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Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Dr. Cheryl Palm

Research Professor, Soil Biological and Ecological Processes
Institute for Sustainable Food System

Dr. Cheryl Palm is Associate Director of the Food Systems Institute and a Research Professor in Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Florida. A biogeochemist and ecosystem ecologist, Dr. Palm’s research focuses on land-use change, degradation and rehabilitation, and ecosystem processes in tropical agricultural landscapes. She led a major effort quantifying carbon stocks, losses and net greenhouse gas emissions following slash and burn and alternative land-use systems in the humid tropics in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon, Indonesia and the Congo Basin. She has spent much of the past 20 years investigating soil nutrient and carbon dynamics in farming systems of Africa, including options for soil and land rehabilitation. Her most recent work investigates human-natural coupled systems and the tradeoffs and synergies among agricultural intensification strategies, the environment, and rural livelihoods, including nutrition and income generation. She has conducted this research across diverse agricultural ecologies and farming systems in SubSaharan through the Millennium Villages Project, Vital Signs Africa, and the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab. Palm received her Ph.D. in soil science from North Carolina State University after completing her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in zoology at the University of California, Davis. She served as Senior Research Scientist at The Earth Institute, Columbia University (2003-2016), Principal Research Scientist of the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Program in Nairobi, Kenya (1991-2001). She has also served on the faculties of North Carolina State University and Colorado State. Palm is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomists and served as chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) from 2008 to 2011.

Contact Information


Institute for Sustainable Food Systems, Frazier Rogers Hall

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 110570
Gainesville, FL 32611-0570

  • Teaching
    • AOM 6932/4932: Agricultural Intensification: Tradeoffs and Synergies – production, environment, and livelihoods
  • Education
    • Ph.D. Soil Science, North Carolina State University, 1988
    • M.A. Zoology, University of California, Davis, 1980
    • B.S. Zoology, University of California, Davis, 1976

    Additional Training

    • CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) Leadership and Management Course for Women Scientists, Indonesia, March 1997
    • Tropical Ecology Field Course, OTS, Costa Rica 1984
  • Professional Experience
    • 2016-Present
      Research Professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Florida
      Core Faculty Member of Institute for Sustainable Food Systems
    • 2003-2016
      Senior Research Scientist, Columbia University Earth Institute
      Research Director, Agricultural and Food Security Center
    • 2010-2016
      Co-Director and Lead Scientist for Soil Health, Agricultural Intensification, Food Security and Nutrition, Poverty, and Tradeoff Analysis, Vital Signs Africa
    • 2002
      Visiting Scholar, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management
    • 1993-2001
      Senior Scientific Officer (1995 – 2001), Scientific Officer (1993-1995), Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Program, TSBF, Nairobi, Kenya
    • 1992-1993
      Research Associate, Colorado State University, Natural Resources Ecology Lab
    • 1989-1992
      Visiting Assistant Professor, Postdoctoral Research Associate (1988-1989), North Carolina State University, Department of Soil Science and Department of Forestry
    • 1983-1988
      Graduate Research Assistant, North Carolina State University, Department of Soil Science
    • 1979-1983
      Research Assistant, The Ecosystems Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
    • 1978
      Kutai Nature Reserve, Kalimantan, Indonesia, UC Davis
  • Awards and Honors
    • American Society of Agronomy – Fellow Elected, 2005
    • Hugh Hammond Bennet Award in Soil Conservation, 1987
  • Other Professional Activities
    • Second International Conference on Global Food Security: Co-chair, 2013 - 2015
    • International Nitrogen Initiative, International Chair, and Past Chair, 2008 - 2013
    • Sustainable Dairy - CAP Grant, Advisory Board, 2014 - Current
    • UNU –GEF Land Degradation: Ensuring Impacts from SLM – Development of a Global Indicator System: External Advisory Group Member, 2008 - 2010
    • Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Co-coordinator Tropical Forest Margins, 2002 - 2005
    • Editorial Board, Agriculture, Ecosystems, & Environment, 2001 - 2005
    • Editorial Board: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 2003 - 2005
    • SCOPE/UNEP: Emerging Environmental Issues for the 21st Century - Global Environmental Outlook Planning
    • Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Co-coordinator of Sub-Global Assessment 'Forest and Agroecosystem Tradeoffs in the Tropics' Working Group, 2002
    • Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Lead Author – Nutrient Management – Responses
    • NASA LBA-Ecology Peer Review Panel, 2001
    • IGBP Working Group on Agricultural Intensification and the Environment, 2000
    • GCTE Task Leader: F1.2.2 – Global patterns of litter chemistry and decomposition, 1998-2000
    • America Association for the Advancement of Science
    • Ecological Society of America
    • Soil Science Society of America
    • International Soil Science Society