Three environmental studies grad students win sustainable ag awards

Annie Drevno
Annie Drevno is researching water quality protection in urban/agriculture environments.
Elissa Olimpi
Elissa Olimpi studies bat-insect interactions on Central Coast vegetable farms
Carlo Moreno
Carlo Moreno is interested in the regulation of potato tuber pests in the Venezuelan Andes.

Three UC Santa Cruz environmental studies graduate students are among 16 students nationwide awarded sustainable agriculture scholarships from Annie's Homegrown Inc., a natural foods manufacturer and distributor.

The three had extensive experience with sustainable agriculture even before joining UCSC's environmental studies graduate program.

Insisting her name had nothing to do with the award, Annie G. Drevno, in her second year of UCSC's Ph.D. program, received $10,000 from Annie's. Elissa Olimpi, also a second year Ph.D. student, received $10,000 and Carlo Moreno, a Ph.D. candidate in his fifth year, received $2,500.

Drevno, who earned her bachelor's degree at Santa Clara University with a triple major in environmental studies, political science, and international political economy, spent the 2009 growing season on the UCSC Farm and Garden in the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture, of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems program.

She enrolled in the apprenticeship, she said,  "knowing that I wanted to do policy work on agriculture, water quality and land use management, but knew I had to step back and actually get my hands dirty."

Now she is researching policy questions around effective water quality protection where urban growth meets agricultural land.

Olimpi graduated from Penn State in 2006 with a B.S. in wildlife and fisheries science. After graduation, she taught children in Boca Amigo, Peru how to compost and helped start a community garden. At UCSC, she studies bat-insect interactions on Central Coast farms. 

Last summer, she used passive acoustic devices to monitor bats on vegetable farms. She said she works with conventional and organic growers to understand how on-farm management practices impact bats.

Moreno received his bachelor's degree in biology from San Jose State University after working as an agricultural pest inspector at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. He later earned a master's in entomology from the University of Maryland and won a Fulbright scholarship in 2010 to work with potato farmers to help restore traditional Andean long-fallow crop rotation techniques to restore soil fertility and promote pest resistance in Venezuela.

His current research continues that work, assessing the influence of semi-traditional seed selection and fallow practices on the regulation of potato tuber pests in the Venezuelan Andes. 
Annie's Homegrown, now based in Berkeley, was founded in 1989 on the east coast to make and sell natural macaroni and cheese. It's been publicly traded since last March and now has annual revenue approaching $175 million. Each year it offers $100,000 in sustainable agriculture scholarships.