S-C1 Connecting Agricultural Science at the Nexus to Inform Policy

This session will reflect upon interdisciplinary research projects sponsored by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture that develop sound science that is being used to inform policy. Speakers will look at the impacts of water on food production and security, the intersection of production of food and bioenergy crops, the impact of climate on water availability, and the impacts of water availability and climate on policy. Cross cutting issues include new tools and understanding of food production to reduce impact of these systems on and use of energy and water. This session will focus on a breadth of research that informs water, agriculture, and energy policy at the local, regional, and national levels.


  • Nancy Cavallaro and Rachel Melnick, National Program Leaders, Division of Global Climate Change, National Institute for Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture


  • Mazdak Arabi, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering Colorado State University
  • Matei Georgescu, Assistant Professor, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University
  • Maureen McCarthy, Great Basin Program Director, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Richard McNider, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Mathematical Sciences, University of Alabama-Huntsville

Rachel Melnick is a National Program Leader directing competitive grant programs in the area of agroclimatology; agency representative to the USDA Regional Climate hub Executive Council; and USDA representative to the HABHRCA interagency working group. 202-401-4980 rmelnick@nifa.usda.gov

Nancy Cavallaro’s primary work involves directing the competitive grants programs in the areas of soil science, watersheds and water resources, and global/climate change research. Cavallaro shares leadership in explaining, planning, developing, promoting, and evaluating programs in these and related areas. (202-401-5176; ncavallaro@nifa.usda.gov)

Matei Georgescu’s research aims to improve understanding and characterization of distinct phenomena related to urbanization-induced landscape change. He focuses on identifying hydro-climatic and air quality impacts resulting from large-scale urbanization, as well as potential adaptation and mitigation strategies. In addition, Dr. Georgescu addresses the environmental consequences (e.g., on climate and hydrology) of renewable energy expansion by integrating physical, agricultural, and socioeconomic elements. The range of tools used to investigate these topics include: climate models, remote sensing data and associated applications, and in situ weather/climate observations. (480-727-5986; Matei.Georgescu@asu.edu)

Maureen McCarthy, as Great Basin Program Director at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), coordinates transdisciplinary research and outreach programs with scientists, water and natural resource managers, and tribal communities in the Great Basin and American Southwest. She serves as Director of the Great Basin Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit and Chair of the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative Steering Committee. Dr. McCarthy is also Executive Director of the Tahoe Science Consortium, where she coordinates applied research and science-based decision-making in support of environmental management in the Lake Tahoe Basin. (775-784-8262; mimccarthy@unr.edu)

Mazdak Arabi is teaching and actively conducting research in the areas of water resources management and planning and environmental engineering. His research primarily focuses on the development of scientific approaches and decision support systems for sustainable environmental planning and management. For example, Dr. Arabi is interested in investigating the impact of anthropogenic activities, such as land use change, and agricultural practices on the integrity of environmental systems, especially watersheds. Currently, Dr Arabi is involved with several projects sponsored by the USDA, National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and NSF to develop stakeholder driven multi-criteria watershed management support systems with purpose of enhancing decision makers’ capacity to evaluate a range of agricultural and environmental policy alternatives. (970-491-4639; Mazdak.Arabi@Colostate.edu)

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