When one considers the interdisciplinary nature of Bard CEP’s curriculum, Jennifer Phillips’ arrival at Bard seemed almost predestined. Having completed her PhD at Cornell University in Soil, Crop and Atmospheric Sciences and subsequently researching El Niño and climate patterns at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, Phillips’ vision to start a farm in the Hudson River Valley aligned perfectly with a job offer to become Bard CEP’s first full-time science professor.
Phillips’ philosophy is thus, “To solve complex environmental problems, one has to be able to synthesize information across disciplines.” It makes perfect sense then that her farm has become a living laboratory to demonstrate and learn about complex environmental systems. At CEP, Phillips currently teaches Environmental Science of the Built Environment, Agroecology and Climate, and co-teaches a graduate seminar in Food Systems Policy. She also teaches an undergraduate tutorial at her farm on sustainable agriculture. Her farm has become a resource to look deeper into environmental and sustainable agriculture issues.
“I’m really interested in pasture management and more generally greenhouse gas emissions from livestock systems,” said Phillips. “I’m also interested in soil-carbon dynamics and how we can improve carbon sequestration through grazing. I think there’s a lot of research to be done in this area.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land-use are the second-largest global source of greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuel consumption. With concerns about food supply and growing global populations on the rise, the world’s agriculture systems are a common thread in environmental policy discussion. It’s also one that becomes quickly complex.
When asked what inspires Phillips about her work both at Bard and on her farm, she had this to say, “It’s inspiring for me to be around young people who want to dedicate their careers to solving environmental problems. I also love the fact that I’ve been ale to develop new courses. It’s a great challenge to build an interdisciplinary course and immerse myself in the literature. I’m always learning new things, which is really fun.”
Moreover, Phillips finds reassurance that the world’s approach to solving environmental problems is becoming more holistic. Phillips joins an interdisciplinary team of faculty at Bard CEP. I asked Phillips how she is able to maintain optimism about the scope of environmental issues facing the world today. She said, “The evolution of a more holistic approach to environmental problems is a really positive sign. Our understanding of ecological systems has improved greatly over the past 20-30 years. It’s not just about litter anymore.”