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2020 AAAS Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture: Dr. Evan H. DeLucia

In 2008, the Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation (RMF) made a gift to AAAS to endow a Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture at AAAS in honor of Professor Riley's legacy as a "whole picture" person with a vision for enhancing agriculture through scientific knowledge.

Working in collaboration with the RMF and the World Food Prize Foundation (WFPF) — an organization whose fundamental goal is to support efforts toward an adequate supply and availability of nutritious food for the burgeoning world population in the 21st century — the AAAS Riley Lecture is an important opportunity to explore the environmental and societal challenges facing our planet through the lens of agricultural innovation and its applications in a global context.


2020 Lecture: Rethinking American Agriculture: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Food Production

Featuring Dr. Evan H. DeLucia, G. William Arends Professor of Integrative Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Immediately following the lecture, Dr. DeLucia joined a panel discussion with Dr. Maya Almaraz, Program Manager for the Working Lands Innovation Center at University of California, Davis, Dr. Marty Matlock, Executive Director of the University of Arkansas Resiliency Center; Professor of Ecological Engineering in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department and Dr. Meredith Niles, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Rattan Lal, the 2020 World Food Prize Laureate.


Dr. Evan H. DeLucia is the G. William Arends Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. He was the founding director of the Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and at different times has served as the head of the Department of Plant Biology, and the director of the School of Integrative Biology, the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment, and the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation. After completing his B.A. at Bennington College, DeLucia completed an M.F.S. (1982) in forest ecology at Yale University and a Ph.D. (1986) in plant ecology and physiology at Duke University. He joined the faculty at Illinois in 1986, where he was recognized as a University Scholar in 1997. Elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005 and a fellow of the Ecological Society of America in 2015, he also is a member of the American Association of Plant Biologists, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations and the American Geophysical Union.

Dr. Maya Almaraz is a terrestrial ecologist whose research focuses on biogeochemical cycling and its interaction with soil processes, pollution and global food systems. Nitrogen fertilizer technology feeds about half the world’s human population and is widely considered a key limiting resource in ecological systems; however, excess nitrogen in the environment harms the economy, hurts people and imposes serious climate change risks. Maya’s research focuses on unraveling such multidimensional complexities as feeding the world while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental damages that stem from anthropogenic activities. Maya is currently a program manager for the Working Lands Innovation Center at UC Davis, where she is looking to scale carbon capture and negative emission technologies in agriculture. She was previously a postdoctoral fellow with the World Wildlife Fund and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at UC Santa Barbara, where she worked on a project examining the environmental impacts of our food system. Before that, Maya was a National Science postdoctoral fellow in biology at UC Davis, where she studied the feedbacks between agriculture, air quality and climate change. Maya received her doctorate from Brown University in ecology and evolutionary biology, as well as undergraduate degrees from UC Berkeley in public health (B.A.) and conservation and resource studies (B.S.)

Dr. Marty Matlock is the executive director of the University of Arkansas Resiliency Center and a professor of ecological engineering in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department. The UA Resiliency Center is an interdisciplinary research and outreach collaboration hosted by the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design along with the College of Engineering and Walton College of Business. Dr. Matlock received his Ph.D. in biosystems engineering from Oklahoma State University, and is a registered professional engineer, a board-certified environmental engineer and a certified ecosystem designer. His research focus is measuring and managing complex ecosystem processes at the local to global scales. Dr. Matlock is the recipient of the 2018 CAST-Borlaug Agriculture Communications Award, serves on the USEPA Science Advisory Committee for Agriculture, previously served on the US Secretary of Agriculture’s Committee for the 21st Century, is chairman of the Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission, and serves as a sustainability science adviser for 12 food and agricultural product companies.

Dr. Meredith Niles Dr. Meredith T. Niles is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences and the Food Systems Program at the University of Vermont. Her research focuses on the intersection of food systems, health, and environment from a behavioral science and policy perspective. She examines how climate change affects food systems and food security globally, as well as potential food and agriculture system pathways for improving health and environmental outcomes. Dr. Niles holds a B.A. in political science with honors in environmental studies from The Catholic University of America and a Ph.D. in ecology with a focus on human ecology and environmental policy from the University of California, Davis. She was a sustainability science post-doctorate fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where she explored smallholder farmer experiences with climate change and food security. Prior to her academic career, Dr. Niles worked for the U.S. Department of State on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and several nonprofits. She is passionate about making academic research more publicly available through advocating for open access and research policies, and has served on the board of directors of the Public Library of Science (PLOS) since 2014, one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific publishers. She has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, and been featured prominently in popular press and media including the New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio and USA Today.


The Lecture is sponsored by the Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Foundation; the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, Forest Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture; and Mars Incorporated.