Dr. Ajay Nair is an Associate Professor working in the area of Sustainable Vegetable Production in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University. The focus of his research, extension, and education program is on cover cropping, conservation tillage, nutrient management, soil amendments and health, and season extension strategies in vegetable production. He works closely with commercial vegetable growers, extension staff, industry representatives and stakeholders to meet the rising demand of locally grown produce and enhance the profitability and sustainability of vegetable production systems.


More information about Ajay Nair: https://www.extension.iastate.edu/vegetablelab/

Baskar Ganapathysubramanian is the Anderlik professor in Engineering, with appointments in Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering. He directs a curiosity-driven, computational sustainability research group that leverages advances in data science, applied mathematics and high-performance computing to model, design, and controls real-world physical phenomena.  From the application point-of-view, his group is particularly interested in energy, food, water and environment-related phenomena including large scale modeling of thermal flow physics in the built and near built environment, machine learning-enabled plant phenotyping, and data-driven coupling of complex simulators for decision support.


More infomation about Baskar Ganapathysubramanian: https://www.me.iastate.edu/bglab/

Caroline Krejci is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Industrial, Manufacturing, and Systems Engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington.  Her research focuses on the development of modeling methodologies for the analysis and sustainable management of complex sociotechnical systems, including regional food logistics and urban food recovery networks.  Within the Iowa UrbanFEWS project, she is a member of the human systems modeling team developing an agent-based model that will represent the dynamic interactions, adaptations, and decision making processes of Iowa producers and consumers in a virtual environment.  The model will be validated against human behavior data and will be used to simulate producer and consumer behavior in response to different policies aimed at increasing local food production and consumption.  These experiments will yield predicted changes in land use and farming practices over time, which will be used to inform biophysical crop production models.


More information about Caroline Krejci: https://www.uta.edu/engineering/research/faculty/krejci.php

Jan Thompson is Morrill Professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University.  She conducts research on the integration of social and biophysical dynamics of land use in urban landscapes, ecology and restoration of remnant forest landscapes in the Midwest, and the role of trees to increase resiliency in urban environments.  She directs the Urban Natural Resources, Ecosystems and Landscapes Lab at Iowa State.  She participated in the “Big Data for Sustainable Cities Decision-Making” project funded through Iowa State’s Presidential Interdisciplinary Research Initiative (PIRI, 2016-2019). She also conducts research on teaching and learning, focusing on formal collaborative learning and leadership development for students.  She has authored over 75 peer-reviewed articles on a variety of aspects of natural resource ecology and management, primarily focused on urban landscapes.


More information about Jan Thompson: https://www.nrem.iastate.edu/people/janette-thompson

Dr. Kurt Rosentrater is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. He teaches courses focused on sustainability and life cycle assessment. For almost two decades he has actively pursued research to improve manufacturing efficiencies and byproduct utilization, and has developed a variety of new applications, including enhanced feeds, foods, biofuels, bioplastics, biocomposites, industrial intermediates, and ingredients. Prior to his work at Iowa State, he was a Lead Scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Before this, he worked for a design-build engineering company in Iowa, and was responsible for process and equipment design, as well as plant and site layout for industrial manufacturing facilities.


More information about Dr. Kurt Rosentrater: https://faculty.sites.iastate.edu/karosent/

Matt Liebman is a professor of agronomy and the H.A. Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. His research, teaching, and outreach activities focus on ways to use ecological principles and processes to improve environmental quality and food security. Within the Iowa UrbanFEWS project, he is part of the modeling team evaluating how shifts in land use and farming practices would affect crop productivity, water movement, soil erosion, and nutrient discharge to surface and ground water. As a long-time member of the board of directors of Wheatsfield Cooperative Grocery in Ames, IA, he has developed a strong appreciation of how local and regional producers can supply Iowans with high quality food.


