Dr. V. Ernesto Méndez

Faculty Director, Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), Professor of Agroecology & Environmental Studies in Department of Plant and Soil Science and the Environmental Program, UVM

Ernesto MendezDr. Méndez’s research and teaching efforts focus on developing and applying transdisciplinary approaches that analyze interactions between agriculture, livelihoods, and biodiversity conservation in tropical and temperate rural landscapes.  Grounded in agroecology, most of his work also utilizes a Participatory Action Research Approach (PAR), in an effort to directly support conservation and rural development.

Ernesto’s other areas of interest are Food Security and Sovereignty, Rural Livelihoods, Agrifood Systems, Political Ecology, Participatory Action Research (PAR), and Environmental Conservation in Agricultural Landscapes.

Martha Caswell, M.P.P.

Co-director, Agroecology & Livelihoods Collaborative

Martha is the co-director of the Agroecology & Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), which is housed in UVM’s Department of Plant and Soil Science. Her early career focused on issues related to urban poverty. Now, most of Martha’s work is with smallholder farmers, using agroecological principles to address livelihood, sustainability and production challenges. She has experience in both international and domestic community development, multi-sector collaborations with governmental agencies, academic institutions, corporate entities, non-governmental organizations, farmer cooperatives, neighborhood associations and community stakeholders. Martha has moved between working on the ground in communities and looking at the issues from the policy level. Participatory Action Research (PAR) allows her to combine a commitment to grassroots work and applied research, which she believes can lead to learning and opportunities for change at multiple levels.

Martha holds a BA in American Culture from the University of Michigan, a Masters in Public Policy, with a focus on Poverty and Inequality from the University of Chicago, and a Certificate of Graduate Study in Ecological Economics from UVM.


Vic Izzo, Ph.D.

Educational Coordinator and Lecturer

Victor-IzzoVic is an evolutionary ecologist, conservation biologist, entomologist and educator hailing from the Hudson Valley of New York. In addition to his participation in the BTL program, Vic also teaches at several other universities in the Green Mountain State (e.g. UVM, Johnson State and Champlain College) and works with numerous farmers in the region as a pest management researcher. As a lifetime educator, Vic has spent the majority of his career teaching ecology, evolution and conservation biology to a wide range of audiences and cultures.

Prior to arriving in Vermont, Vic served as a staff biologist and educator on several domestic and international Earthwatch conservation programs. As part of these programs he had the unique opportunity to witness the complex interaction of local communities and land use policies. These experiences led Vic to “move up the chain” from conservation ecology to agricultural systems. He believes that many of the current conservation and societal issues are intimately linked to the management of agricultural lands and the modern industrial production system.”By bringing a more ecological perspective to the existing concept of agriculture, we can create a more integrated and sustainable system of food production while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of our wild lands.”

Colin Anderson

Researcher in the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative

Colin Anderson is a researcher in the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative. His transdisciplinary and Participatory Action Research focuses on people-led processes of transformation for resilience, social justice and well-being. Colin works with communities, networks and organizations in social movements who are confronting intersecting crises and who are reimaging and building alternatives. He is committed to engaged and participatory research, learning and action in his methodology and pedagogy. This is anchored by a knowledge mobilization approach, which involves a political and social process of co-producing and deploying knowledge in processes of social transformation. He has worked in several contexts (UK, Europe, Canada, US, India, Africa and at the international level) focusing on agroecology transformations, territorial food systems, food sovereignty, the politics of knowledge, sustainability transformations, political ecology and related issues. Colin centers several key principle of critical pedagogy in his teaching: horizontality, collective critical thinking, anti-oppression, iteration in the design of the course itself and an ethic of care. In his courses, Colin invites students to co-construct a learning community that is challenging, relational, creative and fun.