CRC Summer Research Awards

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CRC Summer Research Awards

The UC Davis Institute for Social Sciences, in partnership with the CRC, recently provided various monetary awards to select Ph.D. candidates and master’s students in the social sciences for summer research and travel. Recipients of the awards are: Ingrid Behrsin, Rebecca Campbell, Elizabeth Christensen, Jonah Cox, Megan Kelso, Xijia Li, Brandon Louie, and Jessica Smith


Ingrid Behrsin, Geography Graduate Group - Travel Award

IngridTitle: Power Streams and Pipe Dreams: A More-than-Urban Political Ecology of European Energy and Waste Infrastructures

Abstract: This paper examines the role of waste and energy infrastructures in the production of material landscapes and relational subjectivities. Waste-to-energy (WTE) refers to a process whereby household garbage is incinerated and converted into electricity and sometimes heat. Taking a WTE facility in the community of Zwentendorf, Austria as a starting point, I trace the ways in which the incinerator mediates the movement of electricity, heat, waste, capital, and people in and between its immediate vicinity and the state capitol, St. Pölten.  Specifically, I examine the clean energy discourses and the “spatial grammar” (Bulkeley 2005) that facilitate these movements, and the co-constitutive subjectivities the facility engenders. This study contributes to a growing body of political ecology research that attends to the effects of climate change mitigation rhetoric on people and landscapes (Rice 2010; Swyngedouw 2010). Furthermore, it builds on critical urban scholarship that argues that life in cities conditions urban dwellers’ identities (c.f. Loftus 2012; Young 2011), to suggest that these subjectivities are in fact often in conversation with geographically distant places.

Bio: Ingrid Behrsin is a PhD candidate in the Geography Graduate Group at UC Davis. Her research interests focus on the intersection of urban environmental planning, ecological change, the production of scientific knowledge, and citizen mobilization, with a particular interest in the structural arrangements, practices, and affective processes that condition power relations and decision-making around environmental and scientific projects. She has explored these interests through studies of low-income youth access to open space in the San Francisco Bay Area (2009) and coalition-building around public transit projects in Barcelona, Spain and Oakland, California (2013). Her dissertation work attends to the material and discursive construction of waste as a renewable energy source in the European Union, and investigates the ecological, economic, and political implications of this framing in the context of waste-to-energy production.


Rebecca Campbell, Community Development Graduate Group- Research Award


Title: Addressing Blight in South Sacramento using a Community Land Trust: An Analysis of Best Practices for Community Participation and Sustainable Development

Abstract: South Sacramento is a historically underserved area of Sacramento that is currently experiencing high vacancy rates with blighted properties, illegal dumping, and absentee owners contributing to the problem. Community Land Trusts (CLT) have emerged as a viable model in cities facing similar issues. The CLT is used to acquire land and hold it out of the speculative real estate market in order to use it for sustainable transformation in communities. The Oregon Sustainable Agricultural Land Trust (OSALT) and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANT) are two key land use models that address the concerns regarding access to green space in South Sacramento neighborhoods. Using participatory planning methods combined with monitoring and accountability mechanisms as a framework for my inquiry, I will perform an analysis of OSALT and LANT to determine best practices that will inform the development of an urban green space CLT in South Sacramento.

Bio: Rebecca Campbell is a first year graduate student in the Community and Regional Development Graduate Group. Her primary research interests are: urban food systems, land-use, participatory planning and community involvement in design process, and alternative economic development. Before coming to Davis, Campbell completed an M.A. in English and a Certificate of Mastery in Gender, Race, and Identity Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is honored to receive this funding and is enjoying her time at UC Davis particularly the emphasis on balancing theory and the development of professional skills.

Elizabeth Christensen, Geography Graduate Group -  Research Award


Title: The Changing Seasons of Produce Distribution: An Investigation into the Past, Present, and Future of the Produce Supply Chain in California

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to explore the past and present character of the intermediary actors in California’s fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain. In recent years, a growing number of social groups, government agencies, academic, and individual consumers have directed intense criticism towards the structure of the conventional food system, labeling the system as distorted and unjust. Their efforts are often broadly labeled as part of the alternative food movement. Much of the attention of alternative food movement has focused on producers and consumers and the direct linkages between the two. Examples of these direct linkages include farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture and farmstands. Yet, there is growing concern that these efforts are not enough, recognizing that less than 0.5% of all agricultural products sold in the United States are sold directly to individuals for human consumption. Efforts have been steered towards creating alternative intermediaries often labeled food hubs and value-based supply chains. Yet, work and research into these alternative intermediaries have over simplified the relationship between the alternative and the conventional food systems, creating a binary of the dominating power (the existing conventional food system), and the resistance (the alternative food system). My work seeks to study the existing alternative intermediaries that often get bundled with the conventional system, yet based on preliminary research were created for many of the same reasons as today’s alternative intermediaries. , This research will investigate the origin and development of the existing and new intermediaries, , illustrating the similarities and differences between the two. My preliminary findings show that there exists a plurality of intermediary actors in the produce supply chain that do not neatly fall into the binary of alternative/conventional and that the reliance on this simplistic understanding of the food system is detrimental to efforts to create a more equitable and just food system.