More information about Matt Liebman: http://www.wallacechair.iastate.edu/

Michael Dorneich is an Associate Professor in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Iowa State University. His research interests focus on human-centered design, decision support systems, human-autonomy teaming, human-computer interaction, and increasing participation in STEM. Within the Iowa UrbanFEWS project, he is part of the human systems modeling team gathering human behavior data to inform agent-based modeling of producers and consumers. Data gathered through multiple methods will enable assessment of current practices, values, objectives, motivations, and barriers that influence choices, and how drivers could influence behavior for local food production and consumption. More broadly, the goal is to build data-intensive, replicable decision-making support systems that engage researchers, community stakeholders, and city officials in data collection and decision-making to create sustainable futures.


More information about Michael Dorneich: https://www.imse.iastate.edu/dorneich/

Dr. Schwab is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa. His research interests concern the development of social norms, attitude and behavior change, and the use of social psychological theory to promote sustainable behaviors. Dr. Schwab has studied attitude and behavior change related to recycling, energy usage, and climate change. Within the Iowa UrbanFEWS project, he is part of the human systems modeling team. The human systems modeling team is working to better understand barriers and incentives influencing decisions to produce and purchase locally grown foods. Utilizing qualitative and quantitative data from current producers and consumers to better characterize and understand local food systems for the development of an agent-based model of decision-making dynamics surrounding local food production and consumption. 


More information about Nick Schwab: https://csbs.uni.edu/psych/faculty-staff-directory/nicholas-schwab

Phil Gassman is an environmental scientist whose research experience has focused on supporting the integration of environmental, economic and other models which have been used to assess policy scenario impacts for watersheds and other regions, and testing of field- and watershed-scale models. He will be working on the application and integration of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) ecohydrological model (https://swat.tamu.edu/) and the Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) urban water quality model (https://www.epa.gov/water-research/storm-water-management-model-swmm) within the overall modeling system being developed for the Urban INFEWS project. These simulation research efforts will include analyzing cropping systems, management practices, hydrologic responses, and water quality impacts in urban and peri-urban landscapes located in and surrounding the Des Moines metropolitan area.


More information about Phil Gassman: https://www.card.iastate.edu/people/profile/?n=philip-w-gassman

Ulrike Passe teaches sustainable design and environmental technologies and serves as director for the Center for Building Energy Research at Iowa State. Her research focuses on the interaction of architectural spatial composition, climate, and energy consumption. In 2009 she led the ISU team in the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. Passe also led the building science plank in the five-year Iowa NSF-supported EPSCoR project “Harnessing Energy in the Biosphere to Build Sustainable Energy Systems,” which transformed the Solar Decathlon Interlock House into a community research lab. Her exploratory NSF EAGER grant “Multi-scale material and dynamic thermo-fluid computational models for sustainable buildings" (2013-2016) studied the relationship between thermal dynamics and material properties in the historic Harran Houses in Turkey using novel computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling techniques. In collaboration with Dr. Francine Battaglia she published “Designing Spaces for Natural Ventilation: An Architect’s Guide, (Routledge) in 2015. Two new research directions derived from the book: improving knowledge of the urban micro-climate around  buildings and interactions of occupants with the buildings they occupy. She initiated the interdisciplinary “Big data for sustainable cities decision making” funded by ISUs Presidential Interdisciplinary Research Initiative (PIRI) to integrate human-building-microclimate interactions into urban energy models for urban resilience, which provided the basis for the collaboration among researchers working together in the Iowa UrbanFEWS project.


More information about Ulrike Passe: https://www.cber.iastate.edu/people/director

Dr. Zhou’s research interests lie in the applications of geospatial technologies including remote sensing, GIS, geovisualization, spatial analytic tools, and integrated assessment modeling to understanding the problems of global environmental change (e.g., urbanization, urban heat island, ecosystem phenology, energy use and GHG emissions) and their potential solutions. His research focus has always been in quantifying spatiotemporal patterns of environmental change and developing modeling mechanisms to bridge the driving forces (both natural and socioeconomic factors) and consequences of environmental change so that the impacts of human activities on environment can be effectively measured, modeled, and evaluated.


