We seek to create an inclusive and welcoming work environment in which each group member can explore and fulfill their potential. We believe that the diverse perspectives of group members, based on their individual backgrounds, identities, and life experiences, enrich our work and contribute to building a more just and equitable food system. Our research group recognizes that pervasive discrimination and exclusion results in inequities throughout our society, including our food system. Awareness without action is not enough, and we commit to enacting these values in our work, ensuring that our scientific research is beneficial to our wider community.

Julie Dawson

Julie Dawson

Associate Professor
Department of Horticulture
393 Moore Hall
1575 Linden Drive
email: dawson [at]

PhD Crop Science, 2008. Washington State University
Bachelor of Science, Plant Science, 2003. Cornell University

Rue Genger

Scientist II
Department of Horticulture
321 Moore Hall
1575 Linden Drive
email: rkgenger [at]

PhD Plant Sciences, Australian National University
Bachelor of Science Plant Breeding, University of Queensland

Rue’s research interests include collaborative plant breeding for organic
systems, seed systems for potatoes and other vegetatively propagated crops, and reduced tillage methods for climate resilient organic vegetable production.

Thomas Hickey

Research Specialist
Department of Horticulture
321 Moore Hall
1575 Linden Drive
email: tphickey [at]

MS Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison
BS Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thomas is a long-time vegetable variety trial researcher now turned data
manager. He can be spotted in community gardens and research stations
recording observations or formatting data.

Meg Baker

Researcher I
email: mdbaker3 [at]

MS Agroecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
BS Anthropology, University of Utah

Meg’s work focuses on community-informed projects in food systems. They are currently working on multiple grant projects partnering with Tribal nations, Wisconsin farmers, and Midwestern food system researchers and professionals. Meg provides program assistance and logistical support for field, outreach, and educational events.

Paulina Jenney

Research Coordinator
email: pjenney [at]

MSc Environmental Studies, 2022. University of Montana
BA Environmental Studies & Creative Writing, 2016. University of Arizona

Keith Williams

Outreach Specialist
email: krwilliams25 [at]

PhD Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University
BSc Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Michigan-Flint

Keith works on developing new flavor-driven grain cultivars and agricultural
products with a focus on exploration of complex phenotypes such as flavor
or visual appeal.

Steffen Mirsky

Outreach Specialist, UW-Madison Division of Extension
email: swmirsky [at]

BS Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Washington

Steffen is working with Jason Fischbach and the Extension Emerging Crops
Team to help establish ten emerging crops in Wisconsin through education,
outreach, research and supply chain development with the goal of diversifying
the agricultural landscape, improving environmental outcomes and greater
economic prosperity. This includes American hazelnuts and food grade grains,
as well as helping to manage the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative vegetable
trials in Spooner, WI.

Scott Brainard

Postdoctoral Researcher
email: shbrainard [at]

PhD Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Scott is developing tools that leverage next-generation sequence data to
improve the efficiency of selection in hazelnut.

Marissa Nix

Research Specialist
email: mnix [at]

BS Genetics and Genomics, 2019, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Marissa provides support in both the laboratory and field. Recently, she has been working on tomato and pepper breeding projects for the lab.

Graduate Students

Ambar Carvallo Lopez

PhD Student
Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics
email: carvallolope [at]

Ambar is interested in supporting organic farming systems by developing
varieties that are especially adapted for those conditions. She is currently
working on tomato breeding for organic systems.

Pablo Sandro

PhD Student
Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics
co-advised with Lucia Gutierrez
email: sandrogarcia [at]

Pablo works on developing high-quality value-added hard red winter wheat
varieties adapted to the Midwestern United States with a high level of
involvement by wheat chain actors. He also uses historical oat databases
combined with genomic tools to predict and characterize environments,
resilience, stability and performance in oat lines in Wisconsin and across
the Midwest.

Affiliated Graduate Students

Micaela Colley

PhD Student
Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics
Wageningen University
Co-Advised with Edith Lammerts van Bueren and James Myers
email: micaela [at]

Michaela is doing her thesis on participatory methods for organic plant breeding.

