May 14, 2019
The Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems focuses on innovative ideas and solutions to the many challenges of current food systems. In this series, we’re sitting down with the Swette Center affiliated faculty to catch up on food systems, innovation and what makes a good meal. See the rest of the series on our Food Systems Profiles page.
Question: How did you get interested in food systems issues?
Answer: I was really interested in the interface between environmental quality and food and fiber production. The big question is how do we measure environmental quality, and how do different policy measures affect forests, wilderness, and the environment as a whole.
Q: Share a glimpse of your current research and how it applies to food systems transformation.
A: Currently I’m working on wilderness, and the spaces between truly wild places and the area around it. How does wilderness affect biodiversity and environmental quality? Which areas really need to be protected and which have more flexibility?
I’m looking at forestry management decision making and trying to figure out the most effective way to manage the forest that integrates it with everything else that goes on, including irrigation for farms and other related issues.
I’ve previously worked on issues of agroforestry, and identifying the multiple outputs of forests. I was looking at the role that changing climatic condition affects the risk of fires, and also the changes in the environmental amenities, or ecosystem services that forests provide.
Q: What’s an innovation in the food systems world that you’re excited about?
A: I think we need to be paying more attention to intergenerational change and the role that it plays in what we choose to preserve and develop. Everything we do is for the “average person”, but the reality is that baby boomers and millennials have very different values. We should be considering millennials preferences with greater rigor in our environmental decision making.
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: I’m trying to learn about southwestern cooking at home. I’m terrible, so I need to improve. I have the opportunity to get better, being here in Arizona. I think I’m a better-than-competent seafood cook from my time living in Seattle, and that’s something I’ve always been interested in— learning the local culinary traditions.