Two ESPM-led projects receive seed grant funding from the Berkeley Food Institute

April 11, 2022

Congratulations to researchers in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management who have received seed grant funding from the Berkeley Food Institute! 

One grant went to a team led by Professor of Emerging Infectious Disease Ecology Rodrigo Almeida. The project, called “The Implications of Cultivation Systems and Climates on Pathogen Diversity and Coffee Resilience,” takes a close look at Xylella fastidiosa, a pathogen that has been causing a disease called coffee leaf scorch on coffee plants in Costa Rica and other coffee producing regions.

The global coffee industry provides the livelihood for more than 100 million people, but diseases like coffee leaf scorch impact coffee quality and yields, particularly as climate change could be increasing the severity and transmission of such diseases. Alongside researchers at the University of Costa Rica, Almeida’s lab will collect and analyze X. fastidiosa from a variety of agricultural landscapes and climates in Costa Rica, including both traditional polycultures, or shade-grown coffee trees, and commercial monoculture farms.

Another grant has been awarded to a project titled “Upena of Pilina: Revitalizing Connections Between Kānaka ‘Ōiwi Food Systems and Arthropods.” Conservation biologists refer to Hawai’i as the “endangered species capital of the world.” Though Hawai’i makes up less than 0.2 percent of land in the United States, more than a quarter of the nation’s endangered species are endemic to the state. At the same time, food supply disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic shined a light on Hawai’i’s reliance on imported food—therefore stressing a need to ramp up production on local agroecosystems.

In collaboration with Kamehameha Schools, ESPM Professor Rosemary Gillespie and ESPM Associate Professor Elizabeth Hoover will connect molecular ecology and agroecology to understand the connections between arthropod biodiversity and agricultural diversification. Ultimately, the project aims to equip Kānaka ‘Ōiwi (Indigenous Hawaiian) farmers with data on biodiversity relevant to their food sovereignty.

To learn more about all grant recipients, visit the Berkeley Food Institute website