Michelle is the Director of the Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program and Associate Professor of Soil Fertility/Ecology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.

Photo credit David Reicks

She currently serves on the National Soil and Water Conservation Society’s Science and Policy Committee, the National Sustainable Agriculture Standards Committee, and the eOrganic Leadership Team. She is the past chair of the Committee on Organic and Sustainable Agriculture (COSA),¬†and has been a long standing member of: the North Central Regional Committee on Soil Organic Matter and the Soil Science Society of America’s Soil Quality Working Group.

She is the curator of Illinois’ Historic Soils Collection which includes over 30,000 soil samples. She has served as an expert evaluator of the Long-Term Research on Agricultural Systems study (for UCD), Rodale’s Farming Systems Trial (for the Rodale Research Institute), of the Soil Quality CRIS (for USDA’s Nebraska ARS Unit) and, of the Soil Conditioning Index (for the Soil & Water Conservation Society). She was a lead author of agriculture impacts section of UCS/ESA’s Great Lakes Climate Change Report and other related publications and has served as a consultant on Wal-Mart Sustainable Organic Fabric’s Initiative.

Her research considers the influence of management (tillage and cover crops, perennials, bioenergy crops, organic farming systems; crop rotation and fertilization practices) on soils, organic matter and system performance with emphasis on plant-soil-process relations. Farming systems research employs nutrient budgeting, conservation assessment tools, life cycle analysis, and relies on participatory methods. Community research addresses risk management and soil quality in urban gardens.

Outreach service includes leadership of the Soils Community of Practice for eOrganic, the eXtension site and is the executive ead for the Soil Quality Website, hosted at UIUC in partnership with the USDA National Soil Tilth Lab and the Natural Resource Conservation Service Soil Quality Team.

At U of I, she co-coordinated the LandInformatics Collaboratory to develop capacity for inter- and trans-disciplinary research and education that promotes sustainable natural resource use and management. She maintains active participation in legislative/industry/public educational activities sponsored by Union of Concerned Scientists & the Ecological Society of America and has been a contributor the New Agriculture Network which generates dialogue and educational materials for extension and outreach on organic production