More information about Yuyu Zhou: https://ge-at.iastate.edu/directory/yuyu-zhou/


Directions: Use the arrow next to "STUDENTS" in the above tab to locate Current and Graduated Iowa UrbanFEWS Students


Nilufer Oran Gibson is a Ph.D. candidate in Industrial, Manufacturing, and Systems Engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington. She obtained her B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey and M.S. in Engineering Management at The University of Texas at Arlington. Her current research focuses on agent-based modeling of the development and analysis of crowd-sourced solutions to address the needs of vulnerable populations, including volunteer-driven transportation networks for the older adults and urban food recovery networks for the homeless. She emprically develops agent characteristics and decision metrics based on the concept of personas and PAPRIKA methodology. She is a member of the human systems modeling team within the Iowa UrbanFEWS project, responsible to develop the personas of Iowa producers for the agent-based modeling of policy decisions to increase local food production and consumption. Her email address is nilufer.oran@mavs.uta.edu.

Tássia Mattos Brighenti has M.S. (2013 - 2015) and a Ph.D. (2015-2019) degrees in Environmental Engineering from Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Currently, she is a Postdoctoral Associate under supervision by Dr. Philip Gassman, in the Iowa UrbanFEWS project. Her work involves the use of the SWAT model to evaluate the environmental and agronomic performance of a suite of cropping systems, including row crops, and perennial grasses and/or horticultural crops, across multiple watershed scales in the Des Moines area.


Aaron is a fifth-generation family farmer from rural Polk County, where he and his family raise corn, soybeans, oats, and hay in both organic and conventional rotations. Aaron was elected to serve as the IFU president in 2016 and had served as the IFU vice president immediately prior to his election. He also has served as the executive director and legislative director for IFU and on the National Farmers Union Policy Committee. Aaron’s father Phil is a past IFU vice president and board member, and Aaron was active in Farmers Union youth programs growing up. Aaron is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and Treasurer of the North Polk School Foundation. He is a graduate of North Polk High School in Alleman, Iowa and earned a bachelor’s degree in physcis from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Aaron has previously served on the North Polk School District Board of Directors, the Iowa Citizen Action Network Board of Directors, and various school and church communities. He is a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Iowa chapter of the National Farmers Organization.

Click here for information about Aaron Lehman.

Click here to see more about Aubrey Alvarez's work with Eat Greater Des Moines.

Click here to see more about Campbell's Nutrition.

Please tell us a little bit about your background.

I was the youngest of four children raised on a dairy farm in north central Iowa in the prairie pothole region. After raising two children of my own, when my children left for college, I did the same and earned my law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2013. My parents were progressive about conservation and land ethics. From them, I absorbed my passion for policy that protects land and water.

What is your current role/organization?

I am External Affairs Manager for Des Moines Water Works. I oversee public relations, government affairs, outreach and collaboration, and special projects for the office of the CEO. Our utility provides drinking water to the Des Moines metropolitan region including four counties and 500,000 customers which is one-sixth of Iowa’s population.

How is your organization’s/your own personal work linked to food, energy and/or water systems in Iowa?

On its face, it may seem like an unlikely point of intersection for Des Moines Water Works, but land use in our watersheds—including in and near our service area—have great impact on our source water.  The water we draw from the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers snakes its way to our treatment plant through hundreds of miles of land that is heavily-row cropped with corn and soybeans. Within 50 miles of Des Moines (plus hundreds of miles upstream) there are thousands of acres under development and also being farmed that impact water quality. Education and outreach to stakeholders--telling our story about the challenges associated with providing drinking water that meets regulatory standards—is a powerful tool for driving change.

What variables do you think the team should definitely consider?

Current federal and state policy related to food production must include a larger role for social science and also strategic communication. Entrenched behavior and beliefs about food production and a drive to maintain the status quo will be difficult to crack. Offsite impacts of food production on downstream users are not well understood by all stakeholders. 

What are some outcomes you would like to see for this project?

