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Urban Underground: Agroecological Functions of Soils in the City Webinar

Watch the recording of the Soils in the City webinar presented by Dr Doug Collins on April 17, 2024. (

More people around the world now live in cities than in rural areas. While cities have long been economic and cultural centers, there is increasing demand for ecological and environmental services from urban spaces. Urban agriculture, which utilizes local soils and nutrient rich organic amendments, is recognized for the ability to provide products, income, social benefits, and ecological services. Best management practices for anthropogenic soils (anthrosoils) and metrics to describe and evaluate their health are evolving.

Dr. Collins will share results from a National Urban Research & Extension Fellowship which included an observational study of soil parameters in farmed soils in urban and peri-urban environments in three different urban areas: 1) Medellin, Colombia; 2) Chicago, IL, USA; and 3) Seattle, WA, USA. While soil contaminants (e.g. heavy metals) are a concern in urban agriculture, the physical, hydrological, and biological parameters of urban soils are equally important but less studied. These three urban areas provided a diversity of cultural-industrial histories to evaluate anthropogenic influences. The study compared farmed soils in urban and peri-urban environments to characterize soil formation, soil foodwebs, carbon dynamics, soil nutrients, and contaminants along a gradient of anthropogenic influence.

Doug Collins is an Extension Professor and Soil Scientist with WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Doug has a Ph.D. in soil science from Washington State University and an M.S. in Plant Pathology from Montana State University. He focuses on managing and monitoring soil fertility on diverse organic vegetable farms, composting systems, and evaluating soil quality in different vegetable cropping systems – including organic reduced tillage. Doug is also interested in soil variability across landscapes and biological indicators of soil quality. He has also consulted on composting, organic waste management, and soil health in the Dominican Republic and Colombia and currently serves on the Board of Washington Organics Recycling Council and the WSDA Organic Program.

This webinar is part of his Urban Sabbatical Fellowship with NUREC; you can learn more about his sabbatical work here.

Learn more about NUREC fellowships here.

Partnering Opportunities with Cities



The National Urban Research & Extension Center (NUREC) invites you to participate in this Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to determine where there are opportunities for partnership and collaboration amongst research and Extension and the National League of Cities.

NUREC uses RFEI’s to assess interest and gather information to create projects, build project teams and/or craft responses to RFP’s. The RFEI allows us to explore the expertise that exists in NUREC member institutions around a given topic and find faculty/staff who are interested in working on current and future NUREC projects.

For this RFEI we are interested in potential partnerships across all academic disciplines. When considering how your expertise might connect to these topics, think about opportunities related to “wrap around” services such as program evaluation, economic impact analysis, technical assistance, customized training, curriculum development, etc. Following the National League of Cities’ programs, you will have the opportunity to add programs and projects you are working on that you feel might be of interest to cities – for deployment, for beta-testing, or research projects.

NUREC is a collaborative membership-based nationwide organization for land-grant universities that facilitates the co-creation and application of knowledge enabling metropolitan communities to improve the health and wellbeing of all residents, achieve equitable economic growth, and steward their natural environments – delivering on the land-grant mission for urban residents, communities and the organizations that support them.

The National League of Cities (NLC) is an organization comprised of city, town and village leaders that are focused on improving the quality of life for their current and future constituents. With nearly 100 years of dedication to the strength and advancement of local governments, NLC has gained the trust and support of more than 2,700 cities across the nation. NLC’s mission is to relentlessly advocate for, and protect the interests of, cities, towns and villages by influencing federal policy, strengthening local leadership and driving innovative solutions.

NLC’s organizational structure includes Regions (Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, South, and West); Member Councils including First-tier suburbs, Large cities, Council on Youth, Education, and Families; University Communities; and Constituency Groups.

Please share this RFEI with others who may be interested.

RFEI link:

Direct any questions to Brad Gaolach, Director of NUREC at or 425-405-1734.


ESP Conference Poster

WCMER Fellows Ramona Madhosingh-Hector and Alyssa Bowers presented this poster about the Urban Extension Toolkit at the 2023 Epsilon Sigma Phi annual conference in Billings, MT. During the session they described the needs assessment conducted in the first year of their fellowship and solicited feedback on the development of the toolkit. View the poster.

