2015 CLIMAS Climate & Society Graduate Fellows
Assistant Staff Scientist, Climate Assessment for the Southwest
Gigi joined the CLIMAS staff in July 2008. As a qualitative social scientist with training in geography and political ecology, her research interests center on interactions between humans and environments. Her current research involves understanding if and how adaptation strategies help people address local impacts of climate change. One project investigates how people who work in the regional food system of Southern Arizona are responding to sudden social, economic, and policy changes introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gigi earned her doctorate in the School of Geography, Development, & Environment at the University of Arizona. Her dissertation research focused on effective adaptation initiatives around the world and evaluating socially-engaged research theories and practices within the CLIMAS program. She continues to run the CLIMAS program evaluation to measure its contributions to building adaptive capacity and resilience in the Southwest. Gigi also directs and manages the CLIMAS-sponsored Environment & Society Fellowship Program.
Gigi has worked on a variety of air, land, and water quality issues across the Arizona-Sonora border region, beginning in 2002 when she moved to Hermosillo, Sonora to study the ecology of desert grasslands and the impacts of buffelgrass. As a CLIMAS graduate student researcher, she worked with Margaret Wilder, investigating public values toward cultural and natural resources in the Lower Colorado River Delta region. Gigi then helped coordinate several community-based, participatory projects in Ambos Nogales, Sonora and Arizona, connected to air quality and alternative environmental technologies with the University of Arizona's Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA).
The Climate & Society Graduate Fellows Program supports University of Arizona graduate students whose work connects climate research and decision making. Fellows receive $5,000 and guidance from members of the CLIMAS research team (Climate Assessment for the Southwest) for one year. The program’s main objective is to train a group of students to cross the traditional boundaries of academic research into use-inspired science and applied research. While CLIMAS research generally occurs in the Southwest U.S., the Fellows program allows students to work anywhere in the world.
Fellows’ projects may follow two tracks. Students who want to conduct collaborative research may use their funding for use-inspired projects. Students who have conducted climate research and want to communicate their findings to audiences outside of academia may use their funding for outreach. Fellows may also use their funding for a combination of the two tracks.
The Climate & Society Graduate Fellows Program helps students address the world’s climate-related problems by funding projects that engage people outside of the university.
The 2015 Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) Climate & Society Graduate Fellows are:
Abstract: A history of prolonged droughts has long challenged the food system in the Southwest, and these challenges will become steeper under a future of climate change. This project seeks to better understand the vulnerability of the food system to drought by focusing on the impacts of the California drought on farmworkers. By identifying the needs of farmworkers during drought and evaluating the distribution of drought relief boxes through community food banks, this research seeks to connect the environmental and social dimensions of drought, labor, and food insecurity.
Abstract: As a CLIMAS fellow, Eric Magrane will design and teach a community course for the University of Arizona Poetry Center called “Climate Change and Poetry.” Climate change is both a scientific and a social issue. It is a threat to life on Earth as we know it as well as an opportunity for social change and environmental justice. A growing body of poetry addresses climate change, and this course will use poems as boundary objects to both communicate climate change and to examine its different frames or narratives. It will explore what role the imaginative and emotional resonances of poetry might have in the way we think about adaptation and mitigation.
Abstract: In March 2015, the City of Tucson Office of the Mayor will hold a half-day summit on Energy and the Economy with policy makers and business owners in Tucson to discuss the economic opportunities associated with increasing energy and the use of renewable energy. The purpose of Valerie’s CLIMAS project is to enhance the summit and evaluate its success in engaging participants and initiating action on energy efficiency and renewable energy in the private sector. The project will include three parts: first, a pre-summit survey of prospective attendees will be administered to get baseline data regarding participants’ opinions and knowledge of energy efficiency. The results of the survey will also be used to tailor the content of the summit to participants’ interests. Second, a post-summit survey of attendees will be administered to evaluate the impacts of the summit on attendee opinions, knowledge and perceptions. And third, follow-up interviews will complement surveys to evaluate whether participants plan to implement energy efficiency measures. The results of this project will be used by partners in the Mayor’s Office to enhance the 2015 Summit and improve summits in future years.
Abstract: Nepal’s water resources and agriculture sectors are one of hard hit sectors by climate variability and change. There are about 25,000 irrigation Systems which are managed by farmers and which irrigate about 25 percent of total irrigated area in Nepal. Though Farmer-managed irrigation system (FMIS) is considered a robust system, it is facing increasing stresses from climatic and non-climatic elements including competing water demands, frequent infrastructure damage from flooding and landslides, degraded water quality, and poor governance. My study will conduct use-inspired research on adaptation strategies of FMIS in order to strengthen their management capacity. As a part of the project, I will conduct i) participatory assessment of biophysical and social vulnerabilities of the FMIS to climatic stresses; and ii) support the irrigation managers with development of appropriate adaptation strategies.