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Photos by Britt Basel, Vanesa Denise Cruz RIvera, and Luz Cumba García

My research is at the intersection of food systems, climate change, and public policy. In general, I strive to understand how systems of governance and social-ecological interactions relate to adaptive capacity, food security, and food sovereignty in the Caribbean and beyond. I use mixed methods approaches to answer my research questions; from the joint analysis of social and biophysical data, to facilitating focus groups and participatory activities. Furthermore, my research approach is grounded on disaster and natural hazards research, agroecology, and psychosocial theoretical frameworks. My goal as an interdisciplinary and applied scientist it to generate visibility and knowledge that contributes to making our food systems more just, and to having a food system that feed us without further harming the environment that sustains us. You can see my academic and scientific contributions here, and learn more about my research experiences here.

Image painted by Luis

My dissertation, under the advisory of Dr. Meredith T. Niles, focuses on understanding how different components of the Puerto Rican food system (social, ecological, agricultural, and political) relate to farmers’ adaptive capacity–meaning those sets of resources and abilities people have to prepare for, withstand, cope with, and recover from impacts. It looks at Puerto Rican farmers adaptation and food security outcomes in light of their recovery from Hurricane Maria to better understand potential drivers and barriers to strengthen adaptive capacity. This dissertation is based upon a survey of 405 Puerto Rican farmers that was carried out after Maria thanks to the UPR Extension Service. Check the research brief here.

Research avenues within the dissertation:

Adaptation and climate change perceptions: This study aims to understand the extent to which experience with climate change, and perceptions about it, relate to farmers’ decision making around adaptation. Press here to read the study.

Adoption of adaptation strategies in light of disaster: This study focuses on Puerto Rican farmers’ actual and intended adoption of adaptation strategies as it relates to the obstacles faced towards recovery after Maria. The role of social-ecological elements in adaptation is evaluated through a mixed-methods approach. Here you can read an Op-Ed that summarizes the obstacles reported by farmers, and here you can access the open-access research article about this project.

Food security in the context of disaster: This study evaluates farmers’ household food insecurity after the hurricane. It aims to better understand how food security is affected within the context of disaster. Food security is one important indicator of adaptive capacity and wellbeing.

Food sovereignty, history, and transdiciplinarity: This study synthetizes the previous studies with purpose in achieving (or theorizing) an approach to better understand adaptive capacity in the context of a postcolonial Caribbean. It draws from history and food sovereignty to determine areas of intersection, conflict, and opportunity in understanding adaptive capacity.

Photos by Bianca Valdés, Britt Basel, and Kimberly Colgan

Research interests: Island food systems, natural hazards and agriculture, food security and sovereignty, adaptive capacity and structural vulnerability, agroecology, social-ecological systems, science communication and outreach, Puerto Rican and Caribbean studies, food culture, governance, public health and public policy.