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New Professor Profile: Kyle Davis

Could you give some background information about yourself?

I did my undergrad at UD and got a B.S. in biochemistry. While I was here, I realized that I enjoyed research but also wanted opportunities to be in nature and do research in a variety of places. That’s where I started to get interested in environmental science and sustainable development topics. Davis, K Headshot

After that, I took one year and did an internship at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria where they were establishing a Center for Sustainable Development. I came back for graduate school to do my Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and that’s where I started to get more focused on environmental science and questions related to agriculture, food security and natural resource use – topics that have been my main focus since then.

I then did three years of postdoctoral work at the Earth Institute and Data Science Institute at Columbia University. And now I’m back at UD. So it’s come full circle.

What will you be researching at UD?

My main focus is on sustainable food systems and identifying ways to make food production more nutritious, more environmentally friendly, and better adapted to climate change.

You have a joint appointment between CEOE and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources?

Yes, my primary appointment is in Geography and Spatial Sciences and my secondary appointment is in Plant and Soil Sciences.

When did you first get interested in food systems and agriculture?

I guess it started in Nigeria where I was first exposed to the concepts and challenges of sustainable development within a developing country. But then, when I started my Ph.D., my advisor was working on the topic of virtual water. That’s where I started to get interested in questions of food security and natural resource use, and my interests have mushroomed from there.

What is virtual water?

Virtual water basically combines the topics of food production and food trade. You look at the amount of water required to produce a crop in a particular place, and then you trace that item through international trade networks and can associate the volume of water required to produce that food item with the end consumer of that item. Instead of physically importing water and producing their own food, countries will utilize the water resources of another nation and import the embodied water in the form of food. Especially for places that have relatively scarce water resources, it’s a way for them to be able to support their food demands without producing the food themselves.

What are your impressions of the University?

I’ve got a lot of Blue Hen pride. It’s very different from when I was an undergrad, but one thing that I’m really excited about is all of the interest in encouraging interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary work, which is basically at the core of my research. There also appears to be an emphasis on international collaboration and thinking globally. This is especially exciting given all of the research that I have in Nigeria, China, and India.

Why did you choose to come back to UD?

It was a chance to come back to my favorite university, so the decision was a no-brainer. I was hired through UD’s Data Science Institute cluster hire, and given my broad research interests, the opportunity to be part of such an interdisciplinary endeavor was really exciting for me.

In addition to my research on sustainable food systems, I am also interested in global environmental change and how it influences human migration, the effects of foreign land investments on the environment and local communities in targeted countries, and the ways that resources and disruptions travel through international food trade networks.

Do you have any interesting hobbies or anything you like to do for fun outside of work?

I’m an avid soccer fan. I played for UD and after I graduated, my friends and I went to the World Cup in South Africa. I also went to the World Cup in Brazil. I’m a lifelong soccer fan and I still play.

Any favorite teams?


Any other interests?

My wife and I love to travel, hike, and camp. My research allows me to travel, but even when I’m not working, we like to travel just the same. We recently just went on our honeymoon and did a big road trip through Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. It was a trip of a lifetime.

To learn more about Kyle Davis, visit his faculty profile page.


CEOE School & Departments

School of Marine Science & Policy

Advancing the understanding, stewardship, and conservation of estuarine, coastal, and ocean environments.

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Department of Earth Sciences

Discovering how geological processes have operated over various time scales to create and influence the planet’s surface environments.

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Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences

Providing a unique spatial perspective that seeks to explain patterns of differences and commonality across the human and natural environment.

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College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment • 111 Robinson Hall • Newark, DE 19716 • USA • Phone: 302-831-8062
Geography and Spatial Sciences: 302-831-2294 • Earth Sciences: 302-831-2569 • Marine Science and Policy: 302-645-4212 • E-mail: ceoe-info@udel.edu

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