Food Leader: Alum Joins The Nature Conservancy

Recent grad’s tips for students, and why the future is in good hands

Michael Wironen has joined one of the world’s largest conservation organizations, but not before giving Vermont leaders some serious food for thought.

As a UVM PhD student, the Gund Graduate Fellow gave the state’s phosphorus pollution problem a forensic accounting straight out of a police procedural. Call it CSI: Global Dairy Industry. 

Wironen’s research revealed that Vermont’s phosphorus surplus has been growing for decades at a rate of over 1,000 tons per year, largely due to imports of agricultural fertilizer and feed containing phosphorus. 

Shortly after his results were published, the Switzer Fellow got a crash course in science and policy communication, presenting to state senators, policymakers and journalists from newspapers, radio and TV. 

Just weeks after graduating earlier this year, Wironen was hired by The Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s largest environmental organizations, which works in 72 countries and 50 states. He is a Senior Scientist for Agriculture and Food Systems, based in Washington, D.C. 

As Wironen works to scale-up sustainable agriculture with businesses, he took time to share tips for grad students (Gund seeks PhDs applicants for Fall 2019), opine on the merits of lake swimming in Vermont – and explain why he believes the future is in good hands. 

What did you study Gund?

I did my Ph.D. with Jon Erickson in the Rubenstein School for Environment and Natural Resources, as part of Economics for the Anthropocene (E4A). Along the way I also earned a Graduate Certificate in Ecological Economics.

Where are from?

I grew up in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. Before coming to the Gund I lived in Brooklyn, New York for seven years, where I worked as an environmental consultant.

To read more, please visit the Gund Institute’s website.

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