Vincent Brazelton

PhD Student
Plant and Microbial Biosciences
Washington University in St. Louis
Co-Advised with Allison Miller
email: brazelton.antonio [at]

Vincent’s current research interests are at the nexus of plant breeding,
urban agriculture and food equity. His goal is to explore targeted breeding
strategies that prioritize food sovereignty, environmental sustainability
and improved genetic diversity for urban farmers and the communities
they serve.


  • Ava Glaser
  • Frances Plese
  • Malachi Persche
  • Martha Barta

Graduate Student Alumni

Sarah DeGraff

MS Horticulture 2023

Kayla Sherman

MS Agroecology 2023

Meg Baker

MS Agroecology 2023, co-advised with Claudia Irene Calderon

Laura Livingston

PhD Student
Environment and Resources
Co-Advised with Randy Stoecker
MS Agroecology 2018

Anneliese Abbott

MS, Nelson Institute

Dylan Bruce

Dylan Bruce

MS Agroecology

Jenyne Schaefer Loarca

PhD Student
Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics
Co-Advised with Phil Simon

Ambar Carvallo

Ambar Carvallo Lopez

MS Agroecology

Keo Corak

Keo Corak

PhD Student
Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics
MS Agroecology 2018

Juan Astroza

MS Horticulture

Patrick Merscher

MS Agroecology 2020

Kevin Coe

PhD Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics 2020
Co-Advised with Phil Simon
Currently a postdoctoral researcher at NCSU with Dr. Massimo Iorizzo

Karen Hill

MS Agroecology 2020

Rachel Schindler

MS Agroecology 2020

Thomas Hickey

Thomas Hickey

MS Horticulture 2019
Currently Research Specialist,

Terry Hodge

Terry Hodge

MS Horticulture 2018
Currently Conservatory and Orchid Horticulturist,
Olbrich Botanic Gardens

Alex Steussy-Williams

MS Agroecology 2018
Currently Giving Garden Facilitator,
Bayview Foundation, Madison, WI

Kitt Healy

Kitt Healy

MS Horticulture and Agroecology 2016
Currently Midwest Research and Education Associate
Organic Seed Alliance
Outreach Specialist,
Seed to Kitchen Collaborative,
UW Madison

Terri Theisen

Terri Theisen

MS Horticulture 2016
Currently Horticulture Extension Educator
Purdue University Extension

Natalie Cotter

Natalie Cotter

Masters, May 2016
Urban and Regional Planning
(Advisor Ken Genskow)
Currently Agriculture Enterprise Area Program Manager
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

Affiliated Graduate Student Alumni

Peyton Higgins

PhD Student
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Advised by Andrew Buller

Staff Alumni

Jenn Cava

Research Specialist

MSc Biology, University of New England
BSc Biology, UW-Stevens Point

Brian Emerson

Brian Emerson

Research Specialist
Currently at Rooted

Claire Luby

Claire Luby

Faculty Associate
PhD Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics 2016
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Crew Alumni

Year indicates when the individual left the lab.

2024: Ava Gorius

2023: Brianna Stumpner, Christina Eckstine, Justine Zeman, Madeline Zwergel, Maya Giordano, Tressa Peskar

2022: Brenna Haakinson, Brent Johnson, Calliana Wickus, Cassie Radl, Miles Giehtbrock, Rachel Yard, Shea Tillotson

2021: Gabby Whisler, Kase Wheatley, Marcela Gonzalez Barrios, Sofia Weinstein, Taylr Johnson

2020: Daniella Echeverria, Chris Keeve, Karen Hill, Raeann Rich, Sam Cline, Sam Kruse, Zak Buell

2019: Halle Kunzke-Anderson, Hannah Kruse, Hannah Ryba, Ilhulpachakatl Neubauer, Mariah Rogers, Maryatt Karstensen, Michael O’Connell, Nyah Banik, Samantha Vosters, Thi Le, Ty Lee

2018: Erin Schneider, Matt Kronschnabel, Mengsha Gong, Naio Koehler, Nathaniel Slack, Shelbi Jentz

2017: Niki Lacktorin, Noah Bevers, Olivia Steinmetz, Peter Jakus, Tim Allen

2016: Gregory Snyder, Jamie Lovely, Lucas Holiday, Mariana Debernardini, Molly Kreykes, Sara Vega, Sarah Lee

2015: Bradley Mellinger, Laura Jacobson

2014: Maya Reese