Julie Dawson and Claudia Calderon
University of Utah – BS Anthropology
What is your research about and what is the impact? How does it relate to the horticulture industry, what is the goal?
My research is found at the intersection of horticulture, community-led or participatory development, and food sovereignty. I will be working alongside the Indigenous Ch’orti’ community in eastern Guatemala who are both in a drought prone region that also sees frequent hurricanes. We hope to document the practices of those farmers who are mitigating and adapting to the climatic variation and connect those farmers with others in the region to form a farmer and community network. The overall goal is create meaningful connections between farmers so they can troubleshoot issues, share ideas, and have an overall support system for their farming needs.
Why did you choose UW-Madison? What is your favorite part of Madison?
I choose UW – Madison because of my advisors, Dr. Claudia Calderon and Dr. Julie Dawson. They are innovators in their fields and focused on including social and economic contexts into their work in horticulture, such as participatory research.
What was the path you took to work in plant sciences? And then what advice would you give to your younger self to get into the field/career you are in today?
I originally studied archaeobotany in my undergraduate degree as an Anthropology major. I processed soil and pollen samples from archaeological sites to help describe paleoclimates of the southwest United States. After graduation I joined the Peace Corps. I worked on school and community garden projects in Mexico and this changed my career path to horticulture because everything intersects with food — health, economics, climate change, skill building.
I would tell my younger self to keep doing what I am doing. I am happy I studied a social science in my undergraduate because it informs everything I do today. I suppose my advice would be to never forget the “why” of what you do.