By Eavy Barbieux, Senior, Founding Class, VP of Finance

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This summer, I had the pleasure of conducting field research in organic strawberry fields in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties with a team of incredible women from UC Davis, UC Berkeley, University of British Columbia, and University of Kentucky. The goal for this research season was to assess the positive and negative ecological and economical impacts of birds in several organic strawberry fields in an effort to gauge both the effectiveness and threats to biodiversity that current food health regulations pose. This area has suffered from immense biodiversity loss due to intensified agriculture and anti-wildlife sentiment due to crop loss, however it was encouraging to see various farmers promoting the natural ecosystems through organic and agroecosystem techniques.

Through this collaborative opportunity, I was able to begin work on my upcoming senior honors thesis. The focus of my project is to evaluate how intra-field diversity could interact with landscape diversity to mutually influence biocontrol efficacy of wild insects. The overall goal is to use this information to develop specific strategies for individual farms to increase their crop yield by optimizing the natural ecosystem services that beneficial insects provide while also curbing the biodiversity loss that usually results from agriculture. I spent a little over two months collecting and analyzing insect samples, evaluating weed densities, and digitizing farms and landscapes using GIS ArcMap software. I’m excited to work with Professor Claire Kremen and others on continuing this project this upcoming year.

I believe it is vital for environmentalists to conduct inclusive, well-rounded research in order to propose socially responsible policy changes. I’m excited to see how these projects will help shed light on the nuances of agroecological strategies as it is clear there is no one-size-fits all solution to finding a balance between economic productivity and ecological sustainability.

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