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Selena Ahmed, PhD

Selena Ahmed

Assistant Professor

Sustainable Food & Bioenergy Systems

345 Reid Hall
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717-3370

My research, teaching, and outreach interests are at the intersection of the ecological, cultural, and health aspects of food systems with a focus on food security and food environments in health disparate communities. For the past 13 years, I have carried out transdisciplinary food systems research in a range of ecological and cultural contexts in China, India, Morocco, Venezuela, Belize, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. Since joining the faculty of Montana State University in Fall 2013, I jointly initiated The Food and Health Lab in collaboration with Dr. Carmen Byker Shanks with the objective to carry out and provide training on basic, behavioral, and applied research to explore agricultural-nutrition-health linkages. As the Principle Investigator of the Agroecology and Phytochemistry Group of the Food and Health Lab, I am particularly interested in identifying the socio-ecological determinants of environmental and human wellbeing in the food system. This work involves quantifying the influence of environmental factors and agricultural practices on ecosystem services, food quality, food access, and diets in the context of global change. The ultimate translational goal of this work is to develop evidence-based plans to promote biodiversity in agricultural systems and mitigate risk of food insecurity and diet-related chronic disease towards promoting sustainability of food systems.

The analytical methods that I utilize draw from training in chemical ecology and clinical nutrition (NIH TEACRS postdoctoral research at Tufts University); biology, plant sciences, and phytochemistry (PhD at the City University of New York and the New York Botanical Garden); and cultural anthropology and ethnobotany (MSc from the University of Kent at Canterbury) Specifically, the methods I use include: phytochemical profiling of bioactive food components (using High Performance Liquid Chromatography); bioactivity analysis (reagent, cell, and animal based assays); quantification of disease biomarkers in human serum (oxidative stress and inflammation); genetic analysis (molecular markers); biodiversity inventories; botanical identification; structured surveys, interviews and focus groups; observational food environment surveys; sensory analyses of foods and botanicals; and dietary assessments.

I am currently focused on research activities for five federally funded projects that support my research areas as part of the Food and Health Lab including the following:

  1. Climate Effects on Tea Quality and Socio-Economic Responses (NSF CNH)
  2. Sustainable Socio-economic, Ecological, and Technological Scenarios for Achieving Global Climate Stabilization Through Negative CO2 Emission Policies (NSF EPSCoR)
  3. Enhancing Dietary Quality through a Community-Based Food Intervention for FDPIR Participants on the Flathead Reservation (NIH INBRE)
  4. Extension and Outreach Supporting Climate-Resilient Sustainable Agriculture in Montana (USDA Western SARE)
  5. Climate Effects on the Culture and Ecology of Sugar Maple (USGS NE Climate Center)

To learn more about my collaborative projects, please visit the websites below:

  1. MSU Food and Health Lab at www.montana.edu/foodandhealthlab/
  2. NSF CNH Tea and Climate Project: www.teaclimate.org
  3. USGS Maple and Climate Project: www.blogs.umass.edu/acernet
  4. NSF EPSCoR on Water Agriculture Food Energy Research (coming soon)
  5. Here is a recent interview in the journal Elementa about my work: https://home.elementascience.org/spotlight/elementa-author-selena-ahmed-explains-the-relevance-of-her-research-on-tea-in-the-context-of-agroecology/
  1. Ahmed, S.; Stepp, J.R. 2016. Beyond Yields: Climate Effects on Specialty Crop Quality and Agroecological Management. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene (Forum on New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems). 4: 000092
  2. Herforth, A.; Ahmed, S. 2015. The Food Environment, Its Effects on Dietary Consumption, and Potential for Measurement Within Agriculture-Nutrition Interventions. Food Security 7(3): 505-520
  3. Byker Shanks, C.; Ahmed, S.; Smith, T.; Houghtaling, B.; Jenkins, M.; Margetts, M.; Schultz, D.; Stephen, L. 2015. Quality of Fruits and Vegetables using the Nutrition Environment Measurement Survey (NEMS) is Lower in More Rural Counties of Montana. Preventing Chronic Disease 12:150158
  4. Ahmed, S; Stepp, JR; Orians, C.; Griffin, T; Matyas, C.; Robbat, A.; Cash, S.; Xue, D; Chunlin, L; Unachuckwu, U.; Buckley, S; Small, D; Kennelly, E. 2014. Effects of Extreme Climate Events on Tea (Camellia sinensis) Functional Quality Validate Indigenous Farmer Knowledge and Sensory Preferences in Tropical China. PLoS One 9(10): e109126
  5. Stoeckle, M.; Gamble, C.; Kirpekar, R.; Young, G.; Ahmed, S.; Little, D. 2011. Commercial Teas Highlight Plant DNA Barcode Identification Successes and Obstacles. Scientific Reports. 1 (42)