Being a Public Scholar means finding a balance between public service and the traditional notions of academia. It is a way of engaging with my research and the community at large in a way that is respectful and propels everyone involved forward. Being a Public Scholar also means joining a community whose collective creative minds are helping to reshape the way in which we engage with and present our research, so that those who can benefit from it the most are placed at the center of these efforts.
For much of human history, forests have been helping to sustain healthy and nutritious diets directly through the provisioning of wildfoods and indirectly through ecosystem services like pollination and water regulation. In Peru, the government has enacted several food programs to combat high levels of malnutrition in rural areas, but little attention has been paid to the role forests can play in food security. The objective of this proposed research is therefore to investigate the relationship between the Protected Forests San Matias-San Carlos (BPSMSC) and the food security and nutrition of the resident Asháninka community in order to answer the following question: How does living inside a category VI protected area in the Peruvian Amazon, impact the food security, nutrition, and overall wellbeing of the resident community? This research will take a mixed-methods approach that includes household interviews, questionnaires, resources mapping, community workshops and other methods. There will also be a multimedia component to this research which will create short videos in which the community members can share their stories and perspectives on their food systems and the threats they perceive to it. This project will be carried out with the support of the Peruvian non-profit group Instituto del Bien Común (IBC) who have a long history of working with Indigenous communities in Peru on issues of land and environmental governance, conservation, and rights. The multidisciplinary research team includes indigenous co-investigators and will take place with the permission and support of the local Indigenous Federation. Using a community participatory approach I aim to get a deeper understanding of the Indigenous community’s food system in order to better inform food and nutrition related policies. By supporting indigenous food systems through food policies that are grounded on a rights-based approach, it will be possible to help support and strengthen indigenous food systems that lead to healthy diets which are sustained by, and thus safeguard, local biodiversity.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
To me, being a Public Scholar means finding a balance between public service and the traditional notions of academia. It is a way of engaging with my research and the community at large in a way that is respectful and propels everyone involved forward. Being a Public Scholar also means joining a community whose collective creative minds are helping to reshape the way in which we engage with and present our research, so that those who can benefit from it the most are placed at the center of these efforts.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
I think that the Public Scholars Initiative can help reshape and reimagine the PhD experience by giving participants access to a community of like minded individuals whose collective creative wisdom can serve as a source of inspiration and support. The PSI also gives me the opportunity and flexibility to blend my interests so that my dissertation goes beyond the traditional written structure and instead adds a multimedia component that can be of interest to a wider audience. In this way, I feel like the PSI is opening up a space for a new cohort of Public Scholars whose interest in academia is balanced with their interest in the public good.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
My PhD experience, in particular working with a non-profit civic association, has broaden my career aspiration beyond those in academia and the traditional tenure-track careers. Since I started working in collaboration with the "Instituto del Bien Común" (the institute for the common good), I have shifted my career aspirations from working in a University or research Institute, to potentially working for a non-profit or civic institute whose on the ground efforts better the lives of marginalized communities. Being able to see how the Instituto del Bien Común operates here in Peru and hearing first hand from the communities here how much their work has meant to them has inspired me to continue to due similar work post graduation.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
This research is taking place with the support of a multidisciplinary group, which includes Indigenous community members as co-investigators. Working with a multidisciplinary team that includes Indigenous co-investigators makes engaging with all the different actors in this territory a more equitable experience that reflects a multitude of perspectives and worldviews. It also makes conversations around ethics, food security, conservation and politics a more engaging and fruitful experience.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
During my undergraduate degree in the Faculty of Forestry at UBC, I was able to learn from a lot of great professionals and researchers as well as attend public lectures where researchers presented their work. It was in of these such public lectures, in my last year of my undergraduate degree, that I met my now supervisor Dr. Terry Sunderland. While I had always imagined I would go to graduate school, my interests changed throughout my degree and it wasn't until I learned of Dr. Sunderland's work on forests and diets that I realized I had found something I was truly passionate about and could envision myself working in.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
When I was in elementary school, my family relocated to Vancouver so that my dad could pursue his own doctoral degree and so I grew up in and around the UBC campus. Throughout my elementary and secondary education in Vancouver, I was able to see UBC grew and changed and have many fond memories of accompanying my dad to movies at the old sub, going to the swimming pool and sliding down the hills on campus on snow days. As a result, going to UBC always felt like a natural choice, as it has always felt like home to me.