Soil Microbiologist, KRIS Systems Education & Consultation
Dr. Kris Nichols is a leader in the movement to regenerate soils for healthy crops, food, people and a planet. She is the founder and principal scientist of KRIS (Knowledge for Regeneration and Innovation in Soils) Systems Education & Consultation and a sub-contractor with Soil Health Consulting, Inc. Her current focus is to address current and future agricultural needs by building upon a soil health foundation to identify biological methods for agricultural production and tools and practices to reduce pest issues, soil erosion, fossil fuel use, and greenhouse gas emissions. These systems are resilient and adapt to climatic uncertainty by increasing nutrient and water use efficiencies; improving pollinator activity and food security; and providing long-term solutions to agricultural economic viability, food insecurity, and the loss of ecosystem services. Kris continues to develop and evolve methodology and tools farmers, home-owners, and students may use to examine and appreciate their soil. Her work on carbon movement from plant to microbes and nutrient and water cycling have led her to also expand her research into exploring the similarities between the soil and gut micro-biomes to improve soil and animal including human health. Throughout her career, Kris has given over 250 invited presentations to a wide variety of audiences, authored or co-authored more than 25 peer-reviewed publications, been cited or interviewed for more than 50 magazine or newspaper articles, highlighted in five books, and has numerous videos on-line.
Dr. Nichols was the Chief Scientist at Rodale Institute for over three years where she oversaw approximately fifteen projects on organic agriculture, including the Farming Systems Trial®, a side-by-side comparison of conventional chemical grain production to organic, biologically based production, and the initiation of the Vegetable Systems Trial. She was also instrumental in obtaining funding for these projects including recently being primarily responsible for the receipt of a ~$6 million, six-year project to explore the impacts of agricultural management practices on water quality in the Delaware River Watershed. Prior to joining Rodale Institute, Nichols was a Research (Soil) Microbiologist with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in North Dakota for 11 years and a Biological Laboratory Technician with ARS in Beltsville, MD for 3 years. During her time with USDA, she focused on mycorrhizal fungi and the investigation of glomalin – a substance produced by AM (arbuscular mycorrhizal) fungi. Glomalin contributes to nutrient cycling by protecting AM hyphae transporting nutrients from the soil to the plant and to soil structure and plant health by helping to form and stabilize soil aggregates. Kris received Bachelor of Science degrees in Plant Biology and in Genetics and Cell Biology from the University of Minnesota in 1995, a Master’s degree in Environmental Microbiology from West Virginia University in 1999, and a Ph.D. in Soil Science from the University of Maryland in 2003. In recognition of her work, Dr. Nichols has received several awards including the 2012 Conservation Research Award from the International Soil and Water Conservation Society.