Learn more about their fellowship.

GROW – Urban Agriculture Conference

GROW - Urban Agriculture Conference

  • Are you interested in developing multidisciplinary urban agriculture research or education (REE) projects?
  • Are you interested in connecting with others interested in developing integrated REE proposals
  • Do you want broader impacts from your research, extension and/or education work around urban agriculture?
  • Do you want assistance with creating competitive urban ag and integrated REE funding proposals?

The inaugural Generating Research Opportunities Workshop (GROW) for Urban Agriculture, is a virtual three-part conference for researchers, extension professional, educators and stakeholders designed to build interdisciplinary teams and support their efforts to secure funding for research, extension and education (REE) that supports and expands urban agriculture.

There is no cost for this conference, but registration is required. This conference is funded by a USDA National Institute of Agriculture grant. It is being organized by Michigan State University National Charrette Institute, the Tool Box Dialog Initiative; Washington State University Metropolitan Center for Research and Extension and the Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach; and the National Urban Research and Extension Center housed at Washington State University.

Learn more  >>

We Want to Hear from You!

WCMER Deep Dive Fellows from the University of Florida are collecting data to inform the development of an Urban Extension Toolkit focusing on the skillsets and competencies of Extension professionals. Two surveys (one for Extension professionals and one for Extension administrators) will investigate the essential skills that Extension professionals need to effectively work across the urban-rural continuum and identify the obstacles they encounter in this process. The surveys are being distributed to Extension professionals and administrators within the land grant university system.

We would appreciate your assistance by:
1) taking one of the surveys and
2) distributing the surveys to other Extension professionals within your university or professional association.

Each survey should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

The surveys will close on September 30, 2023.

Select one of the survey links:

Survey for Extension Professionals

Take this survey if you are an Extension Professional (i.e., Extension faculty, Extension agent, Extension educator)

Survey for Extension Administrators

Take this survey if you are an Extension Administrator (i.e., Dean, Director, Program Leader)

Contact Deep Dive Fellows Ramona Madhosingh-Hector or Alyssa Bowers if you have questions about the surveys.

Patricia Townsend, Ph.D.

Past Fellow

Patricia TownsendPatricia Townsend
Research Fellow
Washington State University
Phone: (425) 357-6020

Patricia Townsend is a Regional Extension Specialist for Washington State University (WSU) Extension. In this position, Patricia works with stakeholders throughout the Pacific Northwest on issues related to renewable energy, ecosystem services, and green infrastructure. She recently joined WSU’s Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension. Patricia also leads outreach for Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest, which includes energy literacy, stakeholder research, and connecting poplar growers with market opportunities. In her dissertation research, she worked closely with landowners and local conservation practitioners to find realistic solutions to land degradation and planning for climate change in Costa Rica.  Currently, she is happy to be doing research and outreach on poplar trees and green infrastructure to build sustainable systems in the Pacific Northwest. Patricia received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington and a M.S. from the University of Florida.

Patricia's Work

Fulfilling the Land Grant University Mission at State Agricultural Experiment Stations in Urban Interfaces of the West  

The authors are seeking support to dive deeply into the experience of experimental agricultural stations and to develop recommendations for stations to adapt to continued urbanization, understand the current needs of our agricultural stakeholders, as well as the tribes whose land we are on, and understand how the Land Grant mission can continue (or adapt) in the peri-urban west. 

Julie Jesmer

Julie Jesmer
Washington State University
Research Fellow, Graduate Student
Email: Click here

Julie Jesmer is a graduate student in the Master of Agriculture program at Washington State University. She has a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is exploring the intersections between agriculture and social work. Her earlier work in Western Kenya introduced her to the complexity of food security and she has developed a passion for integrating food justice into her work in agriculture. She focuses on community based education and development working through organizational collaborations and university extension programs. Her goal is to assist communities and organizations to increase everyone’s access to healthy food while incorporating a lens of food justice.   

Julie's Work

ranch in new mexico with blue sky and sparse clouds

Revitalization, Realignment, and Reemergence: A project proposal for the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute Farm Program

Utilizing concepts from horticultural therapy, community-based social work, and vocational training and rehabilitation, this proposal will produce several deliverables designed to transform the farm and the treatment paradigm of the programs at NMBHI.