Success, to me, would be demolishing the silo around food production. It is critical that stakeholders understand and own offsite impacts to downstream users. Our rivers, lakes, streams, and public spaces should be appealing for recreation, habitat, public health, and drinking water production. Sustainable food production is good for consumers, producers, and the environment. Climate change and the associated upheavals to water quality and quantity necessitate science-based, integrated solutions. UrbanFEWS seems to tie all of this together.

Click here to see more about Jeremy Caron's initiatives with sustainability in the City of Des Moines.


Are there particular weaknesses in local food-energy-water systems that you think the Iowa UrbanFEWS project should explore?

We lack infrastructure to enable local food producers to scale up production to be sustainable economically. In particular, food processing and packaging, transportation and marketing.


What type of direct or indirect impacts do you think this project could have on food systems in Iowa, and in particular in the Des Moines Area?

Elevate the interest and support by policy makers to make local food production an economic development priority for our state.


What do you think are significant obstacles or impediments to better integration of F-E-W systems in Iowa?

Cultural food purchasing practices, recognition of the value and societal benefit of locally produced food, and the chicken vs. egg dilemma of scaling up production vs. increasing demand. 

Click here for more information about John Norris.


In your opinion, what are some of the defining characteristics of urban food systems in central Iowa right now?

 If I may be permitted the pun, they are few and far between. What I see is a disjointed and less than fully effective approach.  Too many opportunities with too few people taking advantage of them.


What type of direct or indirect impacts do you think this project could have on food systems in Iowa, and in particular in the Des Moines Area?

I hope this makes urban food production much more well understood and more regularly undertaken.

Click here to learn more about Jonathan Gano's initiatives with the City of Des Moines.

Dr.Stefanik’s expertise is in wetland ecology and aquatic biogeochemistry.  She has studied gaseous carbon cycling and vegetation succession in created and restored wetlands, as well as nitrogen and phosphorus transport through watersheds in the Ohio River Basin.


How is your organization’s/your own personal work linked to food, energy and/or water systems in Iowa?

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center’s purpose is to pursue a science-based approach to evaluating the performance and development of nutrient management practices in the agricultural landscape.


What type of direct or indirect impacts do you think this project could have on food systems in Iowa, and in particular in the Des Moines Area?

Potential impacts on the Des Moines area could include increased local food production (less corn/soybean in urban adjacent agriculture), better coupling the needs of Iowans with the food production potential of Iowa. There could also be the potential to redirect biosolid application to local food production to help keep nutrients local.  While beyond the scope of this project, I would love to see city run farmland that not only helps to source fresh produce to local, low-income areas, but also provides educational and employment opportunities for Des Moines residents.


What are some outcomes you would like to see for this project?

Advice for city planners in the form of an extension style document that highlights main model findings and strategies that could be utilized by both larger and smaller urban areas.  Extension style document for farmers that provide information on the food production needs of urban area and resources for transitioning farmland from standard rowcrop to vegetable production. Undergraduate and graduate level course material on city planning that highlights the importance of localized and linked food availability, waste reuse, and water quality. Undergraduate and graduate level agricultural course material on farm production needs of Iowa’s urban areas.

Click here for more information about Kay Stefanik.


How is your organization’s/your own personal work linked to food, energy and/or water systems in Iowa? 

I think that we sometimes talk in abstract terms about the environment.  Yes, we want clean air and water, healthy soils, nutritious food.   How can we accomplish this goal on an individual level?  If we want to grow our local food market, reduce food miles, and farm sustainably we have to support the producers in our community.  Marketing products is often a hurdle for local producers because their work producing food can be all consuming. Our goal is to help producers reach consumers more easily thus eliminating one of the possible barriers to success.  We want our consumers and producers to interact thus  promoting an  understanding and appreciation for the foods that nurture us.  The Iowa Food Cooperative is a food community that supports sustainable agriculture and local food by facilitating connection.


In your opinion, what are some of the defining characteristics of urban food systems in central Iowa right now?  

Covid has changed everything.  We have had a first hand look at the vulnerability of our national food  system.  Local foods are more important than ever, at the Iowa Food Cooperative our business has doubled. More people are seeking out easy access to local foods. This moment in time is a grand opportunity for outreach and education. 


