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Photo of Mary Buford Turnage

Mary Buford Turnage

School: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Department: Infectious Disease and Global Health

Research Interests: Conservation and Ecology, Food Systems, Climate Change, Public Health, Wildlife Biology, Zoonotic Disease

TIE Affiliation

Environmental Research Fellowship


Desertification, where dryland soils degrade into desert and no longer support agricultural production, is an immediate environmental threat with the potential to cause mass starvation within this century. The purpose of this study is to perform a risk assessment for the U.S. to identify areas most vulnerable to farmland desertification. Additional objectives are to explore whether livestock feedlots overlap with high risk areas, and to identify communities that may experience food insecurity earliest from agricultural soil degradation. While expected areas of especially high risk include the historic “Dust Bowl” region and California, it is expected that all industrial crop land to be at relatively high risk from unsustainable farming techniques. Healthy biodiverse soil also performs bio-sequestration, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Ultimately, combatting desertification and supporting soil health will reduce carbon emissions, lessen the environmental burden of the agricultural industry, and foster a more sustainable way to feed the growing population.


Mary Buford is a Masters candidate at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. She expects to complete her studies in September 2021. After graduating from Bates College in 2019, Mary Buford traveled south to Florida and spent the summer interning with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in their manatee program. She worked on manatee research and rescue projects, primarily determining cause of death via necropsies and taking photos for identification. Mary Buford then spent the next winter working as a dorm counselor for seventh and eighth grade girls at the Winter Term, a semester-long boarding school in Lenk, Switzerland. Prior to the pandemic, she had planned to move to Indonesia in the spring of 2020 to be a research assistant for a long term wild orangutan study in Borneo. Because that was canceled she was able to start Tufts this year, and she continued to work remotely for the orangutan project for most of this school year on remote data input and image processing analysis. For extracurriculars, she has enjoyed the Outing Club at Bates, playing Ice Hockey, and volunteering with the student EMS service.

Current Studies and Future Goals

When asked what she found most meaningful about her field of study, Mary Buford responded with the following: “Overall I find conservation medicine to be very a meaningful discipline. I know that conservation and climate change issues can seem overwhelming, but to me the wholistic “One Health” approach takes a pragmatic approach that makes solutions seem more realistic. I like the methodology of breaking down that very large problem into many smaller ones with concrete solutions. While my strengths are in biology and environmental science, I find the interdisciplinary nature of conservation medicine meaningful because I know that the most applicable solutions will involve multiple perspectives and areas of expertise.”

When asked what interested her in becoming a TIE Fellow, Mary Buford responded with the following: “In my career, I'd like to facilitate creative and interdisciplinary collaboration towards major environmental solutions that incorporate these One Health ideas. I was interested in the TIE fellowship program for the unique opportunity to build connections within a network of interdisciplinary, and similarly driven conservationists."

After Tufts, Mary Buford plans to continue to work on One Health related fields and to travel and meet new people.

Fun Facts!

Outside of school work, Mary Buford can be found going on road trips, enjoying the outdoors, and visiting new restaurants.

Favorite food/drink: Annie's Mac and Cheese, Iced Coffee

Favorite movie/TV show: Chasing Coral, How I Met Your Mother

Favorite place you've visited: Ecuador