Sabrina Drill, Ph.D

white woman smiling outdoors with glasses on her headSabrina Drill, Ph.D
Washington State University
Research Fellow
Email: Click here

Sabrina Drill most recently worked as the Natural Resources Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and former Director of California Naturalist. Her areas of research and extension include urban ecology, restoration of urban streams, climate change resilience, terrestrial and aquatic invasive species, fire ecology and recovery, and public participation in science. Throughout her extension career she has worked to build capacity for community-based resource management, and to substantively engage under-represented communities in stewardship of their local watersheds and ecosystems. Dr. Drill has conducted research in Southern California, the Colorado River, the Hudson River, and the East African Great Lakes. She is a former Fulbright fellow, and has worked for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Harvard University, and the Council for Watershed Health. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography and a M.S. in Biology from UCLA, a B.S. in Biology from Virginia Tech, and an A.A. in Natural Science from Simon’s Rock of Bard College.

Sabrina's Fellowship Work

Project Page: Leveraging the Extension Network to Build Urban Resilience to Extremes

The goal of this project is to develop a framework to increase national capacity to increase resilience in cities by leveraging the Cooperative Extension (CE) network. With the increasing recognition from groups like the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) that supporting sustainable urban communities, addressing climate change, and increasing resilience to disasters, Extension is primed to play a critical role in the future of cities.

Jordan Jobe, MEM

white woman in denim shirt smiling and pointing to a home grown tomatoJordan Jobe, MEM
Washington State University
Research Fellow
Email: Click here

Jordan manages and supports interdisciplinary agriculture, water, and natural resource management projects and communication efforts for the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Water Research Center. She is also the Project Manager for the AgAID Institute. Jordan has a broad background, starting with coral reef restoration work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Samoa, and coral reef conservation for The Nature Conservancy. She managed projects related to  agriculture and floodplains at PCC Farmland Trust before joining WSU in 2018. Jordan has a Masters in Environmental Management from Yale University, and a B.S. in Zoology and Fisheries from the University of Washington. Outside of work, Jordan enjoys running, knitting, gardening, and inventing new hot sauce recipes. 

Jordan will be working in partnership with Todd Murray (WSU).

Jordan's Fellowship Work

Project Page: Fulfilling the Land Grant University Mission at State Agricultural Experiment Stations in Urban Interfaces of the West

The authors are seeking support to dive deeply into the experience of experimental agricultural stations and to develop recommendations for stations to adapt to continued urbanization, understand the current needs of our agricultural stakeholders, as well as the tribes whose land we are on, and understand how the Land Grant mission can continue (or adapt) in the peri-urban west.

Alyssa Bowers, MS

white woman with red hair and red lipstick smilingAlyssa Bowers, MS
Research Fellow
University of Florida (currently at Washington State University)
Email: Click here

Alyssa Bowers began her WCMER fellowship while working for University of Florida IFAS Extension as the 4-H Youth Development Agent in Pinellas County. She is now an Assistant Professor of 4-H Youth Development with Washington State University and the King County Extension Director (which includes the City of Seattle). Alyssa has an MS in Agricultural Education and Communications and a BS in Animal Science, both from the University of Florida, as well as a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Tampa. 

She developed her expertise in urban Extension programs while being based in the most densely populated counties of both Florida and Washington. Her focus areas include curriculum development, volunteer management and innovative urban programming – all through an equity lens. Throughout her career she has connected new, urban audiences with Extension by understanding and meeting their needs. She has created successful urban programs such as an intergenerational community garden, a veterinary science curriculum, and youth deliberative dialogue events. When not working, Alyssa loves to spend time in nature, traveling and riding horses.

Alyssa is working in partnership with Ramona Madhosingh-Hector (UF)

Alyssa's Work

laptop with glasses and notepad

Urban Extension Toolkit

With the development of an Urban Extension Toolkit, all Extension professionals in metropolitan areas and across LGUs would have access to a ready-to-use training and support system with an equity lens.

ESP Conference Poster

WCMER Fellows Ramona Madhosingh-Hector and Alyssa Bowers presented a poster at the 2023 Epsilon Sigma Phi annual conference in Billings, MT.