Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Laura Phillips

Post-Baccalaureate Researcher, Perennial Legumes

Laura Phillips, was born and raised in Perry, Kansas, although she transferred into Lawrence for school and basically grew up there. Laura spent so much time in the Southern Rocky Mountains that often calls that her home. She has a BA in Classical Languages and BS in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology and says, “I have my degree in classical languages, where I focused on evolutionary and biological perspectives of plant use in ancient Greek magic, specifically in the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM). I also earned a degree in ecology, evolution, and organismal biology where I worked in a microbiome and agricultural research lab, and focused on the effects that microbiomes have on drought tolerance in maize.” Before coming here, she was employed at Monarch Watch and did work on pollinator gardens and the importance of polyculture. She also worked in a lab focusing on how soil microbiomes alter plant defense and what impact monoculture and chemical use has on soil microbiomes.


What’s most inspiring about your specific position at TLI?
I am working on a project to determine the presence of the Roundup Ready gene in feral alfalfa populations and how the presence of this gene could alter pollinator patterns among the feral alfalfa communities.

What drew you to work at TLI?
I spent a summer doing forestry work in the southern Rocky Mountains where I was caught in a wildfire, then ended up doing forestry rehabilitation. I worked with state foresters and realized how humans have systematically changed fire ecology in the mountains. It was the first time saw first-hand that there is a difference between how we manage the land and how the land manages itself. I remember looking at the burn scar and thinking no one would ever again see these mountains the way I did for hundreds of years. I related those lessons back to my agricultural roots and became invested in sustainable agriculture. I want future generations to know the land that raised me, and I see the work at TLI as a way to preserve the farming communities that I grew up loving.

What else are you passionate about (outside of work)?
Backpacking, camping, and enjoying nature with people that I love.

If you were to write a book, what would it be about?
The role of olfaction in ancient Greek magic as a pathway for magic and a method of communication with the Gods or oneself.

What’s your motto / favorite quote?
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

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