Annual Conference

17th Annual 2023 Conference

The Microbiome & Pesticides

Threats and Solutions for Healthy Soil, Healthy People & Climate Stabilization

Pesticides, which cause environmental degradation in the Chesapeake Watershed,
also interfere with critical biological functions necessary to optimally sequester carbon
in soil, grow healthier crops, and maintain a healthy microbiome in our bodies. Virtual sessions held December 1 and 14, 2023.

Special Update on PFAS in Pesticides

Learn from leading experts about these critical emerging areas.

Access conference 2-1/4 hour session videos:
Session 1 and Session 2

Individual video and PPT presentations are linked below.


Keynote: Elaine Ingham, PhD with Dr. Adam Cobb

Healthy Plants Require Healthy Soil Food Webs: Beneficial Microbes and Toxins in the Soil

Founder and Director, Soil Food Web School

See Dr. Elaine Ingham’s video presentation | Powerpoint presentation

The “Green Revolution” made farming easier for a short period of time, until the use of toxic chemicals to reduce disease and pest problems killed most of the natural, beneficial organisms that prevent diseases and pests from being able to grow or even reproduce. Farmers believe that each year, new and ever more toxic chemicals have to be found, in order to prevent loss of crops.

The fact is, however, that nature had things well in hand. We need to learn what those interactions are and how to return the hundreds to thousands of species of beneficial organisms back into our agricultural systems. Learn how to use beneficial organisms to allow you to reduce the amount, and thus cost, of the toxic chemicals. Learn how beneficial organisms cycle nutrients from plant unavailable to plant-available and hold those nutrients in the soil so that irrigation costs are reduced to practically nothing in a normal year, and water is held in your soil so nutrients are not allowed to wash downstream, killing the beneficial organisms in the soil as well as in aquatic systems.

Dr. Elaine Ingham is the founder and director of the Soil Food Web School. She uncovered the Soil Food Web nearly 4 decades ago and has been pioneering research about Soil Food Web ever since. Widely recognized as the world’s foremost soil biologist, she’s passionate about empowering people to bring the soils in their communities back to life. Dr. Elaine’s Soil Food Web Approach has been used to successfully restore the ecological functions of soils on more than five million acres of farmland all over the world. She holds a B.A., in Biology and Chemistry, St. Olaf College; M.S. in Microbiology, Texas A&M University; a Ph.D.,in Microbiology, Colorado State University and is Founder/President of Soil Food Web Inc. and Director of the Soil Food Web School.

Successfully Regenerating Soil in the Chesapeake Watershed

Ohryn Valcourt, PhD

Managing Partner, Mid-Atlantic Microbials

See Ohryn Valecourt’s video presentation | Powerpoint presentation

Ohryn Valecourt will share local successes in accelerating restoration of healthy natural soil systems, using microbiology to rebuild the soil microbiome and regenerate diverse ecosystems in a sustainable way.

Ohryn Valecourt, Ph.D. has been serving as the managing partner and operations manager of Mid-Atlantic Microbials since 2018. Collaborating closely with his wife, Juhl Valecourt, their shared passion lies in advancing the understanding of the intricate science behind soil microbiomes and utilizing this knowledge to accelerate the process of soil restoration.

Genetically Engineered Soil Microbes: Risk and Concerns

Kendra Klein, PhD

Deputy Director of Science, Friends of the Earth

See Dr. Kendra Klein’s video presentation | Powerpoint presentation

Biotech companies are developing genetically engineered microbes for use in agriculture, including the largest agrichemical corporations — Bayer, Syngenta, and BASF. The first of these products are already being used across millions of acres of U.S. farmland. Klein will provide insight into future trends, a summary of potential health, socioeconomic and environmental risks, and policy recommendations for robust governance.

Kendra Klein, PhD is Deputy Director for Science at Friends of the Earth where she leads work on food and farming solutions. She is a writer, researcher, and advocate in environmental sustainability, food, agriculture, and environmental health. She holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Miami University of Ohio and a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy & Management from UC Berkeley.

Research & Data Gaps Working Group Panel:

Communicating Recent Pesticide Research Findings to Inform Stakeholders

The panel will discuss findings from its upcoming report on recent pesticide research that impacts the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, as well as data gaps and suggested actions for stakeholders in the region.

See the Project Research Working Group Panel’s video presentation | Powerpoint presentation

Vicki Blazer, PhD

Research Fishery Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey

Ian Hartwell, PhD

Exotoxicologist, NOAA (retired)

Greg Allen, PhD

Sr. Environmental Scientist, Chesapeake Bay Program

Microbiome as a Mediator and Target for Pesticide-related Human Health Effects

Kathyrn Dalton, PhD, VMD, MPH

IRTA Postdoctoral Fellow, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

See Dr. Kathryn Dalton’s video presentation | Powerpoint presentation

Pesticides have long been known to cause a variety of adverse health effects in agricultural workers and the greater community. A likely pathway contributing to these health effects is through changes in the microorganisms in our bodies and those that surround us, termed the microbiome. The microbiome is in charge of many important functions in our body, such as in our immune, digestive, and nervous systems, and changes in the microbes can cause problems in these critical systems. Chemicals, including pesticides, have been shown to alter our microbiome and lead to health effects. Conversely, our microbes can change how our body interacts and metabolizes these pesticides, and potentially minimize their toxic effects. This talk will present details on the relationship between pesticides, the microbiome, and health, and discuss needed future directions to protect public health.

Dr. Kathryn Dalton is an epidemiologist, environmental microbiologist, and veterinarian who studies environmental factors that impact health through the role of the microbiome. Her research seeks to promote One Health, the shared health of humans, animals, and the environment. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at NIH.

Special Update on PFAS in Pesticides:

Pesticides as a Growing Source of PFAS Contamination in the Environment

Nathan Donley, PhD

Environmental Health Science Director, Center for Biological Diversity

See Dr. Nathan Donley’s video presentation | Powerpoint presentation

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), often called forever chemicals, are a class of chemicals with increasing persistence, health hazard, and environmental impact concerns. In this talk I will discuss different ways that PFAS can be introduced into pesticide products, the extent of PFAS contamination of pesticide products, and the implications this can have for human and environmental health.

Dr. Nathan Donley works with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Environmental Health program on issues surrounding the increasing exposure of both people and wildlife to toxins. Before joining the Center, he worked as a scientific researcher in the Oregon Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology, studying the links between exposure to environmental toxicants and cancer. He holds a doctoral degree in cell and developmental biology from Oregon Health and Sciences University.

Update on the Chesapeake Bay Program

Greg Allen, PhD

Sr. Environmental Scientist, Chesapeake Bay Program, and
Conference Moderator