Mike Graham


Mike is a Ph.D. student in the Geospatial and Environmental Analysis program and has worked in Dr. Megan O’Rourke’s lab since 2015. Mike is broadly interested sustainable agriculture and how management of agricultural land affects climate change. Specifically, Mike’s research focuses on monitoring and evaluating the effects of alternative soil tillage and crop residue management practices, such as no-till, on global climate. Mike uses several tools, including remote sensing imagery from satellites, such as Landsat and Sentinel-2, along with global climate models, to monitor and examine the effects of different tillage practices.

Mike is originally from just outside Boston, Massachusetts, where he earned his B.S. in Environmental Geology with a Biology minor from Northeastern University in 2008. Mike has always been interested in geography and Earth sciences, but didn’t become interested in agriculture until he took classes in soil science and African studies in college. Subsequently, he became interested in smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular interest in sustainable agricultural practices.


To pursue his interests, Mike enrolled at Iowa State University, where he obtained his M.S. in Sustainable Agriculture in 2010. While at Iowa State, Mike had his first experiences with agriculture in Iowa and Uganda. For his research, Mike travelled to Uganda, where he assessed the effects of sustainable agriculture practices related to soil carbon on crop yields and nutritional content for smallholder farmers in the area.

His current research examines novel methods for monitoring broad-scale patterns of alternative soil tillage practices in the U.S. Corn Belt based on imagery from satellite remote sensing. He is also working to incorporate different tillage practices into global climate models to investigate the climatic effects of tillage practices on soil carbon, as well as other biophysical aspects related to climate, such as soil albedo and evapotranspiration.

Mike hopes that involvement in the IGC program will allow him to improve his science communication skills and gain familiarity with policies related to agriculture and climate change. In his free time, Mike enjoys running, meditation, staring at maps, and devouring books about different places, people, and cultures.