Sustainability Science Program

Meredith Niles

Meredith Niles

Meredith NilesDr. Meredith Niles
Sustainability Science Program
Kennedy School of Government
Mailbox 81
Harvard University
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Office: 505 Rubenstein Building
Tel: (1) 617-496-9330
Group affiliation: Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellow

Meredith Niles is a Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Sustainability Science Program. Her research assesses knowledge and innovation systems to implement climate-smart agricultural development and environmental and social costs and benefits of integrated-crop livestock systems in Brazil, New Zealand and California. Working with the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security Program she will analyze their baseline dataset on the adoption of climate-smart practices.  Her faculty host is William Clark.  Meredith’s work has encompassed projects in agriculture, climate change, environmental sustainability, public health, policy analysis and decision-making. Meredith is contributing to collaborative work with the Initiative on Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development led by William Clark. She completed her PhD in Ecology at the University of California at Davis as a member of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior (2014). Her dissertation research focused on agricultural innovation for climate change adaptation and mitigation among California and New Zealand farmers. She was a visiting scientist at AgResearch and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research. She received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Fellowship, an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and a Switzer Foundation Fellowship.

Meredith currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Public Library of Science (2014-2018). She was also selected for the “From Harvard Square to the Oval Office” political campaign training program for women for 2014-2015. Meredith also received the 2010 Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award from the American Institute of Biological Sciences and was named Board Member of the Year by the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. Prior to graduate school she worked at the US State Department and an environmental non-profit in Washington D.C. She is a 2005 graduate (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in political science with honors in environmental studies from The Catholic University of America.

Meredith will begin a tenure-track position at the University of Vermont in August 2015 as an assistant professor of food policy in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences with affiliation with the multidisciplinary, campus-wide Food Systems Initiative. 

Assessing knowledge and innovation systems for climate smart agriculture
This project aims to assess what drives the adoption of climate change innovations in developing countries through baseline survey data analysis.   

Agriculture is both a contributor to and potential victim of climate change, the impacts of which will be most felt by smallholder farmers in the developing world. Efforts to advance “climate-smart” agriculture that aim to promote sustainable production, climate mitigation, and adaptation should be grounded in empirical data and analysis, which can be used to inform the successful implementation and adoption of climate change innovation interventions. This proposal aims to understand innovation systems for climate change mitigation and adaptation in the developing world. Existing baseline surveys (n=5454) from the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) will be analyzed using novel statistical approaches to assess the drivers of climate change innovations and adaptive responses. This analysis will focus particularly on how climate change shocks and other factors influence innovation adoption, adaptive capacity, and aim to elicit whether practices adopted for different reasons (e.g., climatic, government, markets) are affected by different drivers. Through the research peer-reviewed articles, research reports and policy briefs intended for managers, funders, and policymakers will be developed to contribute to both academic and applied contexts.

Diversifying and Integrating Agricultural Practices in Brazil, New Zealand, and the United States for Climate Smart Agriculture and Sustainable Development

One of the core challenges of sustainable development is how countries can simultaneously promote rural livelihoods, increase agricultural output to meet growing food demand, and conserve natural resources. Integrated crop livestock systems have the capacity to meet this challenge by better recycling nutrients from crop and animal wastes within the farm system, while still producing high quantities of food. This research aims to assess the social costs and benefits of integrated crop livestock systems (ICLS) compared with specialized systems, as well as challenges and opportunities (including those presented by climate change) to adoption across three diverse regions: Brazil, the United States, and New Zealand. These three countries were selected for comparative analysis due to their significant agricultural production and varying climates and socio-economic systems. To understand the complex linkages between national agricultural policy, regional socio-economic conditions, and ICLS adoption in a changing climate we utilize a variety of research designs and methods, including both comparative analysis at the national level, statistical analysis and process models at the regional level, and local case studies. Through the combination of all of these methods we aim to achieve a systems level understanding of the rules, incentives, and knowledge services that will be necessary to promote transitions to integrated systems in the US, Brazil, and New Zealand. We strive to create a multi-faceted approach to understanding ICLS in these regions to make this work relevant both academically and for practitioners.

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