Frédérique Apffel-Marglin was first a student of Indian classical dance (Orissi style) and did field research among the temple dancers of Jagannath Temple in Odisha in Eastern India in the mid-1970s. Her later field research was among agricultural communities in coastal Odisha. In 1994, she began collaborative work with nongovernmental organizations in Peru and Bolivia and taught in graduate courses that those organizations offered from 1994 to 2004
From 2004 to 2009 she collaborated with a local Fair Trade Coffee cooperative in the Peruvian High Amazon offering study abroad courses there.
In the summer of 2009, Apffel-Marglin founded the nonprofit organization www.asociacionsachamama.org, dedicated to the regeneration of both the local forest and of indigenous agriculture and culture in the Peruvian High Amazon while addressing the climate crisis by regenerating a type of Amazonian pre-Columbian anthropogenic soil that acts as a sink for greenhouse gases.
Apffel-Marglin is the author of five books, the editor or co-editor of an additional eight books and the author of more than 60 articles and book chapters.
She currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as in Lamas, San Martin, Peru where her nonprofit organization is located.