Are there particular weaknesses in local food-energy-water systems that you think the Iowa UrbanFEWS project should explore? 

We  lack the infrastructure to support our local farmers.  We do not have processing facilities that will operate on a small scale.  Our small scale poultry farmers have very few options for processing their products in a nation that is dominated by 4 industrial meat processing companies.  


What are some outcomes you would like to see for this project?

Education - over the years folks have become disconnected from the source of their food.  Producing food that is healthy with methods that are kind to the environment is challenging and it can be costly.  If we want to have a better environment and healthy food we need to understand the inputs  and embrace the farmers that are doing things the right way and help make their lives a bit easier by  buying their products and pushing for better infrastructure in our local communities. 

Click here for more informationon Lisa Bean.

Matt Helmers is the Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, the Dean’s Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and a Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University, where he has been on the faculty since 2003. Dr. Helmers’ research areas include studies on the impact of nutrient management, cropping practices, drainage design and management, and strategic placement of buffer systems on nutrient export from agricultural landscapes. He has a regional Extension program working to increase adoption of practices that have the potential to reduce downstream nutrient export.

Click here for more information about Matt Helmers.

Sally Worley joined Practical Farmers of Iowa staff in the fall of 2007, after being a member of the organization for a few years.  She became the executive director February 1, 2016. Before that Sally worked in multiple positions at Practical Farmers, including: communications director, next generation and horticulture director, deputy director and operations director.

Sally works to ensure Practical Farmers is farmer-led and maintains its big tent, welcoming everyone into the organization. She oversees PFI’s staffing, finances and programming, and is the primary liaison with the board of directors.

Click here for more information about Sally Worley.


What are some outcomes you would like to see for this project?

More comprehensive data is needed to effectively plan a sustainable regional food network. This should include available acres, capital and operating cost estimates for various crops, summaries of sources of financial assistance, and other data to assess the need and potential within a region.


Based on your work and your knowledge of urban F-E-W systems or their individual components, do you know of other places that are examples of success in terms of sustainable outcomes?

Indoor greenhouses offer several advantages, particularly as climate change impacts Midwest weather patterns. A number of energy and water efficiency features can be included in greenhouse design and the Bushel Boys tomato facility (https://www.bushelboy.com/how-we-grow/) in Minnesota is an example of a high-tech production facility. 

Click here for more information about Shelly Peterson's sustainable energy involvement with the Iowa Economic Development Authority.


Kyle Endres is a member of the external evaluation team. He is Associate Director of the Center for Social and Behavioral Research and Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa. He has a Ph.D. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin.


More information about Kyle Endres: https://csbs.uni.edu/polisci/faculty-staff-directory/kyle-endres

Lisa Green is a project coordinator with the Center for Social and Behavioral Research at the University of Northern Iowa, where most of her efforts are focused on program evaluation in higher education. Her background includes an MS in Geography and coordinating an NSF-NRT program on climate adaptation.


More information about Lisa Green: https://csbr.uni.edu/

Dr. Losch is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Social and Behavioral Research at the University of Northern Iowa.  In addition to her administrative and teaching, she has designed and directed over 100 survey, evaluation, and applied social science research projects including a number in the areas of STEM education, public health, transportation, and public policy issues.  She has directed numerous multi-year NSF project evaluations as well as program evaluations at the state and local level.  Her research publications span survey and evaluation methods, social science and health disciplines.  She is adjunct clinical associate professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health and also serves on the Advisory Board for the University of Iowa College of Public Health.  She is active in the leadership of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the Association of Academic Survey Research Organizations.  Dr. Losch also has an extensive background in human research participant protections including previous service as chair of the University of Northern Iowa IRB.


More information about March Losch: https://csbr.uni.edu/

Megan M. Ruxton is a Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Social and Behavioral Research (CSBR) at the University of Northern Iowa, and is serving as part of the evaluation team for the Iowa UrbanFEWS project. At CSBR, she collaborates on several survey, evaluation, and other applied social science research projects in the areas of education, STEM, public health and natural resources.