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Outstanding in her Field


Threats to the world’s agricultural lands – soil degradation, water contamination, climate change – don’t fall neatly within national borders. So it’s no surprise that an expert in sustainable land management has a résumé that crosses boundaries.

Professor Marney Isaac (pictured right), who arrived at UTSC in 2009, has degrees in forestry and environmental biology, did post-doctoral studies in agricultural development in France, conducted fieldwork in Ghana and Kenya – and is now cross-appointed to Physical and Environmental Sciences and the International Development Studies program of the Social Sciences department.

While much of Isaac’s work to date has focused on agroforestry in the tropics, she recently began exploring the unique challenges of other regions, including Southern Ontario.

“My research applies ecological principles to agricultural landscapes,” Isaac explains, “with particular attention to new strategies for conservation, management and system resilience. We investigate practices that improve the efficiency of nutrient cycles, optimize plant-soil interactions and promote ecosystem services and food security in low-input agricultural and agroforestry systems.”

In her multi-dimensional role at UTSC, Isaac hopes to heighten students’ awareness of the global need for improved agricultural diversity. From her perspective, what’s needed is a hands-on approach that reaches beyond the classroom. “I want students to be intrigued by interdisciplinary research and its application to

real-world issues,” she says. “In the current geopolitical context, agricultural production plays a key role in mitigating ecological and economic risk. Through integrative and collaborative research, we can give students the opportunity to assess complex societal and environmental challenges – and to help find solutions.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough