Chief Scientist, Rodale Institute, Kutztown, PA
Dr. Kristine Nichols is a world-renowned leader in the movement to regenerate soils for healthy food, healthy people and a healthy planet by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production, sequestering carbon in soil, and providing abundant and nutritious food. Dr. Nichols was the Chief Scientist at Rodale Institute from July 7, 2014-January 12, 2018 where she oversaw approximately fifteen research trials on organic agriculture, including the Farming Systems Trial®, the longest-running side-by-side U.S. study comparing conventional chemical agriculture with organic, biologically-based methods. Prior to joining the Institute, Dr. Nichols was a Research Soil Microbiologist with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in North Dakota for 11 years and a Biological Laboratory Technician with ARS in Beltsville, MD for 3 years. Kris received Bachelor of Science degrees in Plant Biology and in Genetics and Cell Biology from the University of Minnesota in 1995, a Master’s degree in Environmental Microbiology from West Virginia University in 1999, and a Ph.D. in Soil Science from the University of Maryland in 2003.
Her research and professional achievements have focused on the impacts of cropping and grazing systems on soil microbiology, nutrient cycling, and soil aggregation to improve soil health and water quality. Her most recent work involves mycorrhizal fungi and the investigation of glomalin – a substance produced by AM fungi. Glomalin contributes to nutrient cycling by protecting AM hyphae transporting nutrients from the soil to the plant and to soil structure and plant health by helping to form and stabilize soil aggregates. Kris has been examining the impacts of organic management practices such as crop rotation, tillage practices, cover crops, and livestock grazing on soil aggregation, water relationships, and glomalin as ways to improve economic and environmental sustainability by increasing soil health and resiliency in plant production. In recognition of her work, Dr. Nichols has received several awards including the 2012 Conservation Research Award from the International Soil and Water Conservation Society.