Small-scale coffee farmers in Costa Rica have identified fluctuations in their crop yields, or alternate-bearing, as major obstacles to livelihood stability. Climate change is likely to exacerbate such fluctuations and has already pushed coffee production to higher altitudes. Despite the socio-ecological significance of alternate-bearing, we lack an understanding of how it relates to farm altitude and farm management decision-making. Gabriela use a mixed-methods approach integrating farmer interviews and farm assessments in Costa Rica to explore stability through a socio-environmental lens. Findings will be synthesized into a conceptual model describing the relationships and feedbacks between the social (i.e. management decisions) and environmental (i.e. farm altitude) factors affecting yield stability. Gabriela will also identify opportunities for enhanced knowledge-transfer between the scientific and coffee-farming communities. Finally, Gabriela will work with the local cooperative to integrate the results into informed management recommendations.
Gabriela is a PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the Biology department. She expects to complete her studies in May 2021. Before coming to Tufts, Gabriela earned her B.A. from Boston College in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. After graduating from B.C. Gabriela spent a year in Santiago where she had a yearlong internship in the biochemistry department at the Universidad de Santiago Chile, which helped her transition from psychology to biology. Once she was back in the United States, Gabriela spent some time conducting research at Harvard University and later the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a GEM Full Fellow. These experiences helped prepare her to pursue her doctorate in biology at Tufts. At Tufts, Gabriela has facilitated various ESL workshops and has served on panels encouraging underrepresented groups to pursue graduate education. She also frequently attends the Environmental Studies Lunch & Learn weekly seminar series.
Current Studies and Future Goals
When asked what she found most meaningful about her field of study, Gabriela responded with the following: "As farmers face numerous pressures, including a changing climate and a rapidly growing global population, I am passionate about harnessing traditional knowledge and ecological relationships to build resilience".
When asked what interested her in becoming a TIE Fellow, Elly responded with the following: "Like many of today’s most pressing challenges, sustainably feeding the growing global population requires an interdisciplinary approach that spans the social and natural domains. The TIE Fellowship plays a predominant role at Tufts in preparing the next generation of researchers to pursue meaningful, solution-driven, collaborative projects that address socio-ecological problems".
Gabriela would like to be at a research university or international organization/research center focusing on finding solutions to unique challenges faced by farmers once she completes her studies at Tufts.
When not doing school work (or on the coffee farms!), Gabriela can be found painting, gardening, playing soccer, or doing yoga.
Favorite food/drink: Mom's cheesecake
Favorite Place You've Visited: Patagonia, Chile
Favorite Course Taken at Tufts: Tropical Ecology and Conservation