Jonah Cox, Human Development Graduate Group - Research Award

Title: Resiliency Through Adversity: The Children Who Fall Up

Megan Kelso, Ecology Graduate Group - Research Award



Bio: Megan is a fifth year PhD student in the Ecology graduate group at UC Davis. My research explores the policy and ecology of blue carbon, the carbon stored in coastal vegetated ecosystems. I am studying the development of blue carbon policy under California’s cap and trade program and exploring which institutional actors would carry out blue carbon projects under a putative offset protocol. Additionally, I am conducting field ecology experiments to understand the impacts of two major global change stressors on blue carbon storage in California salt marsh ecosystems – nutrient pollution and invasion by an aggressive non-native plant species, Lepidium latifolium.  Before coming to UC Davis I led wetland restoration projects in San Francisco Bay and Point Reyes National Seashore for four years. I’m passionate about wetland conservation and restoration, including tools such as ecosystem service valuation and community engagement.


Xijia Li, Community Development Graduate Group - Travel Award


Title: Community Engagement through Survey and Interview: How People in Cao Yang Community Use Water Resources in Public Places

Abstract: Because of the great discrepancy between per capita occupation and consumption of water, Shanghai has faced a severe water shortage. However, people in Shanghai don't have the awareness to use water economically and they use more than they have. Thus, there has been increasing interest in research to deal with this dilemma, but few studies have looked at the reasons why this was the case using qualitative methodology. Therefore, this research will investigate how people use water resources in public places at the community scale, through a combination of survey and in-depth interviews to engage people in the broader discussion. Based on the results, some influential factors can be assumed and suggestions can be established.

Bio: Coming from a background in the natural sciences in environmental science, I am interested in helping people to deal with environmental challenges through community engagement and participatory planning. Specifically, my research project aims to work closely with disadvantaged and underrepresented groups to achieve environmental justice at a broader scale. I am currently a graduate student in community development at UC Davis and I am hoping to work in NGO after graduation from this program.


Brandon Louie, Community Development Graduate Group - Travel Award


Title: Roots of Hope: Transnational Opportunities for Women's Autonomy and Self-Development among the Q'eqchi' of Guatemala

Abstract: During the second half of the twentieth century, Guatemala was the site of a brutal civil war that lasted for over three decades, claimed approximately 200,000 lives, and forced roughly 150,000 people to flee to Mexico as refugees (Manz 2004). Indigenous women paid a particularly heavy price during this conflict, but the turmoil also provided opportunities for contesting and renegotiating traditional roles and power dynamics both within the country and abroad (Rapone and Simpson 1996). This research project aims to explore the effects of spatial mobility on women's public engagement and leadership opportunities among the indigenous Q’eqchi’ of Guatemala. Through an analysis and comparison of the experiences of activist and non-activist indigenous women in the return refugee community of El Cimiento de la Esperanza, the organization known as the National Coordinator of Guatemalan Widows (CONAVIGUA), and former refugee camp sites in Chiapas, Mexico, this research seeks to understand the opportunities that exist for indigenous women’s agency and self-development and how these opportunities are shaped and impacted by refugee and return refugee experiences.
Bio: Brandon Louie is completing his first year in the Community Development MS program at the University of California, Davis. His research and work interests include community organizing and transnational activism for social justice. He is especially interested in continuing to work with marginalized populations in North and Central America, such as farmworkers, undocumented immigrants and subsistence farmers. Prior to joining the graduate program, Brandon served as an agriculture volunteer with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, worked as an organizer and advocate with farmworker families for the Children in the Fields Campaign, and was a community organizer in affordable housing complexes with Mutual Housing California. He received his BA in history from the University of California, Berkeley along with a minor in Theater and Performance Studies. Currently he serves as a board member on the Sacramento Works Youth Council and is supporting the community development efforts of the Augustinian Lutheran Church of Guatemala through a Horticulture Innovation Lab Trellis Fund project.

Jessica Smith, Community Development Graduate Group - Research Award

jessicaTitle: And Food Access for All: A Case Study of South Oak Park

Abstract: In order to have a better grasp on food systems policy and food access for low-income and minority communities, I plan to utilize data collection, mapping, and participant observation by temporarily becoming a resident of a local food desert. I will move to South Oak Park in Sacramento, CA to conduct a case study of the current challenges that residents of South Oak Park are facing when it comes to healthy and affordable food access. More specifically: what are the specific challenges that residents of South Oak Park are faced with regarding food access? Why does this matter for South Oak Park? How is the community itself already overcoming challenges? Does this reflect a larger/systemic problem and if so, how?

Bio: Jessica Smith is a first year graduate student in the Community and Regional Development Graduate Group at UC Davis. Some of her research interests include: community engagement and participatory planning, food access and food systems policy, nonprofit management, and youth development. Prior to attending UC Davis, Jessica served as an AmeriCorps volunteer in South Sacramento for several years working at a family resource center providing resources to undocumented families, and later worked with foster youth and probation youth in Sacramento County. Jessica’s undergraduate work was completed at UC Irvine, where she obtained a degree in International Studies. She is very excited to be attending UC Davis and is honored to have the opportunity to continue her work in the South Sacramento area.