Sustainability fellowships support student research

More than $87,000 awarded to 17 undergrad and graduate students for research projects

Anthropology graduate student Heather Swanson is using her sustainability fellowship to study farmed fishing and the impact it has on the fishing industry elsewhere such as these fishermen in Japan. (Photograph by Heather Swanson)

Seventeen UC Santa Cruz graduate and undergraduate students have received more than $87,000 in Sustainability Fellowship grants from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) to help fund research that includes water quality protection in Italy and the United States, environmental justice in California, salmon farming in Chile, and farming practices in Wisconsin.

Creating sustainability requires innovation tempered by experience," said CASFS Director Patricia Allen, explaining the principle behind the new fellowships. “By bringing students together with experienced leaders in their fields, we are able to support important research and education—across disciplines, across cultures, and across sectors of the food and agriculture system.”

The recipients represent six UCSC departments, including Anthropology, Developmental Psychology, Environmental Studies, Film and Digital Media, Latin American and Latino Studies, and Sociology, as well as the Global Information Internship Program.

Alec Webster of the Will and Helen Webster Foundation, which helped fund the grants program, cited the breadth of departments it supports. “This is a great opportunity to get students and their advisors from a lot of disciplines involved in the important work that CASFS is doing,” Webster said.

Heather Swanson, a graduate student in anthropology, is interested in what she calls “an infamous example of an unsustainable food system” and is studying the impact that salmon farming is having on both the environment and workers in Chile as well as fishermen in Japan.

Swanson is currently conducting research in Japan, and will use her Sustainability Fellowship to travel to Chile to complete her dissertation work.

Joanna Ory, a graduate student in Environmental Studies, will study the ways that Italian farmers control weeds without atrazine, an herbicide commonly used in the U.S. but banned in Italy due to environmental concerns.

Sociology graduate student Tracy Perkins is researching the life histories of environmental justice activists in California's Central Valley.  She is interviewing people who are combating the toxic impacts of industrial agriculture and is particularly interested in the paths that bring women and men into environmental justice work, and how those paths might differ based on gender.

The fellowship program supported anthropology graduate student Katy Overstreet’s fieldwork in Wisconsin this past summer, where she looked at the various factors that influence growers’ decisions to use genetically modified crops.

CASFS plans to host a public seminar next spring where student fellowship recipients and their faculty advisors will be invited to present their results and discuss their perspectives on sustainable food systems. 

For more information about CASFS Sustainability Fellowships and to find out more about supporting future fellowship efforts, please contact Jonathon Landeck at 831.459-4540, More information about CASFS is available at

2010-11 UCSC Graduate Student Awards from CASFS

Nicholas Babin (Environmental Studies) – Assessing the Impacts of Agroecological Diversification and Alternative Markets on Costa Rican Smallholder Coffee Livelihoods. Faculty Advisor: Stephen Gliessman

Kevin Cody (Sociology) – The Diffusion of Innovation in Sustainable Agriculture: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Faculty Advisor: Ben Crow

Getachew Eshete (Environmental Studies) – The Role of Ecosystem Goods from Native Flora in Food Security and Land Cover Changes: A Case of Southwestern Ethiopia. Faculty Advisor: Erika Zavaleta

Sean Gillon (Environmental Studies) – Biofuels Production in the US Midwest: Negotiating Social and Ecological Outcomes across Place and Scale. Faculty Advisor: Margaret FitzSimmons

K. Michelle Glowa (Environmental Studies) – Investigating Mexican American Participation in Urban Agriculture in the Central Coast Region. Faculty Advisor: Margaret FitzSimmons

Christina Hatcher (Sociology) – The Paid Social Reproductive Service Economy: Gender, Race and Class in the Production and Consumption of Private and Public Household Services. Faculty Advisor: Steve McKay

Kathleen Hilmire (Environmental Studies) – Improving Soil Quality with Pastured Poultry: An Innovative Solution for Sustainability in Crop Systems. Faculty Advisor: Stephen Gliessman

Marcos Lopez (Sociology) – The Lie of the Land: Labor Violations, Indigenous Farm Workers and the Sustainability Discourse. Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Fox

Blair McLaughlin (Environmental Studies) – Barriers and Possibilities for Conversion to Grass-finished Beef: A Case Study of Central California. Faculty Advisor: Erika Zavaleta

Dustin O'Hara (Film and Digital Media) – A Multi-Channel Public Video Installation that Examines Agricultural Processes as a Critical Nexus of Social and Environmental Concerns. Faculty Advisor: Sharon Daniel

Joanna Ory (Environmental Studies) – Agricultural Decisions in Response to Atrazine Restrictions and the Implications for Environmental Sustainability. Faculty co-PI: Brent Haddad

Katy Overstreet (Anthropology) – Midwestern Farmers’ Decision Making Processes with Respect to GE Crops. Faculty Advisor: Melissa Caldwell

Tracy Perkins (Sociology) – Food Systems and Environmental Justice in California (Part I). Faculty Advisor: Flora Lu

Jennifer Rigney (Developmental Psychology) – Parent’s Beliefs about Food, Parental Strategies for Eating Socialization, and Children’s Evaluations of Parental Control in the Food Domain. Faculty Advisor: Maureen Callanan

Heather Anne Swanson (Anthropology) – Outsourcing Salmon: Japanese Participation in the Chilean Aquaculture Industry. Faculty Advisor: Anna Tsing

2010 UCSC Undergraduate Student Awards from CASFS

John Anderson (Sociology, Global Information Internship) – GIIP Study for Community Development. Faculty Advisor: Paul Lubeck

Anandi van Diepen-Hedayat (Latin American and Latino Studies) – Food Systems and Environmental Justice in California (Part II). Faculty Advisor: Flora Lu