)
B.S. 2018 (LSA Honors Thesis)
Aminata Fofana (University of Toledo)
Emmett Werthmann (The College of Wooster)
Ryan Nelson (Wesleyan University)