In my research I tend to approach human-environmental interactions as well as development issues as dynamic process that have historical depth, are power-laden and must be examined from a wide variety of often-conflicting perspectives. My research has focused on the following three major areas where I work on and off as funding and time become available:
The Gulf of California Fisheries
Since the early 1990s I have conducted extensive research among small-scale fishing communities in the Sonoran coast of the Gulf of California, Mexico. My doctoral dissertation examined the shrimp industry, focusing on issues of fisheries management and the impact of privatization in the industrial and artisanal cooperative sectors. With a team of BARA researchers we conducted a socioeconomic assessment of the Upper Gulf of California - Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve, prior to its creation in 1993. In 2001 I had a NSF-funded project in the Mid-Gulf of California region of the Sonoran coast, which examined issues of environmental justice among small-scale fishers. I also had a project funded by the Inter American Institute for Global Change, which focused on the relationship between ethnicity and class in the development of co-management schemes of coastal resources in southern Brazil and the Gulf of California. In 2012 I obtained a Fulbright Scholar award titled "Fishing at the edge of extinction: Vaquita conservation in the Upper Gulf of California". The project is investigating the first large-scale application of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) for a marine conservation effort in Latin America: the PACE-vaquita program in the Upper Gulf of California-Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserve, which started in 2008 and has become the site of one of the most intensive single-species conservation efforts in the global South.
Farming in the Sonora Desert
Since 2000 I have conducted research on human and institutional vulnerability, including adaptation, to climate variability and change in diverse agricultural communities on both sides of the US-Mexico border. These communities included Anglo, Hispanic, and Mexican farmers and ranchers, Native American Tribes, farm workers, and a variety of state officials that deal with natural resource management. From 2000 to 2004 I was Project Manager for the social science component of the Climate Assessment for the Southwest Project (CLIMAS), funded by NOAA and housed at the Institute of the Environment. Ialso collaborated with the Colegio de Sonora on a study of the impact of drought among farmina and ranching communities in Northwest Mexico. The aim of my research in this area is to contribute to the conceptualization of a policy-oriented anthropology of climate that goes beyond examining single populations and that, by simultaneously examining issues of class and ethnicity as well as marginalized and privileged populations, calls into question the adaptive capacity of a system that buffers the privileged while it prevents the most vulnerable form accessing a minimum of resources that could prevent the loss of livelihoods.
Grassroots Collective Organization in rural South America
Since 2004 I have been involved in a multi-year project that looks at smallholder agricultural cooperatives in Paraguay and Brazil. The project is funded by USAID and done in collaboration with ACDI/VOCA. It assesses a set of agricultural cooperatives that vary in terms of size, function, and commodity in order to develop strategies of change that reflect the effective role of cooperativism and cooperatives and their impacts on society and the economy. This study pays attention to how issues of alternative and “sustainable” development are framed in the study of grassroots collective organization, where in the midst of escalating economic and environmental uncertainty cooperatives have the potential to become possible avenues for small producers to assert rights to resources and participate in larger processes of democratization and economic transformation. One of the outputs of this project is a series of videos made in 2010. Two videos document the stories of two cooperatives in Paraguay: The Manduvira Cooperative (Spanish and Spanish with English subtitles), which has become the major producer of organic sugar cane for Fair Trade markets, and the CapiiBary Cooperative (Spanish and Spanish with English subtitles), a cooperative that is following a highly diversified strategy.