Agroecology; Diversified Farming Systems; Multi-functional Agriculture; Political Economy of Agricultural Development
My research explores the tradeoffs and synergies between biodiversity and agricultural production. I am interested in multi-disciplinary and applied approaches for studying the influence of biodiversity in and around farming systems on the provisioning of important ecosystem services to and from agriculture, including natural pest regulation, crop pollination, biodiversity conservation, reduced global warming potential, nutrient leaching, productivity, water filtration and soil quality conservation.
My dissertation research examines the effect of planting multiple flowering cover crop species on the regulation of key insect pests in California wine grapes: western grape leafhoppers and vine mealy bug. To understand the most important ecological factors influencing arthropod population dynamics, my research tests multiple theories of conservation biological control. With multiple field and laboratory experiments, the study quantifies population-level impacts on both pests and natural enemies and analyzes the biological mechanisms (e.g. improved longevity, fecundity, and rates of parasitism by beneficial insects) theorized to be enhanced through the addition of floral resources. Through collaboration with UC Berkeley researchers my research quantifies the influence of landscape complexity - the area and composition of non-crop habitats surrounding vineyards - on biological control.
Summary of proposed research 2012-2014The intensification and expansion of California agriculture has created vast crop monocultures and has resulted in the aggregate simplification of landscapes influenced by agricultural land use. Increased reliance on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides along with the fragmentation of natural habitats at the local and regional scale has had significant negative impact to environmental quality, biodiversity and the provisioning of key ecosystem services (e.g. biological control and pollination services) to and from agriculture. With increasing regulatory pressure and growing consumer demand for fair trade and organically grown foods, specialty crop producers throughout California have expressed a strong interest in adopting more diversified and ecologically based soil fertility, pest management and pollination strategies. Despite growing interest, few scientific studies have evaluated the potential for on- and off-farm habitat management strategies to provision multiple ecosystem services to California specialty crops. To fill this important knowledge gap, the proposed research will evaluate the impact of floral resource provisioning - the agronomic use of flowering cover crops - and landscape heterogeneity - the quality and quantity of non-crop habitat surrounding crop fields - on biological control, pollination services, biodiversity and soil quality in California wine grape and almond systems. Findings of this research will contribute to new scientific understanding of the functioning of biological diversity in agricultural ecosystems while developing practical management tools for enhancing key ecosystem services to California’s most valuable specialty crops.
Other research interests include: structural obstacles to the advancement of ecological sustainability and social justice in the food system; political economy of international aid and agricultural development policy; environmental ethics; conceptions of 'sustainable agriculture'; learning theory and post-secondary agroecology education; urban agriculture; ecological horticulture.
Kremen, Claire and Miles, Albie. 2011. Ecosystem Services and Diversified Farming Systems: analysis of costs, benefits and tradeoffs for food production, resilience and biodiversity (submitted for a special issue of Ecology and Society).
Articles in Preparation
Miles, Albie, Wilson, Houston, Danne, Kent and Altieri, Miguel. Measuring the Impact of Floral Resource Provisioning on the Longevity, Fecundity and Parasitism of a Key Wine Grape Pest (Planococcus mealy bugs) by the Natural Enemy (Anagyrus pseudococci) Under Laboratory Conditions (in preparation).
Miles, Albie, Wilson, Houston, Danne, Kent and Altieri, Miguel. Measuring the Impact of Floral Resource Provisioning on Population Densities of Key Pests and Beneficial Insects in San Joaquin and Fresno County Vineyards (in preparation).
Miles, Albie, Wilson, Houston, Danne, Kent and Altieri, Miguel. Measuring the Impact of Methyl Salicylate Lures (‘PredaLure’) on Population Densities of Erythroneura leafhoppers, Anagrus spp. and Generalist Predators in Napa Valley Wine Grapes (in preparation).
Miles, Albie, Wilson, Houston and Altieri, Miguel, Nicholls, Clara. 2011. Habitat Diversity at the Field and Landscape Level: A Review of Conservation Biological Control Research in California Viticulture. In Arthropod Management in Vineyards. N.J. Bostanian, R. Isaacs and C. Vincent (eds.). Springer (accepted).
Altieri, M.A., C.I. Nicholls, H. Wilson and A. Miles. 2011. Habitat management in vineyards: a growers manual for enhancing natural enemies of pests. Laboratory of Agroecology, University of California, Berkeley.
Training Materials/Post-secondary Curricula
Miles, Albie and Brown, Martha (eds.). 2005. Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability: Resources for Instructors. Santa Cruz, CA: Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.
Miles, Albie and Brown, Martha (eds.). 2003. Teaching Organic Farming and Gardening: Resources for Instructors. Santa Cruz, CA: Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.
Reports and Working Papers
Scialabba, Nadia El-Hage and D. Williamson. 2004. The Scope of Organic Agriculture, Sustainable Forest Management and Eco-forestry in Protected Area Management. Environment and Natural Resources Working Paper No. 18. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Rome, Italy.
Honors and Awards
- Robert van den Bosch Memorial Scholarship: Graduate Student Research in Biological Control - College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley - 2010
- Robert van den Bosch Memorial Scholarship: Graduate Student Research in Biological Control - College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley - 2009
- Johannes Joos Memorial Scholarship: Graduate Student Research in Entomology and Pest Management - Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley - 2009
- Bears Breaking Boundaries – Curriculum Innovation Award for proposed undergraduate minor in ‘Food Systems and Sustainability’ at UC Berkeley - University of California, Berkeley - 2008
ESPM 117 - Urban Agriculture and Food Justice (formerly Urban Garden Ecosystems)
ESPM 165 - International Rural Development Policy